Bubbling away furiously in the blisteringly hot oven, it was quickly becoming clear that my supposedly simple little tart was not going to behave according to plan. Baking up to a beautiful golden-brown around the increasingly crisp crust, but still almost entirely liquid in the center, something definitely went wrong in the recipe writing process. Disappointing, frustrating, and absolutely humbling, it’s an inevitable occurrence when baking from scratch, but every failure still stings all the same. Of all things, a most ordinary pastry got the best of me- What a blow to the ego!
Removing my mess carefully so as not to slosh that rich magenta berry juice onto the kitchen floor, I was stewing in my own juices, too. Time has been limited every since I took on a full course load of photography classes, and now a day’s worth of edible experimentation would be for naught. Such a sad waste of sweetness.
Like a child sulking at the tail-end of a tantrum, I left the unruly, half-baked dessert to cool and think about what it had done. It’s unlikely that it got the message from my cold shoulder approach, but it gave me time to think, because I wasn’t about to trash everything that easily. It wasn’t until nightfall when inspiration struck, but suddenly, I realized I may just yet have the makings for a stunning summer dessert on my hands.
An overnight rest in the freezer did the trick, completely transforming the once unservable slop into something worth remembering. Now perfectly firm and easy to slice cleanly, it also gained the added element of a refreshingly chilly temperature, making it ideal for these last few hot days of the season. Turns out my initial blunder may have been a blessing in disguise.
Since it was initially conceived as a quick way to clean out the fridge a bit, feel free to improvise with what you have on hand. Any mixture of berries and any flavor of jam will get along just fine in this lightly sweetened, malted crust. I personally can’t get enough of that indescribable malt flavor, but if you can’t get a hold of the flour, an equal measure of cocoa powder could create a delectable chocolate pastry shell instead.
Frozen Berry Tart
Malted Pastry Crust:
1 2/3 Cups All Purpose Flour
6 Tablespoons Cup Barley Malt Flour/Powder
2 Tablespoons Dark Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
6 Tablespoons Non-Dairy Margarine, Chilled and Cut into Pieces
6 Tablespoons Vegetable Shortening
2 Teaspoons Plain Soy or Coconut Yogurt
1 – 2 Tablespoons Water, Ice-Cold
Mixed Berry Filling:
4 Cups Fresh or Frozen Mixed Berries
1/2 – 1 Cup Granulated Sugar*
3 Tablespoons Cornstarch
1/4 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Cup Apricot Jam or Preserves of Choice
*Depending on what berries you choose and how ripe they are, their sweetness can vary greatly. To make sure that your tart isn’t too sweet or too sour, add the lesser amount of sugar at first, give the filling a taste, and adjust as desired.
Beginning with the pastry, combine both flours, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add in the both fats, and use a pastry cutter or fork to cut them into the dry goods, until the mixture becomes a fairly coarse meal-like consistency with a few lumps, no larger than peas. Introduce the non-dairy yogurt and 1 tablespoon of water, stirring well (I find this works best with your hands, to make sure everything is being thoroughly incorporated). If the dough is still too dry to fully come together, slowly drizzle in the remaining water until you achieve a cohesive ball. Press it together firmly, and shape into a flat round. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before proceeding, or for as long as 12 hours.
When you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven to 375 degrees and lightly grease and flour a 9-inch round fluted tart pan with removable bottom.
Toss together the berries, sugar (to taste), cornstarch, pepper, and salt in a large bowl, until the fruits are evenly coated and distributed. Set aside.
Retrieve your chilled crust from the fridge, and quickly roll it out on a well-floured surface to prevent it from warming up too much. It is a very fragile dough, so don’t panic if it tears or threatens to completely fall apart. Just move it as best you can into the prepared pan, and use your fingers to press it evenly into the bottom and up the sides, patching holes as necessary. Spread your jam evenly across the empty pastry shell, and finally, top that with your berry mixture. Smooth down the filling so it’s not mounded up in the center, and bake for 40 – 45 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. The filling may still be very liquid, so handle it with care. Let cool completely before covering and carefully moving into the freezer. Let freeze overnight, or at least 6 hours, until firm.
Serves 10 – 12