By: Lianna Lee
Once berry season hits (blueberry, raspberry, strawberry etc.) I’m out the door and in a bog, pick-your-own field, or in the woods fighting off thorns to fill my Nalgene with blackberries. It’s a brief season that I look forward to year round. Right now we are entering strawberry season and I couldn’t be happier, because it’s open season for pies, jams, tarts, and eating as many berries as I wish. Last Saturday I drove down to Taunton and visited Spring Rain Farm for their strawberries. SEMAP has a nifty fruit map that shows you where farms are that have pick-your-own options. Call farms in advance to make sure they are open when you plan on visiting.
Flaky doughs have always thrown me off my game. Crisco freaks me out and after trawling various food blogs I began to worry that if I wasn’t a vampire with naturally freezing cold hands, flaky crust was always going to be way out of my league. Who has desire to stick their rolling pin in the freezer, rinse their hands with cold water, and buy a slab of marble to roll out dough? Answer: Not me. Hassle-free baking when it comes to dough is my style.
When I sought out this recipe I knew I wanted something easy and straightforward, that would be difficult to mess up. Enter “The Foodie Handbook: The (Almost) Definitive Guide to Gastronomy,” by food blogger Pim Techamuanvivit and her loosely organized collage of recipes. Among them was her flaky pie dough that can also be used to create rustic tarts. It includes a hefty amount of butter, which I infinitely prefer using over Crisco. At a certain point when one is making tart dough, you begin rationalizing that one more stick of butter is really not that much in the grand scheme of all of the other saturated fats you have consumed in your lifetime, and that it’s going to taste awesome.
2 1/4 Cup flour
2 sticks salted butter (add 1 tsp salt to ingredients if you only have unsalted butter)
1/4 Cup water
2 cups strawberries
1 Tablespoon sugar, to mix in with strawberries for filling
METHOD (paraphrased from “The Foodie Handbook”)
Prep your kitchen space, and find a clean surface area that can get messy. Cut your butter into chunks – I cubed mine – and then, using the heel of your hand, press down on the butter to integrate it into the flour. Eventually once the butter has softened into the flour you can use your fingertips to bring the dough together. You want the consistency of butter flakes. Techamuanvivit recommends using a pastry scraper for this process, but unless you already own one I wouldn’t dash out to buy one. Slowly add the cold water and make sure it is evenly distributed throughout.
Wrap your dough up in saran wrap, or place in a bowl and cover with a towel, then refrigerate to chill for 30 minutes.
Prep your strawberries by slicing them up however you please and then toss them with a tablespoon of sugar.
(Excerpted from “The Foodie Handbook”)
After 30 minutes, remove the dough from the fridge and roll it on a floured work surface. Stretch the dough out into a long rectangular shape, about 1inch thick. Fold the dough in thirds toward the middle. Turn it 90 degrees and roll it out again to a rectangular shape, and fold again in thirds. Repeat this turning and rolling process a couple more times. When you are done, divide the dough in half and press each into a more-or-less round disk. Wrap each tightly in plastic wrap and store in the fridge. The dough should rest for at least another hour before use, or it can be frozen for up to a month.
Bake your tarts at 400 for 45-60 minutes.
My dough turned out decently flaky, and as predicted the strawberries tasted of summer. So where did I go wrong, or rather at which point did my stomach begin growling and I became impatient? I half-heartedly folded the dough a few times (using my trusty Pellegrino bottle), and deferred to my hunger pangs rather than waiting to refrigerate the dough for another hour. Less flakiness for me.
Instead of trusting the recipe I only baked it for 35 minutes because I was afraid the tarts would burn. They did not burn but parts of the interior were not as flaky as I wanted. Moral of the story: roll and fold your dough repeatedly, then refrigerate it instead of rushing the magical flakiness making process. Mistakes are lessons that nudge us in the right direction of acquiring new skills. Learning to be patient in the kitchen takes time and it seems to be a state of mind that is learned over a lifetime of cooking. Regardless, the strawberries were simply perfect and worth every minute of baking and waiting.
Lianna Lee is a 20-something graduate of Mount Holyoke College where she earned a degree in Environmental Studies. Currently she is serving as an AmeriCorps member with the Wildlands Trust as their Outreach Coordinator. Lee’s 2013 food goals include making gelato, successfully growing tomatoes, and eating a sublime bowl of chowdah.
For more delicious recipes from Lianna, check our her most recent: Delicious Dumplings.