THE LONG-AGO DAYS OF
It’s funny how our experiences with food create memories specific to us; and then sometime along the road of life, these precious memories that were crafted so long ago suddenly re-surface, and in order to re-live them, we end up re-creating the food which first brought these thoughts of reminiscence into our lives.
When I was much younger, probably in my early teens, my siblings and I would happily tag along when my Aunty Adeline invited us to one of her “high tea sessions” – these events usually involved an entire afternoon of lazing in a lounge of a grand, expensive hotel, where we’d stuff our stomachs to our hearts’ content, with anything from local Singaporean cuisine to egg mayonnaise sandwiches, cheese and crackers and cakes of every imaginable kind. I adored reveling in the feeling of living an aristocratic life, even if it were only for an afternoon. Amongst my favorite of these memories were us going to Shangri-La Hotel’s Rose Veranda lounge for its large varieties of 100 over teas, where we’d each order large pots of exotically-flavored teas, passing the afternoons sipping on premium tea, reading books and talking about life.
Alongside copious amounts of freshly-brewed teas from India, China and other parts of the world, I liked to eat a pastry or two.
I’d always had a soft-spot for fruit tarts, whose fresh fruits lay glistening with the shine of melted icing sugar so generously sifted over them. Fruit tarts with a faintly sweet short crust pastry base – belying a hint of icing sugar intertwined with butter and flour, upon which lay a thick layer of lemon curd or mascarpone cheese mixed with lemon zest, and then decorated with a generous amount of pretty, freshly-cut fruits, singing of abundance and summer.
When I think of fruit tarts, I think of Nature’s summer-time produce; of sunshine and happy days; of memories in a long-ago time capsule. Topped with rich, fleshy and bright fruits, these pastry tarts are the one type of dessert that I cannot ever resist.
STRAWBERRY & LEMON MASCARPONE TART
For the longest of time, I couldn’t find fruit tarts available in Buenos Aires – not the way I remembered them at least.
And as I obsessively thought about these sorely-missed fruit tarts, I was flooded with a dam of memories from those “high tea” days, in a time far away in Singapore, the Southeast Asian city-nation where I grew up in and which I dearly miss because it’s where my friends and family mostly live.
When you’ve been thinking about eating a particular food over and over again, and it’s hard to resist the opportunity to make them when you come across a recipe that actually seems relatively doable.
That’s precisely what happened when I stumbled upon Carol’s recipe for a blueberry and lemon mascarpone tart on her blog, A Cup of Mascarpone. It was literally manna from heaven – a recipe delivered straight to my doorstep. I couldn’t, I just simply couldn’t draw away from the thought of making it that very same weekend. Naturally, when Agustina and Pablo invited us over for dinner on Saturday, I decided I had to perfect excuse to make this tart – and to bring it over for dessert.
If you haven’t made a tart before, in the sense of forming the dough and later kneading it, then flattening it and eventually making the empty tart shell from scratch, you don’t have to be afraid.
There’s a first time for everything, particularly so in the kitchen, and just like the first time I made tart shells, which made me fall in love with kneading and baking all over again, there always is a reason to try something new. There’s really no magic in making a tart shell from nothing, with the only necessary ingredients being patience, a bit of common sense and a strong desire to do it well.
Ever since I made Quiche Lorraine from scratch, I’d been itching to make another tart – I just didn’t know which. So it goes to say that when the opportunity presented itself in the form of a Carol’s fruit tart recipe, I jumped at the chance with my both hands waving frantically in the air.
When kneading, I’ve realized that the most important thing for any beginner kneader is to pay close attention to the texture of the dough.
Never, ever adhere rigidly to a tart recipe – what I’m saying is that recipes are more of a guidance; if you think you have to follow the recipe to the letter, it may go against you.
This is because depending on the type of flour being used, you may often require more flour, or more liquid (water or eggs or milk), and sometimes, through trial and error, you’ll find that the experimentation will require a bit more of both before you acquire the desired texture.
Once the right texture has been achieved, flattening the dough with a rolling pin is easy; the secret trick lies in flattening it over floured plastic wrap, so that when you lift the dough off the surface, the wrap comes along with it, and can easily be pulled off after, making it much easier and less torturous to transfer the flattened dough to the tart mold.
While I can’t promise you that the first time you make a tart shell it will not break, I can definitely say that these things come with practice, a very willing heart and hardworking hands.
A quick note of advice – when making fruit tarts, it’s often best to use fruits in season, largely because they will be fresher, and partly because they will cost less than when out-of-season. I had made the error of deciding to make a strawberry tart at the end of autumn, when strawberries are the most expensive and almost impossible to find. After searching in various supermarkets, I finally found two packets of beautiful, bright red strawberries …thank God! So please take my advice and learn from my mistakes; make fruit tarts only when you are sure you can find the fruits you want.
Depending on the fruits you use, you can form patterns of varying kinds; and while using strawberry slices to decorate may not be the easiest of tasks (blueberries don’t require any genius in arranging), strawberries call for creativity and can produce a very pretty looking crimson-colored tart, something which you could proudly bring to a party and unveil as your culinary masterpiece.
You can eat this strawberry and lemon mascarpone tart alone, or sprinkled with a dash of icing sugar. You can eat it with your bare hands or with a fork.
Basically, what I’m saying is that anything goes. It’s still so good either way.
STRAWBERRY & LEMON MASCARPONE TART (Serves 8-10)
Adapted from A Cup of Mascarpone’s Blueberry and Lemon Mascarpone Tart recipe
1) 125g – 180g of all purpose-flour, sifted
2) 115g of butter, cut into small cubes
3) 65g of icing sugar, sifted
4) 3 egg yolks
5) 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
6) 1 tablespoon of iced water
Filling & topping:
7) 600g 0f mascarpone cheese
8) Zest of 2 lemons
9) 65g of icing sugar, sifted
10) 500g of strawberries, sliced
11) Icing sugar, for dusting
1) Mix flour, butter and icing sugar in a bowl using two knives to cut the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs
2) Add in the egg yolks and vanilla extracts and mix well, then add iced water until the dough starts to come together
3) Shape the dough into a ball on a cool, flat, floured surface
4) Flatten dough into a disc and then wrap in plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes
5) Pre-heat oven to 180 deg cel
6) Once dough has chilled, roll pastry dough on a sheet of parchment paper until it has expanded to the size of the tart mold (I used a rough mold the size of a large pizza)
7) Line a greased mold with the flattened pastry dough, and press down to ensure dough is directly in contact with mold
8) Trim the edges and flatten remaining dough into a circle, and place in the middle of mold
9) Prick base with a fork
10) Refrigerate mold with the pastry dough for 30 minutes
11) Bake pastry dough in oven at 180 deg cel for 10 – 15 minutes, or until it turns golden
12) Once golden, remove mold from oven to allow pastry to cool
13) Mix mascarpone cheese, icing sugar and lemon zest together to form the filling
14) Spread filling on the cooled tart shell
15) Slice strawberries in thin slices, and arrange them over the filling
16) Dust with sifted icing sugar before serving
Mix flour, butter and icing sugar in a bowl:
Until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs:
Add in the egg yolks and vanilla extracts and mix well, then add iced water until the dough starts to come together:
Shape the dough into the shape of a ball on a cool, flat, floured surface:
Flatten dough into a disc and then wrap in plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes:
Once dough has chilled, roll pastry dough on a sheet of parchment paper until it has expanded to the size of the tart mould (I used a rough mould the size of a large pizza):
Line a greased mold with the flattened pastry dough, and press down to ensure dough is directly in contact with mold. Then trim the edges and flatten remaining dough into a circle, and place in the middle of mold:
Prick base with a fork:
Bake chilled pastry dough in oven at 180 deg cel for 10 – 15 minutes, or until it turns golden. Once golden, remove mold from oven to allow pastry to cool:
Mix mascarpone cheese, icing sugar and lemon zest together to form the filling:
Spread filling on the cooled tart shell:
Slice strawberries in thin slices, and arrange them over the filling:
Dust with sifted icing sugar before serving: