A Good Appetite: Some fruit tarts can be too predictable, too dull — but this tart, inspired by a flowering rosebush, adds intense fragrance and flavor to the sweetness of pastry cream and fresh raspberries. Recipe: Rose-Scented Berry Tart with an Almond Shortbread Crust
A classic berry tart, crumbly crust brimming with pastry cream and lined with neat rows of fresh fruit, is a refined and utterly traditional way to take advantage of summer’s bounty.
That’s precisely why I rarely bake them.
Too predictable, too staid, too dull. The kind of thing somebody’s great-aunt serves to her vicar with a nice cup of tea. Despite my penchant for 19th-century English novels, a dainty berry tart is just never as appealing as a bubbling cobbler or oozing pie.
But this spring, a fecund rosebush made me reconsider.
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I planted it a decade ago, yearning for old-fashioned, blousy blossoms, but I never got much more than a single bouquet. This year’s rainy weather was apparently just what the flowers wanted, and my garden was heady with their scent.
The unsprayed petals were perfect for cooking. And their intense fragrance made me want to infuse them into something sweet and creamy.
So I steeped them in eggy pastry cream, which I spread into a rich almond crust and topped with fresh raspberries.
It looked like a classic vicar-worthy tart. But the rose flavor was sexier and more interesting. And the almonds in the crust made it softer and sweeter and altogether more alluring.
I made the same tart again later in the season after all my roses had withered, substituting a little rosewater for the flowers, and it worked nearly as well. The petals had a more complex character, but the difference was subtle, especially when eaten with the berries. (This time I used blueberries.)
A few caveats about using fresh roses: They must be unsprayed, so the best way to get them is to grow them yourself. Make sure they are highly scented; as stunning as some varieties may be, if they don’t smell like much, they won’t taste like much. And don’t over wash them, just shake them out (a gentle misting is OK, but if you drench them you’ll lose some of the delicate perfume).
The pastry cream and tart shell can be made in advance, but try not to combine them until just before serving. The longer you wait, the crisper the crust will be. You’ll be rewarded with a crunchy, cookie-like crust filled with luscious perfumed custard and topped with juicy, ripe berries.
A classic tart, slightly tarted up.
ROSE-SCENTED BERRY TART WITH AN ALMOND SHORTBREAD CRUST
Time: 1 ½ hours, plus chilling and cooling
Yield: 8 servings
For the tart shell:
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup blanched sliced almonds
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
Grated zest of ½ lemon
Pinch kosher salt
½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 large egg, lightly beaten
For the pastry cream:
1 large unsprayed, fragrant rose (about 1 cup petals), or ½ teaspoon rosewater
2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
5 large egg yolks
1 -2 pints raspberries, blueberries or hulled strawberries
1. For the crust, place ¼ cup flour and the almonds in a food processor. Run until almonds are finely ground, about 1 minute. Pulse in remaining 1 ¼ cups flour, sugar, lemon zest and salt.
2. Add butter and pulse until a coarse meal forms. Add egg and pulse until the dough comes together. Press dough into a disc, wrap in plastic and chill for 4 hours or up to a week.
3. To make the pastry cream, pull rose petals from stem and drop into a heavy saucepan. Pour in milk and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand 1 hour. Strain and discard petals; pour liquid into pot and return to a simmer. (If you are using rosewater, skip the steeping; bring milk to a simmer and then stir in the rosewater off the heat.)
4. In a medium bowl, whisk flour and sugar. Slowly whisk in the hot milk. Return mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture just starts to boil, 1 to 2 minutes.
5. In a large bowl, whisk yolks until pale and thick. Whisking constantly, pour hot milk mixture into yolks. Return mixture to saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until custard is thick and smooth (170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer). Do not let the mixture boil. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Chill for at least 1 hour before using, or up to 5 days.
6. When ready to bake the crust, roll dough out between two sheets of plastic to a 3/8-inch thickness. Remove plastic and line a 9-inch tart pan with dough; chill for 30 minutes.
7. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Line tart shell with foil and fill with baking weights. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove foil and weights. Continue baking, uncovered, for another 5 to 10 minutes, until pale golden. Allow tart shell to cool completely before filling.
8. Spoon chilled pastry cream into cooled tart shell. Arrange berries over the top of the tart. Serve within 2 hours for the best texture.