This time each year, we gather and bid a fond farewell to the sultry summer days, I will miss them so. The crickets still sing me to sleep, but the calendar tells another tale. Time to get ready for changes on the way, like it or not. Where do these days disappear to? Oh well… today is the matter at hand. And it’s my job to bring dessert!
I turn to an old favorite, a very old one… a Gourmet magazine article from 1992, my go-to instructions for a classic Italian crostate, in an article by Michele Scicolone, complete with a charming little illustration of a happy pie slice. Find her recent posting of a blueberry galette here, but if you track down a copy of the September 92 Gourmet issue, it will be worth the search. I’ve tried almost all the variations and one is better than the next.
The crust is a simple but somehow perfect pastry that works wonderfully in a 2-part pan with fluted edge, here’s an adaptation…
- 2 1/3 cups flour. I often use white whole wheat, King Arthur’s.
- 1/3 cup sugar
- pinch of salt
- zest of 1 lemon
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, cold
- 1 large egg
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
Wisk together the flour, sugar, zest, salt, then cut in the butter to a consistency like meal. Combine the egg and vanilla, then mix into the dry mixture and gather the dough, incorporating everything. Add a tiny dash of ice cold water if the dough seems too dry to hold together (I mix mine by hand). From this dough make 2 disks, for top and bottom. Chill if needed. Roll, then press the bottom into a 2-part pan and chill, saving the other half to roll out for the top.
The jam filling is simple and versatile:
- 2 cups fresh or frozen berries
- 2/3 cup sugar or to taste
Crush the berries in a heavy saucepan and simmer about 10 minutes. Add the sugar, keep simmering and stir under a close eye until thickened, about 10 more minutes. (Try this with other summery fruits like peaches and nectarines to create other simple jams that will work for a tart like this.) Let the jam you’ve made cool to room temperature and spread it into the bottom shell. Cut some strips from the remaining rolled dough and create a pattern on top. Trim all the excess and make yourself a tiny test tart with any leftover dough (my favorite part). For a glossy pastry on top, brush with a wash made from 1 egg yolk and a teaspoon of water.
Bake in a 350˚ oven for 35-45 minutes or until golden browned on top. My oven’s a bit off lately so it may brown faster. Cool 10 minutes before removing the pan rim, then set on a rack and cool completely. I always refrigerate a jam tart if I’m not serving it that same day.
For the fuller, original instructions and lots more options, track down that September 92 issue. This article is among my most dogeared and splattered, and always at the top of the stack. I suspect pastry recipes found on Michele’s website and in her books would be equally treasured by a home baker willing to give them a go.
This weekend’s event toasts the unofficial end of the summer season with more treats, no tricks. It’s not quite time to move inside, there will still be some lovely warm evenings. I breath a little deeper this time of year in attempt to memorize the sweet scent of a summer day.
This ginger cake was also front and center on the dessert buffet, along with some flavored ices and a fresh cut watermelon. My first crack at this concoction, I’ll be adding this to my repertoire of recipes to revisit. A mild ginger layer cake slathered with a rich cream cheese and bourbon frosting, decorated with a dressing of pear matchsticks and lime zest and juice (this being the very first lime harvested from my potted lime standard… yay!). The credit for this winning combination goes to Kentucky chef Edward Lee. His article, 80-Proof on a Plate, from the May 2013 issue of Country Living, has been sitting on my reading stack all summer. It was worth holding on to. I don’t see this recipe included on the CL site, but it’s also worthy of a back-issue search.
Am I ready for fall? No. Am I holding onto summer? Yes.
Most importantly, is there any dessert left? ;)