DISCLAIMER: This is the first dessert/pastry recipe I have created all on my own. It may have some kinks, as my experience in the kitchen has been 90% savory dishes, but all in all this turned out well. I have had issues in the past with pie crusts being too dry and breaking up when I attempted to plate them, so I made this a really wet dough. It works very well for the tarts in this dish, but I wouldn’t use it in an honest to God pie as it would be too difficult to work with. But in this recipe, DO NOT FEAR THE WET DOUGH! Just refrigerate it a good 4 hours before making the tarts, and you will be fine.
*This recipe is for 1 regular sized tart and 12 mini-tarts (as in the photos), but the dough and filling mixture can also be used for 2 tarts, or 24 mini-tarts. Whatever blows your skirt up.
Now, on with the recipe:
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour.
*Use pastry flour if you’re fancy. I am not. It has a lower gluten content though, so you may want to just do what I say.
1 cup shortening, cut into small chunks/cubes.
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup ice water.
*If you disobey and use regular tap water, your dough will be too warm and will not form correctly.
1/2 cup apricot preserves
2 tbsp Cognac (this is optional, but I’ve found it’s good to have an excuse for all the booze in my house if there is a judgmental friend over visiting. “Oh, the Cognac? That’s for dessert recipes!” See?)
PREP: Dump the 2 cups of flour into the food processor. Make sure the blade is in the food processor before doing this, unless you want people nearby to hear you cursing in the kitchen. I would use the actual blade as well, as I don’t think the plastic mixing blades that come with most processors pulse the way I like. Dump in the sugar and salt and pulse a few times until mixed. Then add the shortening, and pulse again until it forms a course grain. [NOTE: You can do this by hand of you don’t have a food processor, but you need to be very very careful that you are only mixing the shortening into the flour with your fingertips. The rest of your hand will be too hot, melting the shortening, and ruining the dough.]
With the lid on, slowly pour in the ice water while pulsing. You can just set it on low if you’re not coordinated, but if you overwork the gluten in the flour, your dough will be chewy instead of flaky. When the water is mixed and forms a doughy texture, dump out the mix onto plastic wrap.
*This is NOT going to look like typical pastry dough. It will not form a uniform ball like you usually see, and it will feel wet and messy when you pull it out of the processor. Don’t worry. It is supposed to look like this. Everything will be okay. Just divide the dough into 2 balls and wrap in the plastic wrap. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.
When the dough has been chilled, you are ready to begin. Preheat the oven to 400. Then start on the filling. For safety sake, leave the dough in the fridge until the very last minute so it stays as firm as possible.
16 oz strawberries, sliced
6 oz blueberries
6 oz raspberries
6 oz blackberries
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla
A couple of dashes of cinnamon. Nothing more.
*You can change up the proportions for the berries if you like; I just happen to like a dominant strawberry flavor. I would also definitely use fresh fruit. Frozen won’t work at all. You would have to let the frozen fruit thaw first, and then it would be a big mushy mess. Thawed blueberries also tend to turn everything purple, and your fruits would not retain their individual colors when mixed. Just get fresh, okay? It’s all in season right now anyway.
In a really big bowl (remember that 5 cups of fruit are going into this), whisk the flour, sugar, and cinnamon together. Sprinkle in the vanilla and whisk some more. The vanilla will form little gross droplet-looking things in the flour/sugar mixture, but don’t get all bent out of shape about it. It will taste fine in the end. Now toss in the berries until they are well coated in the sugar/flour mixture.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER:
Spray your pie dish (regular tart) and 12-cup muffin tin (mini tarts) with cooking spray or rub them down with butter, whatever you prefer. Then flour the inside of the pie dish and muffin tins. I usually see this with cake recipes, but found that it works really well with pies and tarts as well. It makes it much easier to remove the pie/tarts later.
In a small saucepan, smash the apricot preserves through a strainer. Set heat to low and whisk in cognac until warm. Set aside.
With one ball of dough, pinch of 1 inch balls of dough and roll them in your hand until they form smooth balls <snicker>. Then carefully flatten out the balls until they form discs slightly larger than the bottom of the muffin tin cups. Gently lay the dough into the muffin tins and gently push the sides up about 1/4 inch. Repeat until all tins are full. 1/2 the dough mixture will fill the 12 muffin tins. If you push too hard, the crust will be stuck to the bottom and it will be hell trying to get the tarts out later.
With the other ball of dough, lay it out on a lightly floured surface and gently press out until you have a disc slightly larger than the bottom of your pie tin. Do not attempt to use a rolling pin; the dough is too wet for that. Just press out into a disc and then set the disc into the pie tin. The sides should only come up about 1/2 inch. Gently press into the dish so it’s uniform. If you’re fancy, you can make little marks around the edges of the crust. Polk all around the bottom of the pie tin with a fork. If you don’t, the whole thing will swell up in your oven and be ruined, and you will have wasted your time.
Once the doughs are all nestled in their pans, get a pastry brush and coat the dough with a light glazing of the apricot jam/cognac mixture. Set both pans in the oven for about 12 minutes, to set the dough and allow the apricot jam to solidify. This provides a coating so the dough doesn’t get all soggy and nasty, and also provides a nice flavor.
[BONUS: You will have jam/cognac mixture leftover. Save it. It would make an awesome glaze for chicken or pork.]
After the crusts have cooked slightly, remove them from the oven and turn the heat down to 350. Let the crusts cool, for 10-15 minutes.
Once the crust is cooled, spoon the berry mixture–roughly a large soup spoon or 2 tbsp–into each of the muffin cups. The fruit mixture should only come up to about the top of the muffin cup. Don’t overfill. Once the mini-tarts are filled in the muffin cups, dump the rest of the mixture into the regular pie tin.
*If you’re fancy–which I am clearly not–you may wish to do a better job arranging the berries. I didn’t bother with this but may attempt it next time.
Throw the tins into the oven and cook around 25 minutes. At this point the crust should be a nice golden brown. Remove from the oven, allow to cool at least 20-30 minutes, and enjoy. Vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt makes an excellent add-on.