Wednesday September 18, 2013 | 06:23 AM

Blueberries were not my number one choice this summer to go into the bounty of pies and other baked goods that I made.  I had fun instead with  blackberries, raspberries, peaches or sour cherries as the star attraction in various pies and cobblers. 

Wild berries in the field

Until now I’ve avoided making the typical double-crust blueberry pie but thought I should before the season soon ends.  But I wanted something different, and I recalled an old recipe that I used to make from baking guru and cookbook author, Paula Peck, whose The Art of Fine Baking is a classic tome. 

What she does that is so different is to prepare a quick blueberry jam into which fresh, uncooked berries are folded together.  It’s then set in a prebaked pastry shell over a layer of pastry cream. 

The tart is so intense yet delicate in texture  that it's easily one of the best examples of the genre that I've had.  

This recipe takes a little doing but it’s well worth it.  Make the pastry dough at least 4 hours in advance to allow it to chill.  Then roll it out and fit it into a tart pan, which you put in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.  All these machinations help avoid the pastry from shrinking when you bake it blind. 

The pastry case is put into the freezer to firm up before pre-baking, a process that will help prevent shrinkage

Also prepare the pastry cream in advance and the berry jam because they need to cool down before mixing it with the fresh berries. 

Fresh blueberry-jam tart
Adapted from The Fine Art of Baking by Paula Peck

Servings: 8

Pastry dough
1 1/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch salt
10 tablespoons cold butter, cut into bits
About 1/3 cup ice water

In a food processor fitted with the steel blade process the dry ingredients for a few seconds to mix.  Add the butter and pulse about 10 times until the size of small peas. Gradually add the water, pulsing after each addition until the pastry holds together and is slightly moist.  Add more water if necessary.

Remove to a floured surface and form the dough into a ball and knead gently several times; shape into a disk.  Wrap in plastic and chill at least four hours.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Roll the dough out on a floured surface and fit it into a buttered 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom.  Prick the bottom with a fork and cover with plastic.  Chill at least 30 minutes in the freezer or up to 1 hour.

 To prebake, cover the shell with buttered foil that’s weighed down with dried peas or beans.  Put it on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.  Remove the beans and foil and continue to bake until the crust is lightly golden.  Let cool before filling.

Pastry cream
2 whole eggs
3 egg yolks
4 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup sugar
About 2 cups milk, heated
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium size heavy-bottomed saucepan whisk the eggs and yolks with the flour and sugar  until smooth.

Over medium-high heat, gradually add the milk, whisking in about 1 cup and cook until it begins to thicken, stirring constantly; don’t worry about the custard curdling because the flour in the mixture will prevent that.  Continue whisking until it thickens then gradually add the rest of the milk, whisking vigorously until it starts to bubble and get very thick.  The consistency should be like a very thick pudding; if too thick, add more milk,  about 2 cups should suffice.

Whisk vigorously after it’s cooked until very smooth.  Alternatively you can pass it through a sieve for a silken finish, though it’s not necessary.  Add the butter and stir until combined.  Add the vanilla, stirring to combine.  Allow to cool on the counter for about 10 minutes then cover with a buttered piece of waxed paper or plastic wrap put directly on the pastry cream.  Chill for at least 30 minutes before using.

Once cooked, add the butter to the warm pastry cream and stir until melted; chill before using

Blueberry filling
4 cups wild Maine blueberries
Scant 1/2 cup sugar
Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

In a heavy saucepan combine 1 1/2 cups blueberries, sugar, lemon zest and cinnamon.  Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar  dissolves, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Raise the heat and boil the mixture rapidly for 6 to 8 minutes or until the berries thicken to the consistency of jam; check the pot  while it’s boiling to make sure the bottom doesn’t stick or scorch, stirring if necessary. 

Allow the berry jam to cool and then fold in the remaining blueberries, gently mixing together until well combined and shiny.

To assemble, spread a layer of pastry cream over the bottom of the baked shell and spoon the berries over that.  You can chill the tart for about 30 minutes before serving.

Blueberry tart

As soon as I tasted the tart I realized I forgot to add the cinnamon; I think I like it better without--more lemony and sweet berry flavor

 

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John Golden has written about food, dining and lifestyle subjects for Downeast magazine, the Boston Globe, Cottages and Gardens magazine, Gourmet magazine, Cuisine magazine, the New York Times and the New York Post.

In his highly opinionated blog, John reports on his experiences dining out all over Maine and his visits with food personalities, farmers and farmers’ markets throughout the state.

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