Strawberries For the Birthday Girl
There are so many things I love about spring: longer, sunnier days, which means I can finally hang up my scarves and wool coats; flowers blooming everywhere, filling the air with their scent (I always know it's spring when the honeysuckle at my parents' home begins to perfume the air with its delirious, heady fragrance); the advent of all manner of fruit colorful and sweet (including my favorite, strawberries - naturally). And, of course, spring means my birthday!
I always enjoyed having my birthday in May; all the gorgeousness of spring always puts in me in a celebratory mood already, so getting a cake with candles to blow out is just a bonus. Of course, back in my school days, having a May birthday meant it was also end-of-school test time, which sometimes put a little damper on things. This year proved no exception, unfortunately: I've been so busy trying to wrap up this book that I hardly realized that oh-so-special day was creeping up on me. How come when you're young waiting for your birthday to arrive is an agony, yet when you're older it sneaks up on you like a wayward butterfly?
No matter - I've been working furiously on my manuscript so I can take today off to celebrate. And I'm also happy to say that the book will be off to the printers very soon, which means that 1)no more late nights trawling the manuscript for errors 2)the book will be out by the holidays, 3)more time to return to the blog (and all you dear dear readers), and 4)I'll be able to share more details on the book very soon! I know I've been tempting you with all sorts of vague references and allusions, but once the book's been formally announced, I'll be able to tell you what's it all about and my experiences writing it!
Also, my birthday is also extra-special now because I discovered a year ago that I shared it with no other than Bea of La Tartine Gourmande! Bea is of course the most fabulously talented chef, stylist, and photographer I know, not to mention very sweet and charming - I'm more than honored to share my birthday with her!
So I e-mailed Bea a month ago and suggested that we make the same thing for our birthday, and she suggested, since she also loves strawberries, that we do a strawberry rhubarb tart. Well, happy birthday dear Bea! Here is my version of strawberry rhubarb tart, paired with a brown sugar ginger ice cream, all ready for our birthday!
I have loved the combination of strawberries and rhubarb ever since I made a strawberry rhubarb compote to go with an ice wine ice cream. I also love French-style tarts, so what could be better than Pierre Hermé's lovely shortcrust filled with a mixture of strawberries, rhubarb, sugar, and vanilla? Baked in the oven to soft, bubbling perfection, it's an elegant, tea-party version of the classic American strawberry rhubarb pie. The voluptuously sweet strawberries commingle with the barely-crisp, tart rhubarb into an unfettered pleasure on the tongue. The rich buttery pâte sucrée makes a luxurious backdrop for the beautifully, vibrantly, red fruit. No birthday cake could be better.
While the ice wine ice cream was a quite excellent companion for strawberries and rhubarb, I wanted to go in a more robust direction and created a brown sugar ginger ice cream to accompany the tart. Just-sweet, pleasantly piquant, it's ice cream at its warmest and most comforting, and enhances the flavors of the tart beautifully. I used egg yolks in this ice cream, which, combined with the brown sugar gave it almost an eggnog taste until I added the ginger; next time I might leave out the eggs, but either way it's scrumptious.
I hope today is as sweet and springlike for you as it is for me, and I wish I could celebrate with all of you! Thanks so much for coming to Dessert First - it means so much to me, and I hope for many more years of sweetness!
Strawberry Rhubarb Tart
makes about 6-8 tartlets
Pâte Sucrée (adapted from Pierre Hermé's Desserts
(recipe makes more than enough, so save the rest for another tart)
1 1/4 sticks ( 146 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup (86 g) confectioner's sugar, sifted
1/4 cup (5 g) almond meal or ground almonds
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg, room temperature
1 3/4 cups (232 g) all purpose flour
2 cups (about 9 ounces) strawberries
3 stalks (about 7 ounces) rhubarb
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
For the tart shells: Place the butter in a food processor and process until soft and creamy.
Add the confectioners' sugar and process until well blended and smooth.
Add in the almond meal, salt, and vanilla extract and process until well blended.
Add in the egg and egg yolk and process until just blended; scrape the bowl down as necessary.
Add the flour and pulse just until the dough starts to come together into a ball; don't overprocess. The dough will be very soft like cookie dough.
Scrape the dough out of the food processor and make into a ball. Flatten out into a disk, wrap in plastic, and chill in refrigerator for at least 4 hours until it is firm enough to handle.
When you are ready to bake off the tart shells, take the dough out of the refrigerator - let it warm up a bit if necessary but not too much because it will start melting fast.
Roll out the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap to 1/8" thickness. If the dough gets too soft, place back in the refrigerator to firm up.
Place the tart rings you will use on a baking sheet lined with a Silpat or parchment paper.
Cut out circles of dough to fit into desired tart rings. Press the dough carefully into the tart rings and up the sides, being careful not to stretch the dough or it will shrink when baked. Place the rings into the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes. Trim off the excess dough from the top of the rings.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F while chilling the tart shells. When you are ready, line the shells with parchment and fill with beans or rice to keep the shells weighed down.
Bake shells for about 15-18 minutes until they are lightly colored and the shell feels dry to the touch. Remove from the oven and place on a rack. Remove the beans and parchment and brush the bottoms of the shells with a light egg wash (made from an egg white and a bit of water).
For the filling: Wash the strawberries, hull them, and slice into 1/8 thick slices (not too thin).
Wash the rhubarb and cut into small pieces.
Combine the strawberries and rhubarb with the sugar and vanilla in a bowl and toss thoroughly to mix. Let sit for about 5 minutes so the fruit juices start mixing with sugar.
Divide the fruit mixture among the tart shells. You can lay the fruit down in a pattern or simply spoon it in, but be careful not to overfill. When the tarts bake the juices from the fruit will bubble out and you don't want them to overflow.
Place tarts back into oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes until the filling is thick and bubbly.
Remove from oven and let cool on wire racks.
Brown Sugar Ginger Ice Cream
makes about 1 quart
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 cup light brown sugar
4 egg yolks
pinch of salt
Combine cream, milk, and ginger in a saucepan and bring to a simmer on medium heat on the stove.
Meanwhile, whisk brown sugar, egg yolks, and salt together in a medium bowl.
Pour about half of the hot milk mixture into the yolks, whisking constantly.
Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan and return to the stove. Cook on low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens and coats the back of the spoon.
Remove from heat and strain into a bowl. Chill in an ice bath until room temperature, then cover and chill overnight.
Prepare ice cream in an ice cream maker per manufacturer's instructions. Store in freezer to firm up.