April 29, 2012

Strawberry and Fig Tart with Lavender Cream

Beautiful and very easy to make, this simple tart is perfect for the peak of strawberry season. I needed something pretty and sweet to take to a party, but only had about an hour and a half to get it ready. I picked up these gorgeous local berries, some organic heavy cream, and a lavender plant at Local Harvest -- everything else was in the pantry already. The idea for a jam and strawberry tart came to me while swimming laps earlier in the day. And don't let the long-looking list of steps deter you. It's really just a matter of mixing some alcohol in jam and spreading that on an uncooked pastry, then setting some strawberries of top of that, folding it over and baking it off. Let's go!


1 pastry crust*, refrigerated after preparing

1 cup white sugar (you won't use it all, but you'll want to keep it for later because you'll be infusing it with lavender)
12 or so perfect strawberries, delicately rinsed, dried on a paper towel, ends cut off, and sliced in half lengthwise; save a particularly perfect one whole for the center
1/3 cup fig preserves
2 Tablespoons good bourbon
1 teaspoon Port
1 teaspoon Penzey's pure lemon extract
1/2 teaspoon rose water
Lavender, fresh or dried, leave and/or flowers (I used fresh, and both leaves and flowers) -- keep aside one nice flower for topping the cooled tart
Flour Unbleached white, a couple of teaspoons

1 egg wash (in a small bowl, mix egg with a teaspoon of water and set aside)

Parchment paper

Flat baking sheet

Preparation and Assembly

1. Preheat over to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Have your pastry prepared and chilling.*

3. Chop about 1/4 cup lavender (or half that amount if using dried) and toss into the sugar. Cover and let sit to infuse. If you can do this in advance all the better, since of course the longer it sits the more lavender flavor you'll get.**

4. Measure the bourbon and port into a very small sauce pan and bring to a boil, then immediately transfer to a temperature-proof container and transfer to the freezer, uncovered, to cool down (unless you have more time than I had, then you can let is cool however you want).

5. Spread the prepared strawberries (see above) in a shallow dish and sprinkle with about 1/4 cup of the sugar. Let sit to macerate while you prepare the rest of the filling.

6. Place the pastry on the parchment paper and roll out to approximately 13" circumference. This is not a critical measurement so don't sweat it. You just want it big enough to hold the filling in the center with a good 3 or 4 inches of pastry left around the outside, so that you may fold the edges over in the manner of a French country tart, as shown in my photo. It's supposed to be rustic.

7. Transfer the parchment paper laden with pastry onto the baking sheet and slide it into the fridge for a sec while you do Steps 8 and 9.

8. Get the alcohols out of the freezer and mix in the lemon extract and the rose water.

9. Now you're going to mix the above liquids into the fig preserves. How much liquid you'll use is a seat of your pants kind of thing, because fig preserves are going to vary in consistency and sweetness. You're going to be spreading the mixture over the center of the pastry, then arranging the strawberries on top of that. So go for a mixture about the consistency of, say, yogurt. Taste will also be a factor. I found I really needed to cut the sweetness of the preserves, and they took a fair amount of the liquid. If you can imagine that. So go ahead and mix, then taste, and repeat until you like it.

10. Take the pastry out of the fridge.

11. Give the pastry a very light sprinkling of the lavender sugar, using the colander method below.**

12. Spread the preserve mixture in the center of the pastry round, leaving at least 3" all the way around for folding over.

13. Sprinkle a teaspoon of flour over the preserve mixture.

14. Now arrange the berries on the preserves. First put the most gorgeous whole one in the center, then arrange the halves concentrically from there.

15. There will be some lovely, sugary strawberry juice in your macerating bowl. Drizzle a little of that over the berries. Save the rest to make a strawberry simple syrup for cocktails, later. :)

15. Fold the outside edge of the pastry over, but not meeting, toward the center (see photo).

16. Brush the egg wash all visible surfaces of the pastry.

17. Sprinkle with a little more lavender sugar.

18. Bake in the 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes, or until light brown.

19. Remove from over, and transfer parchment paper and all to a cooling rack (just slide the paper off the sheet and onto the rack).

I dashed mine into the freezer for 10 minutes to cool faster, but I was in a hurry! If you are not dashing around like a mad person simply let it cool naturally to room temperature.

The Lavender Cream

So simple. Have your metal or ceramic bowl, and whisk, chilling in the freezer as usual. Pour the heavy cream into the bowl and whip for a couple of minutes. Then sprinkle some over the lavender sugar in (no more than 1/8 cup) and whip for another minute.


*Pastry: I used the simplest of regular, midwestern pie crust recipes, with just butter, flour, salt, and ice water. You may also use a nice French country tart recipe, which has a little sugar in it. I wholeheartedly recommend Julia Child for instruction, though she'll have you using shortening and butter. (I find it awesome that my Ozarkian grandmother made pie crust exactly as Julia does, so I don't feel even slightly pretentious recommending her method.)

**Method for "straining" the herb from the sugar: I simply used my regular stainless steel colander. Put a plate under the colander, put some sugar in, and shake the colander a bit so that sugar falls out, but most of the herb stays in. Some little bits will fall through the holes, but that's pretty.

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