High Country Baking: Cool off with a white chocolate summer berry tart (column)
High Country Baking
High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan and cakes fall. Few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.
Light and lovely, cool and refreshing … that describes this pretty berry tart, featuring a white chocolate mousse and blueberry filling, crowned by ripe strawberries, and cradled in a tender buttery crust. It’s a perfect finish to a summer meal.
It comes together with ease and doesn’t require a lot of oven time; only the crust is baked. I usually prepare it over two days, making the crust on the first day and filling it the next morning.
You must use real white chocolate — look for one that lists cocoa butter as a main ingredient and is pale ivory (not bright white) in color; anything less will not work in this recipe. Your berries should be ripe and flavorful; they’re responsible for most of the taste. Select the smallest blueberries you can find and strawberries that are well-shaped and all about the same size (so they make an attractive and uniform border on top of the tart).
White Chocolate Summer Berry Tart
Make in a 9 ½ -inch shiny metal tart pan with a removable bottom and 1-inch sides
Your favorite tart shell
2 ½ ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
3 tablespoons crème de cassis liqueur, divided
½ teaspoon unflavored gelatin
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream, divided
3 ½ ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
2 cups washed, stemmed and dried fresh blueberries, divided
10-15 washed and dried fresh strawberries
2 tablespoons currant jelly, optional
¼ teaspoon crème de cassis or water, optional
1. Make the crust: Prebake your favorite tart shell. While it bakes, place the 2 ½ ounces of chopped white chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave at a low temperature (I use No. 2 out of 10; white chocolate burns easily so take care) until it has softened but remains lumpy. Remove it from the oven and stir it until it’s smooth and shiny. After your tart shell has cooled about five minutes, brush the melted white chocolate over the bottom and sides of the tart shell and let the shell cool completely and the chocolate firm up. The thin chocolate layer creates a barrier between the moist filling and the crust that keeps the crust from getting soft and mushy. The shell can be stored in a cool, dry place for a day, covered airtight.
2. Put the beaters for your electric mixer and a small mixing bowl in the freezer to chill (you’ll use them to whip cream in step No. 4 and it whips easily when these are cold).
3. Make the filling: Place 1 tablespoon of the crème de cassis in a 1-cup measure or small bowl, sprinkle the unflavored gelatin over it and let it stand for about three to five minutes while the gelatin softens. Stir the mixture and scrape it into a small saucepan (make sure to transfer all of it or the filling may not firm up). Stir in ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons of the heavy cream, place the pan over low heat (don’t let the mixture boil), and stir until the gelatin dissolves completely; this may take five to seven minutes. Add the 3 ½ ounces of chopped white chocolate and stir until melted and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a quart-sized mixing bowl (you need a bowl this size because you’ll be adding more ingredients to it later) and refrigerate it, stirring often, until it’s cool but not set, about 30 minutes.
4. When the white chocolate mixture has cooled for about 25 minutes, take the bowl and beaters (from No. 2 above) out of the freezer, add the remaining ¼-cup of whipping cream to the cold bowl, and beat with your mixer at medium speed until soft peaks form. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of crème de cassis, increase your mixer speed to high, and whip to stiff peaks.
5. Take the cooled white chocolate mixture out of the fridge, scrape 1/3 of the whipped cream into it, and fold until the two are combined. Add the rest of the whipped cream and fold it in until blended. Fold in 1 cup of the blueberries until they are evenly distributed in the filling. Spoon the filling into the crust, gently spread and level it. Move the filled tart to the refrigerator until the filling has set, 30 minutes to an hour. You can lightly cover it at this point for several hours.
6. Halve (or quarter if the berries are large) the strawberries and place them in a border, cut side down, with points facing the tart’s edge. Make a second circle of halved (or quartered) strawberries inside the border. Fill the middle of the tart and other open spaces with blueberries. If you want to glaze the berries, heat the currant jelly until it’s liquid, stir in the ¼ teaspoon of crème de cassis or water, and lightly brush this over the fruit. Refrigerate the finished tart, covered by a foil tent or an overturned bowl, until serving time. Many think the tart is best the day it’s made but some find the flavors more pronounced the following day; the choice is yours.
Vera Dawson, author of the high-altitude cookbooks Baking Above It All and Cookies in the Clouds, (available at The Bookworm in Edwards and Next Page Bookstore in Frisco), is a high-altitude baking teacher. Her recipes have been tested in her Summit County kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at email@example.com.
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