raspberry cream tart

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There are two summer tarts that my mom used to make all the time. One has a shortbread crust, fresh fruit, and a citrus glaze on top. The other has a shortbread crust, a thick, dreamy custard, and fresh fruit with no glaze.

When I was looking up this recipe in my mom's homemade cookbook, she was telling me about the first time she made it. This tart, in it's original incarnation, is the first recipe my mom ever pulled out of a magazine to make; the first time she felt like she could bake; the first time she knew she could make anything she wanted. A heady feeling, and one I hope you feel too, when you try it. For me, the 'I can make anything' moment came when I made macarons the first time a few years ago. Once you cross that bridge, you'll see- the world of food just opens up. If you're already on this side of the bridge- awesome. When did you cross over? What did you make?

This tart is unique because instead of using the traditional custard method, which requires tons of eggs and cream, gelatin is the thickening agent. This allows the custard to be lower in calories, but so luscious and thick you'll never know the difference. The fruit is the shining star in this dessert- you could use any fresh fruit you like, but just make sure they are perfectly ripe and flavorful.

I made this to go with our supper club dinner this week, and suffice it to say, the supper club members present were highly enthusiastic.

Here's how it's done:

This is one to start early in the day, as it needs a few hours to set up completely.

First, you're going to make the crust. With (very clean) hands, knead together the butter, flour, and sugar until it's crumbly and combined. It will not come together like a paste.

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Then dump your pastry dough into your tart pan. If you don't have a tart pan, a springform pan will work great.

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Then pat the dough into the shell, pressing it up into the sides as you go.

Then put the crust in the oven and bake it until its golden brown and smells like a giant sugar cookie. After baking (which takes about 15-20 minutes), using a pastry brush, brush the crust with egg white while it is still hot, to seal it and prevent sogginess.

I put my egg white on too soon and it blistered. Don't be like me. Wait five minutes after it comes out of the oven.

I put my egg white on too soon and it blistered. Don't be like me. Wait five minutes after it comes out of the oven.

While the crust is baking, you can make the custard filling. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a heavy saucepan, and whisk together the eggs and milk in a small bowl. Add the milk mix to the saucepan, whisking thoroughly. Set up a sieve and a large bowl on the counter, so you can immediately strain your custard when it is finished cooking.

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Once the mixture is thoroughly combined, turn the heat to medium low, whisking constantly. You don't ever want to rush custard, as that can cause it to curdle. It will take about 15 minutes to cook until it coats a spoon, which is what you want.

Dip the spoon in the mixture and drag your finger down the center of the liquid. If it runs back together it's not done. If the line stays exactly there, it's ready.

Dip the spoon in the mixture and drag your finger down the center of the liquid. If it runs back together it's not done. If the line stays exactly there, it's ready.

Pour your mixture through the waiting sieve to eliminate any chunky bits, then set it aside, tightly covered, for an hour to set up.

Whip up the cream with a little powdered sugar. Whip the custard up slightly. Then gently fold the whipped cream into the custard, working patiently.

To fold the whipped cream in, you want to drop half of the cream on top of the custard, and with sweeping strokes, bring the custard up and around the whipped cream. Your goal is to keep the aeration of the cream to lighten the custard, so if you whisk or stir it vigorously, you're wasting your efforts. After the first half is added, dollop the rest on top and do the same exact process again.

To fold the whipped cream in, you want to drop half of the cream on top of the custard, and with sweeping strokes, bring the custard up and around the whipped cream. Your goal is to keep the aeration of the cream to lighten the custard, so if you whisk or stir it vigorously, you're wasting your efforts. After the first half is added, dollop the rest on top and do the same exact process again.

You're almost done! Now just gently pour the filling into the tart shell and smooth it out. Top with the berries/fruit of your choice. Chill for at least 1 hr, preferably more. Marvel at the delight you have created.

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Recipe:

Crust

1 1/2 c flour

1/2 c butter, softened

1/3 c sugar

1 egg white

Custard

1/4 c sugar

3 T flour

2 t gelatin (1 packet)

1/4 t salt

2 eggs

1 egg yolk

1 1/2 c milk

2 1/2 t vanilla

1/2 c heavy cream

at least 1 pint raspberries or 2 c measured fruit

Crust:

Preheat oven to 375. Knead together flour, butter, and sugar until crumbly. Press into tart pan and bake 15-20 minutes, until pastry is golden brown. Brush with egg white 5 minutes after removing from the oven. Set aside to cool.

Custard:

Whisk together sugar, flour, gelatin, and salt in a heavy saucepan. Whisk together eggs, egg yolk, and milk in a separate bowl. Add the milk mix to the sugar mix, whisking well to combine. Set up a sieve and large bowl on the counter. Cook the mixture over medium low heat, stirring all the while, until it thickens and coats a spoon. Do not rush or allow the custard to boil, as it will curdle. Whisk in the vanilla. Strain through the sieve and cool for 1 hour.

Whip the cream to soft peaks (gentle mounds) and fold gently into the custard mixture. Pour filling into the tart crust and top with the raspberries/fruit. Chill for at least 1 hour before serving.