Sunday, 5 August 2012

Bilberry Tart

The hydrangeas and lavender are flowering, the bilberries are ripe for picking; summer is here.

I await bilberry season with the same greedy anticipation and excitement as I did as a child. The first glimpse of  the season’s bilberries sets my mind racing to August days spent in amongst the heather of the moors just outside Sheffield in South Yorkshire, purple-black stained fingers and bramble-scratched knees, ice-cream tub filled with my treasure. I remember the bumpy ride home over The Strines (my dad to this day attacks these country roads with the fervour of a Finnish rally driver); my blue-black berries dancing around on my lap. I am transported to the scents of the kitchen where I would stand on a chair to reach the worktop and help to rub the butter and flour for the pastry.  All this comes rushing back with the first bite of a bilberry pie or tart.  Just writing about it, I am there in the kitchen, I can taste the sharp, floral fruits of our labours. I was hooked back then and in the twenty-something years that have followed I have sought to make more and more food memories that inspire me every day in the food that I buy, prepare and eat with my own family. So, the humble but beautiful bilberry tart represents so much: intimate memories; the beauty of food; the regional delights of my distant yet beloved Yorkshire; the pleasure of searching out, preparing and enjoying seasonal treats; creating fragrant, colourful memories to be savoured. So, when I decided to start writing a food blog about the food I enjoy sharing with my family it seemed fitting that I should name it Bilberry Tart

Here I am sticking to a traditional recipe of shortcrust pastry, pastry cream and the jewelled stars of the show. But, before I share the recipe that represents my inspiration, I wanted to extend my congratulations to fellow a Yorkshire lass, who undoubtedly inspired a generation last night. Jessica Ennis, your graceful determination and dedication to your dream is an inspiration to us all. Go Team GB!

This recipe used a 20cm tart dish.

For the shortcrust pastry
150g plain Flour
75g fridge cold butter cut into cubes
1 tbsp icing sugar
Ice-cold water; enough to bring the dough together.

For the pastry cream
4 egg yolks
75g caster sugar 
25g plain flour
1 vanilla pod
250ml milk

For the topping
250g bilberries (blueberries would work too)
A splash of crème de myrtilles (optional)
2tbsp icing sugar 

In a freestanding food mixer, using the paddle attachment at slow-medium speed combine the flour, icing sugar and cold butter until they have a fine breadcrumb texture. Alternatively you could rub these together by hand. Then gradually add the ice-cold water until the dough forms into a ball.

Form your dough into a disc, wrap in cling film and place in the fridge to rest for about half an hour.

While the pastry is resting you can get on with the pastry cream. In a large bowl whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until they have become pale and fluffy, add the flour and whisk into a paste. 

Warm the milk in a saucepan with the vanilla pod until just before boiling. Remove the vanilla pod then slowly add the warm milk to the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and continue to whisk until the mixture has thickened. It needs to be quite thick as it will loosen with the juices from the bilberries. Don't worry if you end up with a few lumps, just pass the mixture through a sieve to remove them. Place your pastry cream into a bowl and lay a piece of clingfilm over to stop a skin from forming, then put it to one side to cool.

Heat your oven to 200°C and roll out your disc of pastry on a floured surface; I prefer to do this between two floured sheets of cling film to make it easier to transfer to the tart dish. Lift the pastry into a tart tin and gently press into place.

Prick the bottom of the tart with a fork before placing a sheet of baking parchment over the top. Add beans, rice or baking weights. Place in the oven for 15 minutes or until cooked but still pale. 
Remove from the oven and take out the baking parchment and beans. Smooth the pastry cream around the bottom of the base of the tart.
Toss the bilberries, a splash of crème de myrtilles and the icing sugar together. Place the glistening, boozy bilberries on top of the tart. Return the tart to the oven for 15 minutes.
Allow your tart to cool, then chill in the fridge until you are ready to serve it. For me, this is the taste of summer.

Thank you to Genevieve, Rebecca, Rhiannon, Mum & Dad; The Bilberry Pickers, V xxx.

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