Star Spangled Fourth of July Berry Tarts

Looking for a stunning dessert to top off your Fourth of July cookout? What could be more patriotic than these starry mini berry tarts?  Raspberries and blueberries bursting under flaky pastry and adorned with freshly whipped cream assure a grand finale to your celebration.

Equipment needed: six 5-inch tart pans with removable bottoms

6-inch round cookie cutter

1 ½-inch star-shaped cookie cutter

Fluted pastry wheel


Tart dough  (Make two recipes; don’t double recipe):

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2  t salt

1 T sugar

8 oz. (one stick) unsalted butter, cut in 1 T pieces

4 oz. vegetable shortening, in 1 T pieces

1 yolk from an extra large egg

4 T ice water (approx.)

Raspberry filling

Mix together:

1 pint fresh raspberries

¼ cup sugar

2 T Chambord (raspberry liqueur) optional

2 t freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 T cornstarch

Blueberry filling

Mix together:

1 pint fresh blueberries

¼ cup sugar

2 t freshly squeezed lemon juice

½ t ground cinnamon

1/8 t freshly ground nutmeg

2 T cornstarch

2 T butter

Milk for brushing tarts

Raw sugar for sprinkling tarts

Whipped cream


Place flour in the workbowl of a food processor with metal blade. Add salt and sugar and pulse to mix.  Add butter and vegetable shortening.  Mix using a few quick pulses.  You should still see bits of better and shortening.  Add egg yolk. Pulse again for one second.  Add 3 T ice water around top of dough. Pulse briefly.  Continue to add just enough water to allow dough to hold together when pressed between fingers.  This is the crucial step.  If the dough is too dry it will crumble when you try to roll it out.  If you add too much water, the baked crust will not be light and flaky.  You should still see tiny bits of butter.  Don’t let a ball form.

Dump dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap, form into a disk and refrigerate for an hour or more.

Roll out pastry dough, one disk at a time, to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut out six circles.  Press into tart pans and, using your thumb, press up against inside rims.  Place in refrigerator while proceeding.  Cut out the number of stars you want for decoration with the star-shaped cookie cutter.  These are baked separately from tarts. Brush with milk and sprinkle with raw sugar.  Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees until golden brown, about 10 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

Cut a few ½-inch strips of pastry dough with a fluted pastry wheel to use for decoration.

Take tart shells out of refrigerator and fill with berry fillings.  You can fill a shell with one filling  or two fillings side by side.  Dot with bits of butter.  Decorate half of tarts with pastry strips arranged in a parallel fashion.. Brush strips with milk and sprinkle with sugar.  Set tart tins on an aluminum foil-covered cookie sheet and place in a 375 degree oven for about 45 minutes until crusts are lightly browned and berry filling is bubbling. Arrange the baked star cutouts decoratively on tarts. Remove tins. Top with a dollop of freshly whipped cream.

Adapted from Martha Stewart Living, July 2010

Photos by Sweetpaprika

Easter Dessert: A Tart to Dazzle

What better way to usher in Spring than with a luscious and colorful fresh fruit tart?  This recipe will fill a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. (8 servings)


Dough for pastry crust:

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

2 T superfine sugar

1 t salt

4 T butter

4 T Crisco

1 egg yolk

ice water


1. Place flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor with metal blade in place.  Pulse just until mixed.

2. Add butter and Crisco in 1-tablespoon pieces and egg yolk.  Process until only pea size pieces of fat remain.

3. Distribute 3 tablespoons ice water over mixture and process just until mixture holds together when pinched between fingers.  Add a little more water if necessary.  Don’t let a ball form.

4. Place dough on a lightly floured surface.  Press heel of hand into dough and smear outward several times (frissage). This will incorporate fat and make dough less likely to break when rolled out.  Form into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a half hour.

5. Roll out tart crust to a 12-14 inch round and fit into a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.

6. Gently fit dough into edge of pan without stretching.  Cut overhang with kitchen shears outside the rim to give the sides a little extra dough.  Chill in refrigerator or freezer for a half hour.

Blind Baking the Shell

7. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line pastry crust with a large coffee filter paper or parchment paper.

8.  Fill to ½inch with pie weights or dried beans.  Bake in lower third of oven for 15 minutes.

9. Take out pie weights and filter paper.  Prick bottom of shell in several places to prevent it from puffing up.

10. Place back in oven for 12 to 15 minutes more until fully baked and lightly browned.  Cool in tart pan on a rack.

strawberry rhubarb pie

Pastry Cream


½ cup milk

4 t flour

2 T sugar

Pinch salt

2 t powdered gelatin

1 egg

½ t vanilla extract

½ cup heavy cream, whipped


11. Heat milk in a small saucepan. Place flour, sugar, salt and gelatin in a heavy saucepan and stir together.

12. Mix in the egg with a wooden spoon until a smooth paste is formed.  Slowly whisk in the hot milk.  Place the saucepan over medium heat, whisking until mixture becomes a thick custard.

13. To aid cooling, place mixture in a small bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.  Stir in vanilla. Fold in the whipped cream   Spread custard over pre-baked pastry shell.

orange tart

Arranging the Fruit Topping

14. Now you can get those creative juices flowing and decorate your tart with the fruit of your choice. Choose what you love and what’s fresh in the market. Plums sliced into wedges, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, ripe mango cut into uniform shapes.  The list goes on.

15. Start at the outside rim and work your way toward the center, overlapping where necessary and voila!  . .  a beautiful fresh fruit tart.  Leave as is or glaze as follows:

16. Melt 4 oz. apricot preserves in a small saucepan.  Strain through a sieve.  Loosen with a little water or liqueur, if necessary.  With a small brush, apply to fruit.  It will win you kudos either way.

Fresh Fruited Holidays

fresh fruit kebobs with celery seed dressing

By Victor Ribaudo

just picked strawberries

I love the Spring Holiday season.  Whether I’m seated a friend’s Seder dinner for Passover, or my family’s Easter celebration, there’s a sense of renewal and rebirth that only this time of year can offer.  Gastronomically speaking, that inevitably spells fresh fruit to me.

When invited to Passover dinners, I’m very conscious of what’s Kosher and what’s not. So to play it safe I bring a nice Kosher wine as well as a fresh fruit tray.  Everyone loves the freshness of fruit at the end of the meal, before coffee and desserts are served.  As for the Easter menu at my Mom’s home, we also include fruit in the offing.  Fruit is fresh and colorful…very much like Easter itself.  And we find interesting ways to incorporate it into our recipes.

As I mentioned in our last blog, ham is very often featured as the centerpiece of the Easter spread.  And nothing complements it better than fruit.  My Mom does a great pineapple in butter rum sauce, studded with plump raisins.  She discovered it at a diner, of all places.  They wouldn’t offer her the recipe, so she deconstructed it on her own and came up with something spectacular.  It’s basically a Bananas Foster, except with pineapple.  Really nice ladled over slices of smoky ham.

flaming pineapple

I, on the other hand, take pineapple rings and grill them on the backyard barbecue.  Simple, really.  Just coat the fresh rings with sugar and grill until there’s a nice caramelization happening.  It’s usually the first “grill” of the season, which excites me because it sort of ushers in warm weather celebrations for us all.  A delectable counterfoil to the saltiness of the ham.

apple pie

Pineapple is just the beginning of our fruit forays for the Holiday.  Instead of mint jelly for my lamb, I opt for beautiful compote of fresh fruits.  While some fruits are not really in their season, there are still plenty of choices out there.  Mango, for instance.  You may also want to investigate a dried fruit compote recipe, which is actually a Passover favorite for many families.  I really like what fruit does for lamb.  And for those mint and lamb lovers, you may include a few sprigs as you prepare your compote.

skewered fruit

Of course, your holiday salad can incorporate any number of fresh fruits.  I like the taste of fresh strawberries or raspberries and feta cheese in my salad.  I dress it with olive oil and lemon juice.  Greek inspired, I find this salad complements my lamb in a gyro sort of way.  Orange slices, accompanied by toasted almond slivers, is another salad favorite of mine.  I usually go Asian and dress this one with sesame oil and rice vinegar.  Of course, fresh green grapes in your salad are always a welcome sight.  An interesting tartness balances out the other ingredients well.  Really, there’s no end to the fruit and salad possibilities.

Now on to the holiday finale.  In true Italian fashion, we serve fresh fruit before coffee and pastries and the like.  We will often offer appropriate cheeses and nuts as well.  When desserts do arrive, there is the Pizza di Grano, of course (an Italian cheesecake with wheat berries).  However, there are often fruit pies to be found as well.  Blueberry, strawberry and cherry are my preferred choices.  I must admit, though, that fresh fruit tarts are really what I long for this time of year.  Depending on what looks good at your fruit stand, you can let your culinary imagination run rampant here.  Be creative, make lovely designs and have a ball.  We asked Phyllis for her favorite recipe.  Try it.  It’s fabulous.

cheese plate

Fruit makes it lively.  That’s my motto.  Just what we all need this time of year, as hints of milder, longer days and happy celebrations are all around us.  After a long winter, we’ve all earned it.  Enjoy!

Photographer Bill Brady

(Strawberry rhubarb pie by sweetpaprika)

Written by Victor Ribaudo

Blog syndicated at the

Farmers Markets Continue in Full Swing

Tigerella tomatoes

I have been planning  my family meals around farmers market offerings.  Today I discovered these beautiful striped  Tigerella tomatoes at the Croton market.  They were sweet and juicy with a red interior.  I know it’s late in the season, but I still can’t believe I bought two trays of impatiens for a dollar a pot from Hodgson Farm.

The peaches are the star of my next post,  peach pie with a crumb topping.  The beets and tomatoes are from the Pleasantville market. Check out the adorable cupcakes from Flour and Sun Bakery in Pleasantville (a little side trip from the farmers market.)

Fragrant peaches at last!

The colors of summer!

Hodgson Farm Succulents

Colorful mini tomatoes

Uprooted this morning

Orange beets

Rustic Apple Tart

OK, I confess.  I guess I should have called my blog “Pies and Tarts.”  I love to bake and nothing gets my creative juices bubbling like fresh fruit.  A flaky, buttery crust is a must.  Actually, I like the crust as much as the fruit filling. Don’t even think about a store-bought crust.  None of them can compare with what you can make in five minutes.

For dough:

2 ½ cups flour, plus more for rolling out dough

1 t salt

3 T sugar

14 T unsalted butter cut into ½ inch slices

4 T vegetable shortening

1 egg yolk

4 T + ice water

For apple filling:

8 Golden Delicious apples

2/3 cup sugar

3 T fresh lemon juice

1 t ground cinnamon

3 T unsalted butter cut into 1/2 –inch cubes

For glaze:

4 T apricot preserves

1 T Calvados

Optional:  Clotted Cream or vanilla ice cream

(continue reading Rustic Apple Tart . . . )

Peerless Pumpkin Pie

Thanksgiving may be over this year, but the heady fragrances of the pies, turkey and sage dressing remain in one’s memory.  A day of hard core cooking and the baking of three pies are rewarded by the words, “This is the best pumpkin pie I’ve ever tasted.”  I must have done something special.  For one thing I use cream (not ultrapasteurized) and add a few flourishes.  I don’t use dark brown  sugar as the rusultant pie looks darker than I want, but the addition of a tablespoon of molasses gives it the most appetizing hue. Also, a small amount of a delectable Italian flavoring, fiori di sicilia, adds a citrusy counterpoint.  If you have a convection oven, use it.  The finished pie should not have a crack in it.  And even though you might say, “Picky, picky, picky,” don’t poke a hole in it with a toothpick to test for doneness and you will have an unblemished  velvety finish.  The prebaked pie crust will prevent a soggy crust.

Pie crust

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 t salt

1 T sugar

8 T unsweetened butter cut into small cubes

3 T vegetable shortening

4 T ice water

Pulse flour, salt and sugar in food processor to mix.  Add butter and shortening.  Mix briefly.  You should still see small bits of butter in mixture. Sprinkle around metal disk 3 T of the water. Pulse briefly.  Check to see if mixture holds together between fingers.  Add a little more if needed.  Pulse but don’t let ball form.  Empty mixture on a sheet of plastic wrap.  Press out with heel of hand (frissage) and form into a flat disk.  wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1/2 hour.  Roll out to a 1- inch round and fit into a 9-inch pie pan.  Crimp edges.  Place a buttered piece of aluminum foil in pan and weigh down with pie weights.  Bake in a 425 degree oven for 15 minutes.  Take off foil and put back in oven for about 5 minutes until bottom of crust is dry but edges are not browned.  Cool.


¾ cup white granulated sugar

1 t ground cinnamon

1/2 t ground ginger

¼ t freshly ground nutmeg

¼ t ground cloves

1/8 t ground mace

1/2 t salt

3 large eggs

15 oz. pureed pumpkin

1 T molasses

½ t vanilla

1/8  t fiori di sicilia*

8 oz heavy cream

Mix sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, mace and salt in a small bowl.  Beat eggs with a fork in another bowl.  Place pumpkin in the mixing bowl of stand mixer.  Add spice mixture. Mix briefly.  Add eggs,  pumpkin, molasses, vanilla and  fiori di sicilia. Mix on low speed and gradually add cream.

Pour into prebaked crust and bake in lower third of oven at 425 degrees for 15 minutes and then at 350 for about 45 minutes or until center of pie just barely jiggles.  To prevent edge from becoming too dark, cover with a strip of aluminum foil or a silicone edge ring.  Cool on a rack.  Serve with a generous dollop of whipped cream and bask in the compliments you will get.

  • (optional) Fiori di sicilia is an Italian flavoring that adds a lovely citrusy taste and aroma.  It can be obtained from King Arthur Flour and other cake specialty shops.

A Pretty Peach Tart

I came away from the Muscoot Farm Market yesterday with beautiful peaches and a pint of raspberries.  Hmmm. A tart came to mind.  This morning as I assembled my ingredients, I noticed that half the raspberries had disappeared.  I had  to work fast.  This is a variation of my “Peach of a Pie” post of  August 7  but easier.Peach Tart


Tart dough

1 ½ cups flour

½ t salt

½ cup sugar

8 T butter cut into a small dice

4 T ice water


6 large ripe and fragrant peaches

¼ cup instant tapioca

½ cup sugar

pinch of salt

Juice from ½ lemon

2 T butter cut into 8 ½-inch cubes

Pulse flour, salt and sugar in a food processor. Add butter.  Pulse briefly.  There should still be bits of butter visible.  Add ice water around bowl and again, pulse briefly, just until dough holds together when pressed between your fingers.  Don’t let a ball form.

On work surface, press dough outward with the heel of your hand.  Pat into a round, wrap in plastic and chill for a half hour.

Roll out dough into a 12-inch round. Drape into a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Chill in refrigerator for 20 minutes.

While tart shell is chilling, cut a small cross in the stem end of each peach, dip peaches one or two at a time into a pot of simmering water for 1 ½ minutes.  Let cool.  Peel off skin.  Slice into half-inch wedges.  Add instant tapioca, sugar, salt and lemon juice. Mix.

Pour half of peach mixture into tart shell..  Arrange remainder of peach slices into an attractive pattern.  Dot with cubes of butter and fresh raspberries.  Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.  Turn heat down to 350 and bake another half hour or until mixture bubbles up and crust is golden brown.

The white nectarine version

The white nectarine version, this one an upside-down tart

Wild Raspberry Tart

IMG_1253Every year at this time we watch our wild raspberries slowly mature from firm and yellowish to juicy, bright red . . .  and pickable.  And then  we make our raspberry tart with its rich crust and pastry cream filling.  Instead of the tart pan with removable bottom, I decided to use my new straight-sided sillicon pan.  The finished tart popped out easily.

Tart dough:

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 T sugar

¼ t salt

6 T unsalted butter, cut into 1T chunks

2 T Crisco

4 T ice water

Mix flour, sugar and salt in food processor.  Place butter and Crisco on tope. Pulse briefly.  Sprinkle 4 T ice water around contents of bowl.  Pulse just tutil mixture holds ogether between fingers.  Don’t let a ball form.  Empty bowl on work surface. Bring together and press with heel of hand against work surface to incorporate ingredients.  Form into a disk, wrap and chill for at least a half hour.

Roll pastry into a 12 inch circle.  Unroll into a 9-inch tart pan or silicone straight-sided pan, press against sides and make sure dough is thick enough not to collapse.  Sides will shrink a little during baking. Trim excess.  Chill fifteen minutes.  Fit a piece of foil and pie weights into shell and bake in a 400 degree oven for ten minutes. Remove weights and foil and continue to bake until nicely browned (about 8 minutes).  Cool on wire rack.

Pastry Cream:

½ cup milk

4 t flour

2T sugar

Pinch salt

2 t powdered gelatin

1 egg

½ cup heavy cream, whipped

Heat milk in a small saucepan. Place flour, sugar, salt and gelatin in a heavy saucepan and stir together.  Mix in the egg with a wooden spoon un a smooth paste is formed.  Slowly whisk in the hot milk.  Place the saucepan over medium heat, whisking until mixture becomes a thick custard. To aid cooling, place mixture in a small bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.  Fold in the whipped cream.. Spread custard over pre-baked pastry shell.

1 ½ pints wild raspberries

2 oz. red currant jelly

Top with raspberries arranged in a circular pattern starting along the outside.  Melt red currant jelly and brush lightly over berries.  Thin with a dash of water (or Chambord) if necessary.

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