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Summer brings, above all else, berries. Especially raspberries, which, to me, mean fingers scratched on vines, nervous shying away from bees, and the most intoxicating fragrance in the world. I believe I was about nine years old the first time I went raspberry picking. I was in England, on a farm in the Chilterns. They grew currants, gooseberries, and blackberries there, too. But I remember the raspberries best.
My earlier acquaintanceship with raspberries had been mainly with the frozen specimens. My mother used to make a compote with frozen raspberries and peaches to serve on pancakes for breakfast. I always thought it was delicious. It is. I also frequently used frozen raspberries to make a puree to swirl through mini cheesecakes. That’s delicious, too. But freshly-picked raspberries belong to a different sphere altogether.
This summer, between the cookbook publishing and various other matters, I haven’t had time to go raspberry-picking myself. For a brief period of time, however, it is possible to pick up raspberries in the store that are very nearly as delectable as ones just off the bush. To showcase these ruby gems, I had to make a dessert worthy of their gorgeous hue and taste.
It would have to be tarts, of course. I can’t separate the idea of raspberries and summer tarts. They simply belong together. When I lived in England, my favourite pub served a lovely raspberry-lemon curd tart that hooked me on the idea forever.
I decided to make a Cointreau custard filling and use chocolate sucrée for the tart shells. Sucrée dough traditionally has eggs in it; but since I wanted my mother to be able to eat the tarts as well, I needed to find a substitute. I have previously had success by simply using cream in place of the eggs, but then it occurred to me: if I was going to be using a liquid, why shouldn’t it be one with some flavour of its own? So Cointreau ended up in the sucrée dough as well.
I can see that liqueur-infused tart dough is going to become a very useful technique in my kitchen . . . what would you say to a caramel-pecan tart with a rum sucrée crust? Definitely something to think about.
The letter for Alphabakes this month was “R”, so raspberries worked perfectly. Alphabakes is run jointly by Caroline of Caroline Makes and Ros of The More Than Occasional Baker. Ros is hosting this month.
Ingredients:For the sucrée dough: ¾ cup (6 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature ½ cup + 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar 2 tablespoons Cointreau 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour ¼ cup cocoa powder 1 teaspoon espresso powder ¼ teaspoon kosher salt For the custard: ½ cup + 2 tablespoons cornstarch 2 ¾ cups whole milk ¾ cup heavy cream ¼ cup Cointreau ⅓ cup + 3 tablespoons granulated sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 2 6-oz. containers fresh raspberries
- Cream together the butter and confectioners’ sugar for the sucrée dough. Beat in the Cointreau. In another small bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, and salt.
- Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and stir until a smooth, soft dough forms.
- Mold into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill until firm, at least 3 hours. The dough can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.
- Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and unwrap it. Place on a well-floured counter. Bash the round of dough a bit with a rolling pin, until it is pliable enough to roll out.
- Roll out into a circle about ⅜-inch thick. Work rapidly because chocolate sucrée softens very quickly.
- Cut into nine 5-inch rounds.
- Line nine 4-inch, fluted tart pans with the rounds, pressing the dough snugly down into the corners. Use a sharp knife to trim any overhanging dough flush with the rims of the pans.
- Arrange the tart shells on a baking sheet. Place in the freezer for 20 minutes, or until the dough is firm.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Line the chilled tart shells with squares of parchment paper, and weight them down with pie weights or dried beans.
- Bake for 20 minutes.
- Remove the weights and paper from the tarts. Return the tarts to the oven and continue to bake for another 5 to 10 minutes, or until the shells are firm to the touch and the edges are beginning to take on a darker shade of brown.
- Transfer the baked tart shells to a wire rack and let cool. Carefully lift the shells out of the pans. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and 1 cup of the milk for the custard to make a smooth paste.
- Combine the remaining 1 ¾ cups milk, the cream, the Cointreau, and the sugar in a large, heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
- Whisk in the cornstarch paste and continue to boil, stirring constantly, until the custard is thickened, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.
- Pour the hot custard into the prepared tart shells.
- Let the custard filling cool slightly, and then arrange the raspberries on top of the tarts. Don’t let the custard cool completely, though: once it is fully set, the raspberries won’t stick.
- The finished tarts can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. They can be served either chilled or at room temperature.
Yield: 9 individual tarts