Gigi Makes Mark Bittman's Berry Tart
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Gigi Makes Mark Bittman's Berry Tart

So: I’m hosting my partner’s new coworkers. We’ve all been there. It’s never fun. You’ve been preconditioned to not like so and so, you’re told to love so and so, and the whole time you’re hoping you don’t reveal the love or contempt your significant other feels for them. It’s delicate—one of those awkward meals where you really hope the food just jumps up and orchestrates the entire conversation. So, naturally, yours truly, the Gigi Bowers, has spent the last day in a haze of panic cooking. Yes. The kind of panic cooking where you wake up at five in the morning to make vanilla pudding (more on that in a second). 

I have thought up an elaborate spread inspired by a recent and mouthwatering visit to Fishtown’s fabulous Suraya: I’m serving an aromatic Lebanese lamb roast, homemade zaatar bread, a minty pomegranate salad, and a medley of roast vegetables drizzled in tahini. Everyone, even panic cooks like me, knows that the best way to pull off and time a multi course dinner to impress is to divide and conquer courses in different blocks of time. For instance: I’ll make my zaatar loaves throughout the day, an hour before the lamb is ready I’ll make my salad, and while my lamb rests I’ll prepare the vegetables. The worst thing you can do is overcrowd that last hour and find yourself slicing apples at breakneck speed for a pie that may, or may not, ever come to fruition. My favorite trick for hosting is to prepare my desert first and something that doesn’t mind spending a day in the kitchen fridge with you is your best bet. For dessert, I wanted something to compliment the freshness of the meal: something fruity, but something more sophisticated than a bowl of fresh strawberries. In truth: I wanted something that would look fresh and beautiful while taking a fraction of the time that it appears to have taken to make. Would you be surprised if I told you tarts are ten times easier than they look? If you’re feeling incredulous, believe me, when I first stumbled across the Tart section of Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, I was equally shocked.

A berry tart, in essence, is made of three distinct components. A sweet and buttery shortbread-like crust, a vanilla pudding or pastry cream base, and a light and sensational top of macerated or whole berries. Today, I’d like to share the wonderful secret Mark Bittman taught me all those years ago. I’d also like to share a team of brilliant products that will make your tart making experience a thousand times easier. 

Let’s begin with our pudding, and no, you don’t have to make it in a 5am haze like me. Your pudding will be happy to spend the day in the fridge with you and, indeed, it is critical that it spend some time cooling off before you place it.

 

N.B.: This recipe requires a food processor, tart tin, rolling pin, and sauce or sauté pan. Pie weights are incredibly useful, but beans can be used instead. 

 

Bittman’s Vanilla Pudding

 

Bittman’s pudding is really sumptuous and it’s worth saying here that this doesn’t have to go in your tart! Sometimes I double the recipe because it is really a marvelous pudding recipe that sweet tooths like Gigi cannot get enough of!

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ cups of half and half
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

 

 

Steps: 

  1. First, I like to establish a nice mise en place. I’m going to place three small bowls and one medium bowl in front of me. I’m going to put the sugar, salt, and two cups of the half and half in the medium bowl (whisking it enough to roughly combine). Then, I’m going to put the remaining half cup of half and half in a small bowl. I

am also going to place the vanilla and cornstarch in small bowls. Having these ready will make the pudding a breeze. I love our stainless and glass bowl collection—they make prep easy and organized. Our silicone set is perfect for small pinches of ingredients like the vanilla. 

  1. Next, I’m going to place a sauce pan over medium-low heat and add the bowl containing the sugar, salt, and half and half. We’re going to whisk occasionally until it begins to steam. N.B.: a heat sensitive pan is critical here. I used my sauté pan because it’s copper, but a multi clad sauce pan will do wonders (plus, ours is on a fabulous sale).  
  2. When our half and half mixture begins to steam, we’re going to whisk the cornstarch bowl into the remaining half cup of half and half. We want our mixture to be well and thoroughly combined before adding it to the pan. Then, we will pour the mixture into the pan, stirring gently until it reaches a simmer.
  3. Turn the heat down to low and stir vigorously until the mixture thickens.
  4. Add the butter until it dissolves into the mixture.
  5. Add in the vanilla.
  6. Pour the mixture into a glass bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place in the fridge to cool off—it can spend the day in there while you get the rest of your meal together! But before you put it away, have a spoonful, there’s plenty of extra pudding and it’s delicious!

 

Mark Bittman’s Sweet Tart Crust

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) very cold butter, cut into small pieces, plus more for greasing
  • 1 ¼ cups all purpose flour, plus more for kneading and rolling
  • ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon ice water, plus more if necessary

If you’ve never made a pie or tart crust before, let this be the last time you by a roll of Pillsbury at the store. This recipe is incredibly easy and doubly rewarding. The principles of cold butter, ice, and a food processor are easily exportable across a range of pastry doughs (both savory and sweet)—if you’re interested and new to baking, this is exciting

   

 

Steps: 

  1. Combine flour, salt, and sugar in your food processor. Pulse once or twice.
  2. Add the butter and process for about ten seconds (when it looks like the butter chunks are roughly the same size)—you really don’t want to overdo it, flaky pie crusts come from cold, underworked butter.
  3. Add the egg yolk and process for a few seconds more (mind the note about overworking it above).
  4. Put the mixture in a bowl and add 3 tablespoons ice water 5. Mix with your hands until you can form the dough into a ball, adding another tablespoon or 2 of ice water if necessary.
  5. Form into a ball, wrap in plastic, and freeze for 10 minutes or refrigerate for at least 30 minutes). (You can refrigerate for up to a couple of days, freeze for up to a couple of weeks.) 7. Sprinkle a countertop with flour and put the dough on it; sprinkle the top with a little flour. Use a rolling pin to roll with light pressure, from the center out. 
  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. Place the dough in your tart tin, molding it into the lovely scallops.
  3. Prick the bottom of your crust a handful of times with a fork.
  4. Spread pie weights across your dough.
  5. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes.
  6. Remove pie weights and bake for about another 20 minutes, but be sure to avoid overdoing it—this crust is short-breadlike, you don’t want it to brown, you want it on the earliest side of golden.
  7. Make sure you cool before adding your filling and, viola!, you’ve made a brilliant tart crust.

 

Bittman's Berry Topping Recipe

 

 

 

Berry Topping Ingredients:

  • 3 cups of your favorite berries (I used a cup each of raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries)
  • ¼ cup sugar

 

Steps:    

  1. First things first: set aside a medium glass bowl and a mesh strainer or colander.
  2. Wash and dry your berries.
  3. Add your berries and sugar to the bowl.
  4. Mix until combined (be careful not to overly squash your berries)
  5. Put it in the fridge and mix occasionally until the sugar has fully dissolved.
  6. When you’re about ready to top your tart, pour your mascerated berries in a strainer and set over a medium glass bowl. Take care to reserve the berry draining— it’s delicious and makes for a beautiful and flavorful addition to any tart.
  7. Arrange berries on top of your pudding and drizzle the berry juice on top.

 

 

A Brief Note on Assembly:

Make sure your crust is cool, your pudding is chilled, and your berries are properly mascerated and strained. Your tart tin allows you to pop the tart right out, exposing a beautiful crust that you made. Viola! You’re done making a sumptuous and decadent tart. 

 

Thanks so much for reading, please feel free to ask any questions you’d like in the comment section below. I will make sure that I get to them as soon as I can. You all are wonderful readers and soon, I hope you all will consider yourselves wonderful tart bakers.

 

Yours,

Gigi <3 

 

 

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Gigi Makes Mark Bittman's Berry Tart

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