Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Tarte of Strawberries

It is strawberry season (hooray!) and I have a large quantity just asking to be made into something historical.  I found this site on the web:  Cariadoc's Miscellany; Desserts, Appetisers, Etc.

"Cariadoc" is the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) name of David Friedman, the man who assembled a collection of medieval and Renaissance recipes (receipts) from a variety of sources.  He lists the source with each receipt and includes his redaction.

I chose a Strawberry Tarte receipt along with the recommended receipt for the crust.

To Make Short Paest for Tarte

A Proper Newe Book p. 37/C10

Take fyne floure and a curscy of fayre water and a dysche of swete butter and a lyttel saffron, and the yolkes of two egges and make it thynne and as tender as ye maye.

3/4 c flour
1 T + 1 t water
1/2 stick = 4 T butter
6 threads saffron
1 egg yolk

Cut butter into flour, then crush saffron into 1 t of water; mix that and the rest of the water with the egg yolk and stir it into the flour-butter mixture.


***Normally I would cheat and buy a premade pie crust (I know, but it is soooo convenient!) but this one includes saffron and I really wanted see how it tasted.

I did all the mixing by hand, using a fork to cut in the butter and using my fingers to gently and lightly blend the dough.  Using good pastry-making techniques, I used cold water, cold butter, and only worked it until the butter and flour looked like corn meal and the complete mixture was barely blended.

I didn't take any pictures of this process until I started rolling out the dough.  You can see the flecks of saffron in it.

I still don't have an 8 inch pie pan so I used my 8 inch cake pan.

The amount of dough was pretty close to exactly what I needed, given that I rolled it very thin.

It only shrank a little once it had been cooked for its ten minutes (as mentioned below).

Now, on to the filling!

A Tarte of Strawberries

A Proper Newe Book p. 39/C11

Take and strain them with the yolks of four eggs, and a little white bread grated, then season it up with sugar and sweet butter and so bake it.

2 c strawberries
4 egg yolks
1/2 c bread crumbs
1/3 c sugar
4 T butter
8" pie shell (see recipe above)

Force strawberries through a strainer or run through a blender, then mix with everything else (the butter should be melted).

Just blended strawberries
Strawberries and everything else
Bake crust for 10 minutes, then put filling into the crust and bake at 375deg. for 20 minutes.  *Note:  I baked the crust and let it cool while I was making the filling.

Before baking
After baking
M observations:  20 minutes at 375 degrees is exactly the right amount of time to cook the filling.  It was perfectly set and well-flavored.

This is before I chilled it

Using a blender is a good thing, as it made the process quick and easy.  Since the receipt didn't say how to measure the strawberries (whole?  sliced?), I sliced them up right into the blender to its measure of 2 cups.

The result?  I loved the taste of the filling before it went into the oven.  It was a light and flavorful strawberry "mousse" of sorts.  Once the tarte was cool, I tried a piece.  Overall I liked it but there was something, some aftertaste, that I didn't like.  So I chilled the whole thing and tried it again later.  The flavor was still good but that aftertaste remained.  I think that off-flavor was the crust, which I didn't like much because the bottom was tough.

There was really only one thing to do:  Make another one!  This time I used the premade crust.  The only other difference between the first and second tartes was that in the second one, I poured the filling into the hot crust as soon as it had baked its ten minutes.  In the first, I poured the filling into the cooled crust.

Take two!
 The crust was cooked more than the first, probably because it didn't have a chance to cool down before the filling went in.  The "off" flavor was gone which I suspect was contributed by the saffron but am still not sure.  It was also gone from the first attempt after two days in the refrigerator.

The second crust was not tough.  It could be that the first crust got tough because it was allowed to cool before I filled it.

Having two pies in the house prompted me to take one to work to share.  I asked people for their honest (not "polite") feedback.  The responses were overwhelmingly "I like it" with an emphasis on how much the delicate strawberry flavor came through.  One person, who admits to being very particular about textures, wished the filling was stiffer, more like a custard.  But she still thought it was good overall. 

The Verdict:  I declare it a success!  I would try the saffron crust again but will either increase the quantity so it didn't have to be rolled quite so thin or use an actual 8 inch pie pan.  And I will follow the directions better so the crust doesn't cool before I put in the filling.  I think it deserves another chance, certainly.