Cor, look! We've had a bumper crop of strawberries this year, so with friends coming for supper I made a strawberry tart. Few things look more lusciously edible but I have to say I'm not a huge fan of crème pât, Great British Bake Off notwithstanding. The contestants seem to bathe in the stuff. This tart has a much quicker and easier filling and one that I think is nicer to eat.
You can use pre-bought dessert pastry if you like, but the lemon thyme-infused tart case (an idea I pinched from Pascal Aussignac, though not his recipe) doesn't take long to make and bake. You can, if you wish, do it in advance and once it's cold, store it in an airtight container for a couple of days. The pastry is quite delicate so it's best left in its tin.
And although you can glaze the fruit with sieved, runny strawberry jam or redcurrant jelly, it's not essential. I felt mine were moist and shiny enough after their sugary marinade.
Strawberry Tart (serves 6-8)
Ingredients for the pastry:
250g plain flour
125g cold butter, cut into small cubes
50g icing sugar, sifted
1 large egg, beaten
Up to 2 tspn milk
Small bunch of lemon thyme, leaves picked (about 1 tbsp)
For the filling:
Up to 200g crème fraîche
50g caster sugar
The zest of 1/2 lemon
About 400g strawberries, hulled
2 tbsp caster sugar
Put the marscapone in a bowl and add half of the crème fraîche. Stir together and check the texture: it should be of a thick dropping consistency, like softly whipped cream but denser. Some crème fraîche brands are sloppier than others (Tesco, I'm thinking of you).
Add more crème fraîche until you're happy with it. Stir in 50g of caster sugar and the lemon zest and chill in the fridge until needed.
Hull the strawberries, put them in a bowl and toss them with two tbsp of caster sugar. Cover and set aside to macerate for a couple of hours.
To make the pastry, whizz the flour and butter in a food processor (or rub between your fingertips) until it looks like fine breadcrumbs. Add the icing sugar and thyme leaves and whizz again briefly. Pour in the egg and pulse (or cut in with a blunt knife) just until the pastry comes together in a ball. One large egg should be enough, but if not, add the milk a teaspoonful at a time.
Dust a work surface lightly with flour and gently press the pastry into a flattened disc. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for at least half an hour.
Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. On a lightly floured board, roll out the pastry to 1/2 cm thick, drape it over your rolling pin and ease it gently into a 23cm flan tin, the sort with a removable base.
Chill again for 15 minutes, then prick the base with a fork and trim the edges. Any leftover pastry can be used for smaller tarts or just popped into the freezer.
Crumple up some grease-proof paper, unravel it and use it to line the pastry case, pushing it gently into the nooks and crannies. Fill with dry rice or baking beans and bake for 10 minutes.
Take it out, carefully remove the hot beans and paper and place the tart case back in the oven for another 10 minutes, or until it's dry and a bit biscuity-looking. Remove and allow to cool in the tin.
Just before you want to eat, spread a generous layer of the cream mixture in the tart case (removed from its tin by now of course), then arrange the strawberries on top.
Drizzle with any syrup left in the strawberry bowl, garnish if you like with a few flowers or tender tips of lemon thyme, and dig in.