Picking your own fruit and vegetable produce and eating it for lunch a few hours later is one of the simplest summer pleasures. Adding to that; making your own jams, jellies or sweet treats from freshly picked fruit makes the perfect afternoon baking activity. Freezing the fruit too can leave a sweet taste of the summer months as the seasons and the available produce begins to change.
Here in the UK, we are very lucky that between the months of May and September, we get an abundance of the freshest and juiciest strawberries, and there are now a number of local farms offering family days out where you can visit and spend the day picking as many fresh strawberries as you can manage. If you are anything like us though, you end up eating a fair amount of what you have picked before you reached the end, as the big, red, juicy strawberries really are best eaten in the field (we won't tell if you don't).
If you do manage to restrain yourself and make it home with a decent haul, there is so much you can do with this amazing ingredient. You could try something simple such as a strawberry ice cream, top a delicious pavlova with fresh cream and berries or for a savoury option, add to a summer salad with some fresh spinach, avocado, cucumber, walnuts and balsamic.
We were leaning more towards the sweet option and decided a Strawberry Tart would make the perfect centrepiece dessert for a summer dining occasion. Homemade pastry, crème pâtissière and the fresh strawberries will really wow the guests.
125g unsalted butter
85g icing sugar
200g plain flour
100g strawberry jam
2 tbsp apricot jam
For the crème pâtissière
150ml double cream
1tsp vanilla extract
3 egg yolks
60g icing sugar
3 tbsp cornflour
50g butter (softened)
- STEP 1 Beat the butter and sugar together until smooth, but not fluffy. Mix in the egg until combined, then add the flour. Bring together with your hands to form a dough. Wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 mins.
- STEP 2 Dust a surface with flour and roll out the pastry to a 26cm circle (or 3cm bigger than your tin). Line a 23cm fluted tart tin with the pastry, leaving an overhang. Prick the base with a fork to stop any air bubbles forming. Chill for 30 mins.
- STEP 3 Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Line the pastry case with a scrunched up sheet of baking parchment and baking beans, then bake for 15 mins. Remove the parchment and beans and bake for 15-20 mins more until crisp and golden. Leave in the tin to cool.
- STEP 4 To make the crème pâtissière, heat the milk, cream and vanilla in a pan over a medium heat, stirring occasionally. Bring up to a simmer. Meanwhile, whisk the yolks and sugar in a bowl for 3 mins until pale, then stir in the cornflour until combined. Pour a quarter of the hot cream over the egg mix, whisking continuously, then pour the warm egg mix into the pan with the rest of the cream. Stir over a low-medium heat for 5-8 mins until the crème pâtissière thickens. Transfer to a large bowl and cool for 15 mins, whisking occasionally. Gradually whisk in the butter until smooth, cover and put in the fridge until needed.
- STEP 5 Beat the strawberry jam to loosen it, then spread over the bottom of the pastry case. Put the crème pâtissière into a piping bag and pipe in a spiral on top of the jam. Arrange the strawberries on top in a pattern. Heat the apricot jam in a small pan with 1 tbsp water until warm. Whisk to loosen the jam, then leave to cool slightly. Brush over the top of the strawberries.
By Kathryn Norris
Photos by Burnt Toast Designs @burnttoastdesigns