June 18, 2009
by Gareth Mark
Strawberries may well be my favorite food. Not surprising, really, when you consider that I was born within sight of Mt. Hood at the time of year when Hood strawberries are just right! To celebrate my birthday I thought it would be lovely to have a nice strawberry tart. But I couldn't decide exactly how it should look, so I made tartlets.
I started by making some Vanilla Shortbread Dough. I used Madagascar Bourbon vanilla extract instead of Tahitian, and replaced the vanilla paste with powdered freeze-dried strawberries to give the dough a bit of kick. I followed my own instructions, and didn't worry when the dough cracked before baking. Remember to chill the tartlet shells before baking. I baked them for about 13 minutes at 350°F/175°C.
While the tartlet shells were baking, I mixed some whole milk ricotta with about a teaspoon of honey, some puréed strawberries, and a hint of cinnamon. Once the shells were finished baking and cooling, I filled them with the ricotta. If I had had some, I would have used strawberry honey, which is honey from hives in which the bees harvest pollen from strawberry fields.
The strawberries went into a bowl of cold water along with several sprigs of spearmint from the garden. Then it was just a matter of selecting berries that were just right, slicing them, and laying them into the shells, sometimes with mint leaves interspersed. To finish, I melted some strawberry jam and brushed it onto the berries.
As I said, I couldn't decide exactly how the tart should look, so I made two sizes of tartlets and then decorated each a little differently. One of them featured whole berries.
I also made several smaller tartlets, decorating them as flowers.
Now the only problem I have is that I have to eat them, and I can't figure out which one to eat first!