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Strawberry Tart with Ginger and Lemon

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Strawberries sitting in my fridge were meant to accompany the ice cream, but it seemed too simple for the Mother's Day weekend. So I changed my mind and made this strawberry tart for all mothers of the world, including yours truly. There was no time to search for a crust recipe, so I took it from my mind using previous experiences. The recipe for the custard was taken from my old baking book, the rest came in place by itself.
Oh those spring weekends! Holiday or no holiday, you have to work outside: cleaning, pruning, planting, watering, and what not. The process obviously has no end, so you have to stop at some point before you drop dead under a rhododendron bush.
I figured it'd take me not more than one hour to make the tart, so I left it to after dinner. Big mistake number one. When the dough was made (after a significant 10-minute effort) I could do nothing but take a horizontal position on my bed. I tossed the dough into the freezer for 30 minutes and decided just to relax during this time. Big mistake number two. I drifted away into irresistible sleep and woke up to realize I slept for two hours! Two hours that felt like 20 minutes! The dough was stiff-frozen, and it took a long time to thaw it. So the dessert that I planned for Sunday evening became my next day's breakfast. Not how it was planned, but with coffee it was a very nice beginning of the day. So all is well that ends well, but still it's probably not a good idea to combine elaborate yard work with creative kitchen endeavors.

What you need:
For the dough:
1 1/4 cup flour, sifted
1 stick butter, softened
1 Tbsp white vinegar
1 Tbsp vodka
1 egg
Pinch of salt

For the custard:
3 eggs
1 cup half & half
3 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp corn starch (or potato starch)
1 slice of caramelized ginger, finely diced

For the filling:
1 lb fresh strawberries
1/2 grated lemon + 1/4 cup sugar (or lemon curd or marmalade)
Meyer lemon (or regular lemon) zest

9" baking dish

Total time: 1.5 hours
Makes 12 wedges

Rinse strawberries and spread them on a few layers of paper towels to dry. Finely grate lemon (discard all seeds) and mix it with sugar (or separate about 2 Tbsp of marmalade or lemon curd).

Prepare the dough:
1. Mix egg, vinegar, vodka, and salt - these are wet ingredients of your dough.
2. Cut butter in 1/2" pieces. Rub butter and flour between your fingers until crumbly.
3. Mix in the egg liquid gradually, using a wooden spoon.
4. Finish with hands: form a ball, flatten it, dust with flour, and put in the freezer for 30 minutes.

While the dough is in the freezer, prepare the custard:
1. Beat eggs and sugar, mix in starch and half & half.
2. Using a double boiler or two pots (where the bigger is filled with water), bring the mixture to steam until thickened constantly stirring with a spatula.
Instead of a double-boiler I use two pots (or a deep pans).
3. Mix in ginger, remove from heat to cool. Stir from time to time to avoid the film forming on the surface.

While the custard is cooling, bake the crust:
1. Roll the dough out into a disc that is about 2.5" bigger than the diameter of your baking dish. I used a 11" plate as a template and cut it a little bigger than the plate (the dough will shrink a little while baking). It fit perfectly into a 9" dish.
2. Press into the baking dish, cut off the excess dough, pierce in a few places with the tip of a knife (or a fork). Bake at 390 F for about 20 minutes or until slightly browned.

While the crust is baking prepare the strawberries:
1. Dry strawberries with paper towels if not already dry.
2. Cut of the ends, then cut each berry in half.
3. Place berries cut side on paper towel to absorb some juice.
4. Separate about 2 Tbsp of lemon syrup  (put the grated lemon through the sieve). If you use marmalade, warm it up for easy brushing.
5. Brush each berry with syrup.

When the crust is slightly browned, gently slide it out of the baking dish on a  rack  to cool. Also at this point put the custard in the fridge to chill (cover with plastic wrap to avoid the film on the surface).
Now the fun part - putting the tart together.
When the crust reaches room temperature, put your tart together:
1. Spread the custard in the crust.
2. Place strawberries in swirl or radial order.
3. Sprinkle with lemon zest.

Serve right away! That is how this strawberry tart should be eaten. If you do it in advance the strawberries will start to release the juice and the custard will moisten the crust, and the whole thing will not be as good.
Tea with milk is a nice accompaniment to this dessert. The crust was crumbly, the creamy custard moderately sweet, and hints of lemon and ginger worked perfectly well together.
Just made and begging to be eaten. :)
I made a thicker crust, but if you prefer a thinner one, you can make two crusts out of this dough. To make it you have to form two balls of dough before putting it to the freezer, and don't forget to take both out after 30 minutes.
Alcohol will evaporate during baking - no worry about this.