Okay, so if you were around last week you may have found this downer of a post. Well, I’m happy to report I have successfully shaken off the funk and am back to my version of normal. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, let’s keep it that way and focus on these Midnight Blue Tarts. Pretty pretty right?
Berry season is winding down, but my grocery store is still flooded with glistening pints of blueberries and blackberries. I think berries maybe some of the most beautiful food on the planet. They really do look like little jewels and their minute curls and creases never fail to capture my attention. This should give you an idea of how fun it is to shop with me.
I actually credit my grocery store’s display for giving me the idea for these Midnight Blue Tarts. Have you ever walked into a store and fallen in love with a display more than the actual objects? You know, when you see a particular product with all its brothers and sisters and they look so beautiful together that you have difficulty choosing between them? You know you can’t buy everything (this is especially true when they are shiny Kitchen Aid mixers) but no matter which color you choose it seems somehow less beautiful by itself. Damn those crafty visual merchandisers!
Well, this choice-related anxiety hit me while I was perusing the berry section at my local market. The blueberries were prominently displayed alongside the blackberries. Their similar hues made the light blue bloom of the blueberries pop and the blackberries’ pink highlights all the more vibrant. But unlike the painful choice of selecting my first iPod mini (there, I’ve dated myself), I could actually buy one of everything on display. This may be an absurd thing to get excited about, but hey, take your wins where you can get them.
When I purchased the berries I had no real plan for them. They were a total aesthetically motivated impulse buy. So, for a while, I just stared at them, willing inspiration to hit. The palette of the berries reminded me of the blues in Van Gogh’s Café Terrace at Night (if you needed any more proof that I am a giant nerd, there you are), so I knew I needed to bring a strong yellow into the mix. And what’s super yellow? Saffron.
My head immediately jumped to saffron because my friend, who lives in Barcelona, brought me a beautiful jar of it when she visited a few months ago. She also gifted me a jar of sea salt from Ibiza that I raved about here. She’s the best! Anyway, I really wanted to try it out, so I decided to whip up a saffron pastry cream.
So, clearly the saffron pastry cream had me moving into pie country, but I was still undecided about what to do with the berries. Should I cook them down and swirl them into the cream? No, they’re too pretty! Should I at least sprinkle them with sugar? No, they’ll wilt. So, I thought it was best to just leave them as is. And that’s exactly what I did. It is berry season, after all. A time when berries are at their absolute peak and perfectly capable of speaking for themselves.
This is how I arrived at these Midnight Blue Tarts with Saffron Cream. They weren’t on my content calendar. I had no inkling of this recipe until the day I purchased the berries and it wasn’t until I finished baking them that I deemed them “blog-worthy”. I think I made the right choice, but you be the judge. Whip up these stunners while berries last.
- 1/2 batch Pâte Sucrée (see below)
- 1 batch saffron cream
- 1 pint blackberries, washed
- 1/2 pint blueberries, washed
- Fresh mint leaves
- 3 egg yolks
- 1/4 cup whipping cream
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
- 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 2 cups half and half
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 6 green cardamom pods
- 1 cinnamon stick
- Pinch of saffron threads
- 5 egg yolks
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- Place egg yolks and whipping cream in a medium-sized mixing bowl.
- Using the back of a knife, scrape the caviar from the vanilla bean. Add the caviar to the egg yolks and cream. Whip to combine and set aside.
- In a large food processor, fitted with a dough blade, place flour, sugar, and salt. Blitz briefly to combine.
- Set the food processor to low and add the butter to the flour mixture piece by piece. Blitz until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.
- With the food processor still running, stream in the yolk/cream mixture. Blitz until a dough forms.
- Turn the dough onto a well-floured surface. Divide the dough into two and form each half into discs. Wrap and freeze 1 half for later use. Place the other half in the fridge for 2 hours.
- When thoroughly chilled, remove the dough from the fridge and let sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutes.
- Place the dough on a well-floured surface, and roll it out to 1/8-inch thickness.
- Cut the dough into six squares and fit them into 3-inch tart pans. Trim the edges and chill for 1 hour.
- While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 400F.
- Pierce the tart shells all over with a fork. Line the shells with a piece of parchment and place a handful of dried beans in the center.
- Bake the shells for 15-20 minutes or until golden. Let cool completely before filling.
- Pour half and half in a small saucepan. Add the sugar, salt, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick and saffron, and place the pot over medium-low heat.
- Cook until the sugar dissolves and the milk is steaming but not boiling. If it starts to boil, remove the milk from the heat immediately.
- While the milk is heating up, whisk egg yolks and cornstarch together in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk until the mixture is thick and pale yellow.
- Strain the hot milk and discard the solids. Return the milk to the saucepan.
- Add a ladle-full of the hot milk to the egg yolk mixture and whisk immediately to temper the eggs.
- Pour the egg mixture into the milk mixture and return the saucepan to medium heat. Cook until the mixture reaches a pudding-like consistency.
- Remove the pastry cream from the heat and immediately add the butter. Stir until the butter melts and is fully integrated into the pastry cream.
- Transfer the cream to a bowl, cover and chill for two hours.
- Remove the tart shells from their pans and set aside.
- Spoon pastry cream into the tart shells and smooth out the surface using a small palette knife.
- Arrange blackberries and blueberries on top of the pastry cream.
- Transfer the remaining pastry cream to a pastry bag fitted with a Wilton #10 round tip. Pipe pastry cream into any spaces visible on the surface of the tart.
- Garnish with fresh mint leaves and chill until ready to serve.