Sunday, June 25, 2017

Mixed Berry Tart with Mascarpone Cream

The first time I traveled to Seattle was almost three decades ago. I remember leaving there feeling grateful my friends didn't strangle me for using up some of our limited discretionary time schlepping through an endless number of stores looking for glass Christmas ornaments. To this day, neither one of them has allowed me to forget the mania I made them a party to. In part because it wasn't the first time they had to endure accompanying me on one of my preoccupation, borderline obsession quests. On a prior trip to the east coast trip it was wooden cranberry beads. Thirty years ago when I agreed to put my house in not one, but two of the local Christmas House Walks, online shopping, Etsy, and Amazon Prime were completely unknown concepts. Had any one of them been available way back when, I would have understood if my friends decided to just leave me behind. Particularly my friend, who having grown up in a Jewish household, had never decorated a Christmas tree in her life.

While traveling today, I no longer spend the majority of time stopping at and walking through stores. Instead, I have a new passion: taking photos. Nowadays its random stops along the road if something catches my eye or simply heading to specific 'must see, must attempt to capture firsthand' destinations. Granted, this too may qualify as potentially annoying behavior (and slightly more dangerous) for those who travel with me, but hopefully much more preferable to spending time shopping for 'tchotchkes'. On a recent road trip out east, my nephew asked the person who shall remain nameless "Were you ready to put a sharp stick through your eye with all of Auntie Lynn's photo stops?". Fortunately, no one in my immediate circle of family and friends is wearing an eye patch. Not yet anyway. 

I returned back to the Seattle area a couple of weeks ago. This time to visit one of my running friends who had recently moved there. Fortunately for me she is both a patient and adventuresome friend. We had an incredible five days exploring and hiking in a variety of places in the areas around Seattle. I went to bed each night filled with the kind of anticipation most five year olds experience on the night before Christmas. Thank goodness for long exhausting days or I may not have slept at all during my stay. And the gifts of seeing new, unfamiliar landscapes each day, well, they did not disappoint. From the still, crystal clear water at Rosario Beach at Deception Pass on Whidbey Island, to the ginormous, imposing, century old trees, to the rushing rivers, to the spectacular waterfalls, to the fields of wildflowers, these views were so breathtaking it was surprising we made it to any of our destinations.

Like the landscapes of the Northwest, this Mixed Berry Tart with Mascarpone Cream is also a feast for the eyes. What is not to love about a tart made with fresh blueberries, blackberries, and cherries piled high on a golden shortbread crust filled with a mascarpone cream? Especially when the blueberries and blackberries are tossed with in a mixture of melted marionberry jam and kirschwasser. 

With berries just now coming into season, this Mixed Berry Tart with Mascarpone Cream is the quintessential summer dessert. 

The crisp texture and buttery flavor of the shortbread crust makes it the perfect base for this tart. Made with all-purpose flour, confectionary sugar, kosher salt, chilled unsalted butter, egg yolks, and a bit of ice cold water, it is one of the easiest pastries to make. After the dough is processed in a food processor and chilled in the refrigerator for at least an hour, it is ready to roll out. As tart crusts go, this one may be one of the easiest to make.

The recipe for the crust makes enough to fill an 11 inch (removable bottom) tart pan. 

Before the tart crust is baked, it is chilled in the freezer for at least 15 minutes. After preheating the oven to 350 degrees (F), remove the crust from the freezer and prick the bottom of tart shell with a fork. Lined with either parchment paper or aluminum and fill with pie weights or beans, the crust is first baked blind for 15 minutes to help stabilize the sides. The paper/foil/bean liner is removed and the crust returns to the oven to bake for an additional 18-20 minutes or until lightly golden. Allow the shortbread crust to cool completely before assembling the tart.

The recipe for the mascarpone filling came a July 1998 issue of Gourmet magazine. In the ingredient list there was an asterisk (*) placed next to the mascarpone cheese. While mascarpone cheese is readily available today in most grocery stores, nineteen years ago it was something 'available at speciality food shops and some supermarkets'. There is nothing quite like the taste of this buttery, triple cream cow's milk cheese. Substituting cream cheese for the mascarpone cheese is an option, but why would you want anything less than the rich, delicate flavor and creamy texture the mascarpone cheese brings to the tart filling? Trust me when I say you wouldn't. The original recipe also called for the use of granulated sugar, however, I have replaced it caster sugar as it blends seamlessly into the mascarpone and whipping cream. And fortunately caster sugar is another one of those more readily available ingredients here in the states.

The mascarpone cream filling is spread over the cooled shortbread crust. Smoothing the top of the filling with an offset spatula makes it easier to pile the berries on top.

One of the things I bought while in Washington was a jar of Marionberry Jam. Larger, sweeter and juicier than blackberries, Marionberries are grown primarily in the Pacific Northwest and considered by some to be the 'Cabernet of berries'. If Marionberry Jam isn't 'readily available in your neck of the woods', blueberry or blackberry jam can be substituted. The jam mixed with some kirschwasser was heated just until the jam melted, then lightly tossed with the blueberries and blackberries. See notes below for alternate kirschwassser options.

The tart is ready to serve once assembled or can be refrigerated for several hours before serving. Topping the tart with cherries and/or edible flowers is optional. Wrapped in plastic wrap, a leftover piece of the tart was equally delicious the next day. However, for optimal flavor serve the Mixed Berry Tart with Mascarpone Cream on the day it is made.

I love summer fruit tarts and I am hopelessly, deeply, madly in love with this Mixed Berry Tart with Mascarpone Cream. The flavor combination of the shortbread crust, mascarpone cream filling, and berries is almost sinful. Although considering it is one of those 'part fruit and dairy' desserts, think of it as being good for you! Having resurrected this recipe from my 'recipe archives' it will be one making regular appearances here this summer. And I suspect once your family and friends taste this tart, it may be one of your most requested summer desserts. 

Mixed Berry Tart with Mascarpone Cream (Tart inspired by the Berry Tart with Mascarpone Cream recipe (Gourmet/July 1998). Crust inspired by the Bon Appetit/July 1996 Tart Crust recipe.) 

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
13 cup confectionary sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
10 Tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1" pieces
2 egg yolks (from large eggs)
1 Tablespoon ice cold water

1 cup (8 ounces) mascarpone cream, removed from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before using
1/3 cup well-chilled heavy cream
1/4 cup caster or superfine sugar
2 pints fresh blueberries
1 pint fresh blackberries
Optional: Handful of fresh cherries
3 Tablespoons of (seedless) Marionberry Jam (See Note)
1 1/2 Tablespoons Kirschwasser (See Note)
Optional: Edible flowers for decoration

1. Add the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a large food processor. Pulse until ingredients are mixed together.
2. Add butter. Process until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
3. Mix in egg yolks and water. Process until moist crumbs form.
4. Gather dough into a ball, flatten slightly, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour (or up to 2 days).
5. Roll out chilled dough on a lightly floured surface into a 13 inch round (slightly thicker than 1/8" but not as thick as 1/4").
6. Fit rolled dough into an 11" tart pan with a fluted rim and removable bottom. Place tart pan in the freezer for 15-20 minutes.
7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
8. Remove tart pan from freezer. Use a fork to prick bottom of the shell. Line the shell with parchment paper or aluminum foil, fill with pie weights or beans. 
9. Bake shell in the center of the oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and carefully remove parchment paper/aluminum foil. 
10. Return tart pan to the oven and continue baking for 18-20 minutes or until tart shell is lightly golden in color. Note: Check the tart crust midway through. If the crust has bubbles, deflate with the prongs of a fork.
11. Place baked tart shell on a cooling rack. Allow the tart shell to cool completely.
12. Remove sides of tart from the cooled shell and transfer shell to a serving platter or cake stand.

1. In a medium sized bowl, mix together the mascarpone cream and caster sugar using a hand mixer until well blended.
2. Add in chilled whipping cream. Beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Set aside.
3. Place berries in a medium sized bowl.
4. In a small saucepan, simmer the jam and kirschwasser only until the jam has melted. Pour over the berries and stir gently using a spatula.
5. Spread the mascarpone mixture over the tart shell. Smooth using an offset spatula.
6. Mound the berries over the filling. If using, randomly place fresh cherries on top.
7. Serve immediately or chill the tart up to 2 hours ahead.
8. Serve tart chilled or at room temperature.

Notes: (1) Can use blueberry or blackberry jam in lieu of the marionberry jam. (2) Can use a dark berry liqueur, such as blueberry, blackberry or cassis instead of the kirschwasser. (3) Instead of blueberries and blackberries, could use blueberries only, blackberries only, blueberries/blackberries/strawberries, blueberries/blackberries/raspberries, strawberries only, or any berry combination of your choice. (4) For the tenderest shortbread crust, consider using King Arthur All-Purpose Flour. (5) If you can't find caster sugar, use superfine sugar or make your own by processing granulated sugar in the food processor until it has the consistency of caster sugar.

Mesmerizing views at Rosario Beach at Deception Pass on Whidbey Island, Washington (June 2017)

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