For my sister's birthday, I wanted to make a dessert that was a little classic and a little different. She loves fresh fruit desserts. She loves pies and tarts. And she loves desserts that aren't too sweet.
A fruit tart fit the bill.
But of course, even in those parameters, there are plenty of options and variations.
Cookie crumb base, or graham cracker crumb base, or tart dough base?
Pastry cream filling, or lemon curd filling, or just a layer of jam?
Raspberries, blackberries, mixed berries?
What I came up with is this: a classic, all-butter tart dough base, made with the same recipe I use for a gorgeously flakey pie crust, sealed with a layer of raspberry jam, topped with vanilla Greek yogurt, and decorated with an extravagant number of fresh strawberries.
The only real cooking required is baking the dough and melting the jam. The rest is just assembly.
Tart or Pie Shell
This recipe makes two crusts that will fit a 9-inch pie or tart. For a pie, it gives you a bottom and top. For a tart, it gives you a second chance if you mess up the first one.
3/4 cup cold butter, cut into small cubes (when making pies, I often use a blend of shortening and butter, or sometimes only shortening, but for tarts, I think an all-butter crust tastes best)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup ice water
Mix together the flour and salt. Using one of the following: a pastry cutter, two knives held tightly side-by-side in the same hand, your fingers, or a food processor, chop the butter into the flour. When it is crumbly and looking a little sandy, slowly pour in a little of the water, and mix it together. It will become more and more crumbly looking, which is the idea. If you can manage to not use all the ice water, the crust will be even lighter!
Gather the dough into a ball. The less water you've used, the more difficult this will be, but it doesn't have to be perfect. Just scoop it all into the center of the bowl, and gently mash it into a ball shape.
Tear a generous piece of plastic wrap onto the counter. Set the misshapen ball in the center, wrap tightly, and refrigerate for 1 hour. If you are going to save the dough to bake in a few days, pop it in the freezer.
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Scatter a handful of flour onto a clean surface, such as a large and flat cutting board, or right onto your countertop. Unwrap the dough, and gently roll it out. Remember, you don't need to flatten the dough all at once. Rather, just push it along, little by little, turning it every so often so it doesn't stick to the surface, dusting with a pinch more flour here and there. Aim for the crust to be about 1 inch larger than your pie or tart pan.
Some people butter their pans, some don't. I like to save a piece of the wrapper from my butter and use that to give the pan just a little grease, then I dust it with flour, too. Set the dough into the pan, but give it room to settle into all the crevices. Again, don't flatten and stretch it — gently help the dough find its way into the shape of the pan. Trim the crust and patch any thin or torn areas with the excess. Poke the dough all over with a fork.
From this point on, these instructions are for making a pre-baked tart shell (not a pie crust):
Crumple a piece of aluminum foil and lay it on top of the crust, then fill it with pie weights, dried beans, or two handfuls of loose coins. Bake it in the center of the oven for at least 15 minutes, possibly longer. It's tempting to take it out when you can smell the butter wafting in the air, but trust your timer and leave it in there. The idea is to let the crust get pretty dry before you remove the weights, otherwise the crust will shrink, which happened to me this time around. I thought I was trusting my nose, but the crust was still very buttery and wet looking in the middle when I removed the weights.
When the crust is indeed dry, remove the foil and weights carefully, as they will be dangerously hot, and return the crust to the oven for another 8 minutes or so or until it's brown. Cool on a wire rack.
Baking the crust might take 20 minutes total, or it might take 50. The crust needs to be very dry before you start adding fillings and fruits.
Once the crust is cool, you can seal it with a thin layer (maybe 1/8 cup) of apricot or raspberry jam, cooked on the stovetop until it's melted. You can mix in a little water or a little lemon juice to thin it out, too.
I sealed the tart with raspberry jam, then added a layer of vanilla Greek yogurt and fresh strawberries. In a perfect world, serve the tart immediately after assembly, but if you can't, be sure to refrigerate it until it's time to eat. Enjoy with a tall glass of prosecco, and the next day, with a morning mug of coffee.