Life is good with a sweet, simple tart
Editor’s note: Living in the Colorado High Country is pure joy. Baking in it isn’t. High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This column presents recipes and tips to make baking in the mountains successful.”‘Tis the gift to be simple.”I’m reminded of this saying, Shaker in origin, every time I serve a berry shortbread tart. This dessert is simplicity itself – just a shortbread cookie topped with fresh berries held in place with a little jam – and it’s a gift to both savor and behold. I delight in the process of creating it from start to finish.
The shortbread base is so tender and buttery that it’s good enough to eat on its own. Several times when I’ve set out to make the tart, the shortbread’s been devoured before I can get the berry topping on it!But it’s worth it to wait for the whole experience; the fresh berries and jam elevate it considerably.You can make the base ahead of serving time and can top it with any kind or combination of berries, as long as they are fresh. Frozen ones don’t hold their shape enough to be used in this recipe. Change the accompanying preserves to match the berry you use.Serve this simple little gem in wedges, either alone or with a dollop of whipped cream.Berry Shortbread TartServes 46
Ingredients 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of all purpose flour (Measure by gently spooning into the cup and leveling the top.) 1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons of confectioners’ sugar A pinch of salt 6 tablespoons of unsalted butter, cold if using a food processor; at room temperature if using a mixer 1 large egg yolk 1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract 1 1/2 cups of fresh raspberries (approximately)
1/3 cup of seedless raspberry preserves 1 tablespoon of raspberry liqueur, dark rum, or water STEP ONE : Make the shortbread base: Combine the flour, confectioners’ sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse briefly to combine. Cut the cold butter into about 12 pieces and add it to the bowl. Pulse until the mixture is in fine crumbs. Combine the egg yolk and vanilla in a small bowl, and with the food processor running, add it through the feed tube. Process just until the mixture comes together. Stop processing before it forms a ball. Remove the dough from the bowl of the food processor, knead it gently into a disc about 5 to 6 inches in diameter, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes or until it is firm enough to roll out. To make the base with a mixer: Cream the room temperature butter and sugar until the mixture is fluffy. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat until well combined. Add the flour and salt and mix on low speed until just combined. Gently knead the dough into a ball. Flatten it into a disc about 5 to 6 inches in diameter, wrap in plastic and chill until it is firm enough to roll out – about 30 minutes. STEP TWO : Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, Reynold’s Release non-stick aluminum foil or regular aluminum foil. If you use regular foil, grease it. Roll the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap into a circle about 8 inches in diameter and one-quarter of an inch thick. Take off the top sheet of plastic, flip the dough over onto the lined baking sheet and remove the second (now the top) sheet of plastic. If necessary, trim the circle to assure a nice shape. Flute the edge of the dough by pinching it with your fingers. Freeze the dough, on the baking sheet, for 10 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, with a rack in the center position. STEP THREE : Remove the dough and baking sheet from the freezer and prick the dough all over with a fork to prevent it from puffing while it is baking. Bake the shortbread until it is firm and golden and lightly colored on the bottom. Start checking after about 20 minutes in the oven. Remove the baking sheet to a cooling rack when the shortbread is done. When it is completely cooled, slide it from the baking sheet. Place it on a serving platter if you plan to proceed immediately with the rest of the recipe. You may also wrap it airtight and store it at room temperature for a day or two, or freeze it for a month before adding the preserves and berries. STEP FOUR : Prepare the topping: Stir the raspberry preserves in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until very warm. Add the tablespoon of liqueur, rum or water and stir to make a smooth, thick syrup. Remove the saucepan from the heat and brush about a third of the warm syrup over the shortbread base, but not on the fluted edges. Arrange the fresh raspberries over the preserves and brush the remainder of the preserves over them. If necessary, reheat the preserves to keep them liquid. If they are too thick to glaze the berries, thin them a bit with more liquid. Serve the tart within 5 hours of assembling it. If it is warm in your kitchen, refrigerate it until serving time. Cut it with a serrated knife – the shortbread is delicate, so use gentle pressure. Vera Dawson lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact Dawson with your comments about this column and/or your baking questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.