Strawberry and buttermilk tart

I'm terribly afraid that we're nearing the end of strawberry season around here and I'm still hoping to find myself a cheap and tasty flat of berries out of which to make preserves, but just in case, here's what happened at the beginning of strawberry season.

When I high-tailed it to the first farmers markets of the season a few weeks ago and saw beautiful strawberries mounded up and just begging to be bought, I thought briefly about making another brown butter tart or maybe learning how to make classic pastry cream for a traditional tart, but when I looked in the fridge, I didn't have anything useful at all. 

I did, however, have some buttermilk leftover from yet another loaf of brown bread and thought I should google around for something resembling a fruit tart that involved buttermilk instead of cream or milk.  I landed on this website (which is a little odd, for sure, but the recipe sounded good).

I was more than a little skeptical when I put this tart in the oven.  I didn't quite believe that the very, very liquidy filling could possibly firm up in the oven (though with a whopping 3 TABLESPOONS of cornstarch, I should have had faith) and the texture was deeply strange.  When I pulled it out of the oven, though, it looked like angel food cake, but had a lighter texture and more delicate taste.  Its subtle sweetness coupled with the tart fruitiness of the berries was simply delicious.  We ate the tart at room temperature at first, but when I went back for seconds (and thirds) after it had been refrigerated, the texture had improved and the tastes had married. 

Also, a note on the crust:  this is a really, really special crust.  It resembles nothing as much as a buttermilk biscuit, but the compression and long baking makes it get all crispy and delicious.  Any other crust would work (regular 3-2-1 pie crust or store-bought), but you should give this one a try.  It's sensational.  Oh, and in case the strawberries are already all gone where you live, I think this would be delicious with blueberries or blackberries or (if you must) raspberries.

The recipe was a little more complex than I thought at first, so I'll give you this bit of advice: be sure you read the whole thing and prep everything in advance or you might get a little muddled or behind.  I did tweak a little, here and there, as is traditional.

Heavenly Strawberry Buttermilk Tart
adapted from The LoveBite

For the crust:
  • 1 1/2 c flour
  • 6 oz cold butter (1 1/2 sticks)
  • 4 T sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 2 T buttermilk
For the filling:
  • 2 c buttermilk
  • 1 c milk
  • 3 oz butter (3/4 stick or 6 T)
  • 3 eggs, separated (reserve the yolks, whip the whites with a pinch of salt until stiff peaks form)
  • 3 T corn starch / cornflour
  • 3 oz sugar
  • 1 t vanilla
  • pinch salt
  • zest of 1 lemon, grated
  • piles of fresh strawberries (I used 1 qt)
  1. To simplify matters, use the food processor to make the crust.  
  2. Combine flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder and pulse to mix well.  Cut cold butter into cubes and add one at a time while processing until everything looks like sand. 
  3. Add the egg and buttermilk. Pulse a few times until the pastry forms a ball.  At this point you can either chill the dough for 30 minutes and then roll it out before fitting it to the spring-form pan OR you can do what I did and simply push it into the pan, patting and squishing it until it's evenly smooshed into the pan.  Then cover it and stick it in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  4. Pre heat the oven to 350.  Line the crust with parchment and fill with dried beans or pie weights and then blind bake for 20 minutes. 
  5. Pull the crust out of the oven and remove the parchment and weights.  Use a fork to punch holes in the bottom of the crust to deflate.  Bake for an additional 10 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, make the buttermilk filling.
  7. Combine the milk and butter in a saucepan on low heat until the butter melts.  Do not let it boil.  Remove from heat when the butter has melted.  While this is happening, beat the egg yolks, cornstarch, sugar, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl.
  8. While whisking constantly (and rather aggressively), pour the hot milk in a slow and steady stream into the egg yolk mixture. 
  9. Whisk the buttermilk into the milk/yolk mixture. Add the lemon zest. 
  10. Spoon about 1/4 of the egg white mix and fold it into the yolk mix by strirring from the bottom and up and over in a circular motion. Add the rest of the egg whites.  Do not beat the batter.  You want to retain the air in the meringue as it will make the filling very fluffy and light.  This is the point at which the filling looks really really weird.  Fear not.
  11. Pour the batter into the tart shell and sprinkle some brown sugar on top. 
  12. Bake about 45 minutes at 350 or until golden on top.  The custard will still jiggle a little and be just barely set in the center.
  13. Top with fresh sliced strawberries and enjoy!


Carolyn Jung said...

The cascade of strawberries makes this one lovely tart. And I bet the buttermilk keeps it all really moist and tender, too. Bravo for coming up with such a beautiful treat.

Darby O'Shea said...

Thanks! The buttermilk is really a miracle here - balances out the sweetness and creates an unbelievably light texture.

Muneeba said...

I actually have all these ingredients on hand ... I guess I'm set for dessert this weekend :)

ana dane said...

ooh. the buttermilk that was destined for a chocolate-raspberry cake may end up here instead. this looks so intriguing, i can't wait to try it.

Darby O'Shea said...

Thanks for all the comments! It really is quite an amazing treat.