Last week, a friend of mine and I decided to take our kids strawberry picking to enjoy some of that sunshine we’ve finally been getting, and well, who doesn’t love freshly-picked strawberries in the house? It had to be put off about a week because of illness and previous engagements, but when the day rolled around we threw on our sunglasses and eating shorts, and set out in the beautiful strawberry field. To find nothing. Well, almost nothing. It had been a mere two weeks of sunshine and we missed it; we missed prime-picking strawberry season. We dejectedly walked along the mostly empty rows of strawberry patches, and the few we did find were small, if not already mushy and moldy. Not wanting to completely disappoint the kids, I let them place the best of the not-so-great strawberries in their bags, and I actually paid for them.
In anticipation of our big strawberry adventure and bounty, I had previously gathered all the ingredients needed to make a Strawberry Tart with Almond Cream. With our pitiful gatherings not accumulating to much of a bounty, I had to go and buy more strawberries to make this tart. But in the end it was worth it; both the picking experience and the post-purchase of strawberries. Next year we know to get in early, and the tart is divine, and simply worth having now. When I make this again, which will surely be sooner rather than later, I will add more strawberries, and perhaps even throw in some fresh blueberries. I think a tart is one of those desserts you just can’t go wrong with; it’s always going to be a welcome addition to the end of a stressful day. Creamy almond filling and fresh fruit all piled on top of a sweet almond crust? I’ll take two pieces of that, please.
Strawberry and Almond Cream Tart
For the crust:
1 ½ cups + 1 tablespoon (200g) flour
¾ cup (100g) finely ground almonds (almond meal)
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon (100g) sugar
14 tablespoons/7 ounces (200g) cold butter, chopped
For the filling:
1 packet instant vanilla pudding
2 cups (500 ml) milk
4 tablespoons sugar
½ cup heavy whipping cream (125 ml)
2 tablespoons Amaretto (or several drops of almond essence if you prefer alcohol free)
2 cups fresh strawberries washed, hulled and sliced or halved
powdered sugar, to top
In the bowl of a stand-mixer, combine the flour, almonds, sugar and cubed butter. Using the dough hook, mix on low until ingredients are well combined. Place the dough on a well-floured work surface and continue kneading with your hands until the butter pieces are no longer visible, adding only small amounts of flour if necessary. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for half an hour.
Preheat the oven to 200C (400F). Lightly grease a 10-inch (26 cm) tart form with butter. Place the cooled dough between two large sheets of baking paper, and roll out a large circle, big enough to cover the base and sides of your form. Remove the top sheet of baking paper, and invert the other over the tart form, gently releasing the dough and pressing into the form. Place the clean side of one of the sheets of baking paper back over the dough, and fill with baking weights or dry rice or beans. Blind bake the dough just like that for 15-18 minutes, until crust is golden and cooked through. Remove the paper and baking weights, and set aside to cool.
To make the cream, place the pudding mix, 6 tablespoons of the milk and 3 tablespoons of the sugar in a small mixing bowl and whisk until smooth. Pour the rest of the milk into a medium sized pot and bring to a boil over low-medium (to avoid burning the bottom), stirring regularly. Add the pudding mix to the boiling milk, and cook, whisking constantly, for 1 minute. Remove from heat and pour the pudding into a mixing bowl to cool.
In a clean, metal bowl (chilled helps guarantee success!), whisk the cream and remaining tablespoon of sugar on high until peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the Amaretto (or almond essence) until thoroughly mixed. Add the whipped cream to the cooled pudding mix and fold together, and then fill the cooled tart crust with the almond cream. Top with the strawberries, sprinkle with sifted, powdered sugar, and visually enjoy your thing of beauty before your lips do.