October 15, 2011

Berry Tart - Summer Dreaming

berry, blackberries, dessert, fruit, hong kong, raspberries, recipe, tart, vanilla pasty cream

There is always the magic of unknown pleasures inside the covers of any cookbook as you hold it in your hands for the first time.  And then if you do commit to the cookbook and try the recipes inside, you may find that you are punished for your hopes, merely satisfied, or amply rewarded.  

We found a little cookbook of Italian dessert recipes at a used book store one day and bought it out of curiosity (even though there were no pictures inside which is kinda weird for a dessert cookbook) and, honestly, because it was quite cheap.  And this time around we were very well rewarded with the sublime pleasure of the Summer Berry Tart.

I had never made a tart before (though I had always wanted to) but with this recipe it was easier than I had ever imagined.  Before the idea of making a real 'tart' had always seemed so intimidating and 'european', whatever that means.  It was as if I didn't have the qualifications somehow...

But with this simple Italian cookbook, so easy to read and understand, there seemed a chance that I could do it.  There was a straight forwardness of approach with none of the torturous methodology that one often sees in dessert recipes.  A homemade approach, if you like, with a non homemade result.  We were finally, happily able to take advantage of the summer's windfall of luscious organic berries.

The crust was tasty and just crumbly with a nice lemony perfume.  Where has this crust been all my life?!  I have made crusts before that took much more time and ended up not even half as nice.  The key to this easy crust is doing the least possible to it that you can.  Don't over mix, don't touch it too much, add only the minimum flour you need to get it rolled and onto the tart pan.  

A tip that I picked up later to help with the shrinkage of the sides of the crust while baking was to freeze the crust before baking.  You can make everything one day ahead of time as everything needs time to cool or be chilled, and then assemble the tart in minutes on the second day.

berry, blackberries, dessert, fruit, hong kong, raspberries, recipe, tart, vanilla pasty cream

During the all important family tasting my little girl eagerly ate all her sugar dusted berries first and then finger licked her way through the luscious fruit scented creamy filling and finally was hand fed the crumbly crust while my 老公 declared personal war on all high priced restaurant desserts. Yummy, yummy!

We are so glad that we took a chance on this little Italian cookbook with no pictures.  It has opened a door to previously unknown homemade dessert pleasures.  Yeah for the magic of cookbooks everywhere!

berry, blackberries, dessert, fruit, hong kong, raspberries, recipe, tart, vanilla pasty cream
Summer Berry Tart Recipe
Adapted from recipes in La dolce vita by Michele Scicolone.
(Prep time: 7 mins  Freeze: 2 hrs  Cook time: 10 mins)

Single Crust Pasta Frolla


  • 1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 8 tbsp cold butter, cut to pieces
  • 1 large egg lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


Combine the flour, sugar, salt and zest together and mix with your fingers until the zest has been thoroughly combined with other ingredients.  Toss in the cold butter pieces and use a bread knife, fork or dough cutter to continue chopping the butter into pieces and mixing it in with the flour mixture until it all becomes a crumbly mixture, with big pieces and small pieces is fine.  Add in your lightly beaten egg and the vanilla extract and toss to incorporate. 
Lightly shape the dough into a disk, wrap and chill for an hour or overnight.

Roll out the chilled dough on a lightly floured surface to an 11 inch circle.  Lightly flour the top of the dough and your rolling pin and then roll the dough around the rolling to pick up and deposit over your 9 inch tart pan .  Fit the dough into the pan and trim off the excess dough.  Prick the bottom of crust with a fork at 1 inch intervals.  Wrap and put in the freezer for 2 hours or until frozen.

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Butter a sheet of aluminium and pace the butter side down onto the crust and then fill the tart pan with baking beads or whatever you have on hand (I used rice).  Bake for 20 minutes and then take out, remove the beans and the aluminium, prick with fork again and then bake for 5 to 10 minutes longer or until the crust is a golden brown.  Let it cool down before adding the filling.

Vanilla Pastry Cream Tart Filling
(Prep time: 1 mins  Cook time: 10 mins)


  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp lemon extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cup blackberries
  • 1 1/2 cup raspberries
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar


Heat milk in a small pan until just bubbling at the edges and remove from heat.

In a bowl, mix the egg yolks and sugar.  Add the flour and the salt and mix until just smooth.  Slowly add the warm milk, stirring constantly.

Pour the mixture back into the pan and cook at low heat, stirring constantly.  Cook for 3 more minutes after reaching boil, again stirring constantly, then remove from heat and stir in the lemon and vanilla extract.  

Cover the surface with cling wrap to prevent skin from forming and chill completely.

When completely cooled, spoon the cream into the pastry tart and smooth out the top.  Add the berries in the design that you desire and finish off with a sprinkling of icing sugar.  The tart is best served chilled.



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