Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Berry Picking

We drove out so Sauvie Island for the second weekend in a row, crossing our fingers for ripe and ready-to-pick strawberries.

The berries weren’t quite ripe last weekend. In a good year, the bushes are so heavy with fruit, you don’t know where to start picking. The strawberries practically jump into your mouth, they’re so irresistible, and you just can’t stop eating. Their fragrance is intoxicating. The strawberries are warm from the sun and sweet like sugar and so juicy. The juices stain your lips. Last year was one of the best in recent memory.

U-pick strawberries are about a dollar a pound. My husband likes to say they should weigh us before and after we go into the field, because for every berry that goes into the bucket, we eat two or three. But they haven’t caught on yet.

I can hardly wait for strawberry season every year. We usually make it home with about twenty pounds of fresh berries. This year I planned on making strawberry ice cream and popsicles, strawberry shortcakes, chocolate-dipped strawberries, strawberry charlottes, lavender-strawberry verrines, strawberry lemonade, frozen strawberry soufflés, strawberry panna cottas, and a strawberry tart, to name a few.

But this wasn’t such a good year for strawberries. And by the time we got to the field, they had been picked over. The strawberries didn’t taste like sugar. They were resistible, I didn’t feel an uncontrollable desire to eat every last one of them. We only picked a couple of pounds.

Just enough to make strawberry mousse cakelettes.

It turns out that a bad season for strawberries can be a good season for raspberries. And lucky for us, the farm we go to has both. We came upon the raspberries quite by accident, as we wandered around wondering what to do about our meager strawberry harvest. These were the best, most aromatic raspberries I’ve ever tasted. So we picked lots.

Behold, my strawberry tart turned into a raspberry tart.

Raspberry Tart
Printable Recipe

1 ¾ teaspoons gelatin
1 cup heavy cream
1 large egg yolk
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
4 ounces mascarpone, softened
1 fully baked 9-inch Pâte Sucrée Tart Crust
1 ¼ pound raspberries
2 tablespoons Chambord
3 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam

Measure 1 tablespoon of water into a small bowl and slowly sprinkle over ½ teaspoon of the gelatin. Heat ½ cup of the heavy cream to a simmer in a small saucepan. Whisk together the yolk and 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a small bowl. Continue whisking while adding the hot cream in a thin stream. Transfer the mixture back to the saucepan and cook, stirring constantly, over low heat for about 5 minutes, or until it reaches 160˚F and thickens. Stir the gelatin and vanilla into the cream mixture and strain through a fine mesh sieve. Let cool to room temperature. Stir the cream mixture into the mascarpone, a little at a time. Chill over an ice bath until just beginning to thicken. Transfer to the tart crust and refrigerate for about an hour, or until set.

Puree 8 ounces of the raspberries in a food mill using the finest disc. If the puree has seeds, strain it through a fine mesh sieve to remove them. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Slowly sprinkle the remaining 1 ¼ teaspoons of gelatin over the Chambord. Place the bowl of the gelatin mixture over a small pan of simmering water and heat until melted. Stir into the raspberry mixture. Whip the remaining ½ cup of cream to stiff peaks. Stir 1/3 of the cream into the raspberry mixture, then fold in the remaining cream. Transfer to the tart crust and refrigerate for about an hour, or until set.

Arrange the remaining 12 ounces of raspberries atop the tart in a decorative pattern. Combine the jam and 2 tablespoons water in a small saucepan and heat until melted. Lightly brush the raspberries with the hot jam mixture. Cut the tart into portions and serve immediately.

Makes 1 9-inch tart, serving 8.


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