Let's Bake a Freelance Tart

Ever since I celebrated the arrival of summer berries three weeks ago, I have been loading up on the bounty, filling myself to the gills with antioxidant-rich purples, indigos and reds. As soon as the season begins, nature's clock starts ticking, so there's no time to waste.

Fellow berry-lovers known that blueberries hold up nicely in the fridge for several days, but those irresistible blossom-esque raspberries and blackberries start breaking down as soon as you get them home.

Freelance berry tart
Hurry and put those berries to use, in a freelance tart. (Kim O'Donnel)

Within two days after purchasing, my razzies were looking less perky and showing beginning signs of fuzzy mold, so I had to act fast. The remaining half-pint of blackberries needed immediate attention as well.

Should I make a pie, I wondered? Nah, too much work on a hot day. Cobbler, perhaps? Hmm, nice idea, but not enough fruit. Plus, I wanted to try something new and I wanted it to be kind of freelance, ad hoc, if you will.

At last, I found something along freelance lines, a rustic berry tart from pastry chef Emily Luchetti's book, "A Passion for Desserts." Despite its classification as a tart, no tart pan is required. Better still, the recipe calls for a "pate sucrée," a pastry dough enhanced with sugar and egg (and in this case, heavy cream), all of which act as tenderizers, making for a cooperative, fuss-free dough (unlike its temperamental sibling, "pate brisée," which is used for pies).

Then the magic begins. The dough gets rolled out into a circle (or something close to it; don't worry, I never make perfect circles, either) and filling goes in center. Then basically, you're making a "purse," simply by lifting dough edges toward center of circle, allowing it to drape over dough. And that's it!

The next morning, you'll thank me, as this baby is killer for breakfast and tastes like a Pop-Tart should.

Questions or comments? Feel free to talk to me today at noon, during my weekly chat-fest, What's Cooking.

Rustic Blueberry Tart
Adapted from "A Passion for Desserts" by Emily Luchetti


2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
pinch salt
6 ounces (12 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, diced
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Berry Filling
1 pint (2 cups) blueberries (I used a combo of blue, black and rasp) Note: Drain fruit in a sieve if soft and releasing juices
1/4 cup sugar (or to taste; if berries are really sweet, use less)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
pinch salt
Zest of 1/2 lemon

Making dough: Combine flour, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl and stir to combine. Using a pastry cutter or your fingertips, "cut" the butter into the flour mixture until it is nearly integrated and pea-sized.

In a separate, smaller bowl, whisk together cream, egg and vanilla. Pour over butter-flour mixture and gently stir, until dough comes together. Note: Dough will seem sticky at first.

Form dough into a flat disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for about an hour.

In the meantime, make the filling:
Place berries, sugar, flour, salt and lemon zest in a mixing bowl and stir until combined.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Tape the corners of a piece of parchment paper to your work surface and lightly flour parchment. Roll out dough until it is about 1/2 inch thick, into an 11-inch circle, or as close as you can get. Use scissors to trim if necessary.

Pick up parchment paper by ends and carefully transport to a baking sheet. Spoon filling in middle of tart and distribute, but allowing a 1-inch border around perimeter of dough. Lift dough by edges and fold over the filling. Use any remaining scraps to cover any holes.

Place in oven and bake until golden brown, at least 35 minutes. Fruit will ooze, but that's what the parchment is for.

Let cool for about 5 minutes. Serve into wedges, by itself, or with ice cream. Can be made a few hours in advance and wrapped at room temperature.

By Kim ODonnel |  July 11, 2006; 9:31 AM ET Desserts , Seasonal Produce
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I bought several prints of blueberries and wanted to do something different with them. I put them in a dish, sprinkled them with lemon juice, and took some cookie dough, patted it flat, and put on top. I baked it at 375 for 30 minutes. It is really great. I made a cookie dough with the Heath Toffee Bits .. yummy (in fact, I keep some of this in the refrigerator so that I can make cookies whenever we want them).

Thanks for the great recipes.

Posted by: Pat | July 11, 2006 4:51 PM

From today's Montreal Gazette. Place one cup blueberries (not the cultivated kind) in a large glass bottle.Add 6 tablespoons sugar and one 750ml,bottle of gin. Shake well and set aside for at least two weeks,or up to two months.Shake the bottle from time to time and watch the luxurious blue colour develop.When ready serve straight in small liqueur glasses.Or place a shot of the blue gin in a blender with a 1/2 cup of crushed ice.Blend,then pour into tall glasses with a sprig of mint and tonic water to taste.

Posted by: William Reid | July 12, 2006 11:46 AM

I do this all the time. I call it a "lazy pie" or a "rustic tart" (depending on who I'm sharing it with). I usually make a shortening-based pie crust (enough for a double crust pie). The last time I made it, I used frozen blueberries I had from last summer's farmer's market, and I added the zest from half a lemon to the pie crust dough. I usually mound the fruit in the center of the dough (never rolled into a perfect circle) and then fold the edges of the dough over and up the sides of the mound, but I don't seal over the fruit. Brush the crust with a little milk or cream, sprinkle with some sugar and bake. Delish!

Posted by: Angie | July 12, 2006 1:11 PM

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