The first day of spring is upon us today and the weather gods certainly worked their magic. Not only have we entered the season of balmy nights and days spent frolicking on the beach, but today was also Father’s Day here in Australia and I couldn’t have picked a more beautiful day for it if I tried. To celebrate I decided to make dad a brunch that we could enjoy at home in the sunshine. I wanted to make it rather nice, as as you know my sister has just left for America, and so he was one daughter down.
To celebrate strawberries being in season I decided to make a tarte aux fraises (strawberry tart) to showcase the berries in all their shining glory. This recipe is better made a day ahead as you need to give the pastry time to rest in the fridge. However, if you are using store bought pastry you can easily begin on the day. This tart is filled with a frangipane filling which is a French term meaning a thick almond custard. This type of custard is different to a crème anglaise because it has a little flour added to the recipe, which means it can be boiled on the stove and thus thickened. It is creamy and oozing, and works superbly well with the fresh, sweet strawberries. Each element is very easy to make, it just requires a little patience on the part of the chef, but it is well worth it because it turns out to be quite the showstopper.
I also made berry, rhubarb and coconut muffins, rustic chicken and herbed mayo finger sandwiches and a zucchini, mushroom and bacon frittata. I may have made slightly too much for three people (!?) but that didn’t seem to stop us from chowing down. It was all delicious as I know from my fourth and fifth helpings, and it was a lovely change from going out to get breakfast at a café. It was a lot more tranquil, less noisy, less frantic and overall more enjoyable. That is not to say I don’t love a good café brunch but on a day that is supposed to be about celebrating your dad there is no better way to say thank you than with homemade goodies, and by focusing your attention on him instead of being distracted by good looking café patrons! I mean, he deserves it every now and again…don’t you think?
Tarte aux fraises
Adapted from ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’ by Julia Child.
- 2 punnets strawberries, cut in half lengthways
- 1 cup raspberry jam
For the tart shell (22-23cm tart tin):
- 1 1/3 cups spelt flour
- 4 tbs caster/white sugar
- 105g chilled unsalted butter, chopped
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 1 egg beaten with 1 tsp water
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- * You can use store bought sweet shortcrust pastry if you don’t have time to prepare your own.
For the Frangipane (almond custard filling):
- 1 cup caster sugar
- 5 egg yolks
- ½ cup flour
- 2 cups boiling milk
- 1 tbs butter
- 1 ½ tbs vanilla extract
- ½ cup almond meal
To make the tart shell:
- Place the flour, sugar, butter, and baking powder in the mixing bowl. Rub the butter and dry ingredients together with your fingertips until the butter has broken down into bits the size of oatmeal flakes.
- Blend in the egg and vanilla and quickly knead the dough with the heel of your hands.
- Form the dough into a ball and place onto a board sprinkled with some flour and using the heel of your hand again rapidly press the ball down with the heel of your hand and smear the dough along the board. Form back into a ball and repeat half a dozen times. Form back into a ball again and wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for several hours to chill. If you are in a hurry you can place the dough in the freezer for 20 minutes then move to fridge to quicken up the process but it may mean the dough will be slightly tougher.
- Once the dough is chilled, place it between two floured sheets of baking paper and roll it out until it is thin. Then, gently life the sheet of dough and mold into t he tin.
- Blind bake the tart at 200°C by placing a sheet of baking paper over the uncooked tart shell and filling it with baking weights or uncooked rice. This will help to prevent the sides from falling down. Bake for 5-6 minutes or until the dough is set. Then remove the rice and baking paper, prick the pastry shell with a fork and bake for another 8-10 minutes until it is lightly browned. Remove immediately from the mold and leave to cool.
To make the almond custard filling:
- Using electric beaters on a medium speed gradually beat the sugar into the egg yolks and continue beating for 2-3 minutes until the mixture is pale and forms ribbons.
- Beat in the flour. Continue to beat the mixture and gradually the pour the boiling milk in a thin stream into the egg mixture.
- Pour the mixture into a saucepan and set over a medium to high heat. Stir the pot with a whisk, ensuring that you reach all parts of the saucepan otherwise the mixture will stick and burn. When it starts to boil, lower the heat and continue to beat it for 2-3 minutes (this will get rid of any lumps that may have formed).
- Remove from the heat and beat in the butter and then the almond meal. If you are not using the custard straight away, clean off the sides of the pan and dot it with softened butter to prevent a skin from forming on the top. This custard keeps for a week in the fridge.
To assemble the cake:
- Boil the jelly in a small saucepan over a low-medium heat until it thickens and becomes sticky. Using a pastry brush, use half the jam and paint the interior of the tart shell with a thin glaze. This will waterproof the shell in a sense and make sure no custard escapes. Reserve the rest of the jam for glazing the strawberries.
- Spread the frangipane filling into the tart shell and smooth it out with the back of a spoon.
- Arrange the strawberries on top creating a ring on the outer layer of the tart and moving your way inwards so you make a repeated strawberry circle pattern. Use the rest of the jam to glaze the top of the strawberries and serve.
Berry, rhubarb and coconut muffins
- 1 bunch rhubarb, cut into 1 cm pieces
- 5 strawberries diced
- 75g raspberries
- 2 ½ cupsself-rasing flour
- 90g butter chopped
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 ¼ cup buttermilk
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1/3 cup desiccated coconut + 2 tbs extra to garnish
- Preheat oven to 200°C . Place muffin cases in 12-hole muffin pan.
- Place chopped rhubarb into a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake for 25-30 minutes. Take out of oven and leave to cool.
- Meanwhile, sift flour into large bowl, rub in butter with fingers. Add sugar, buttermilk, egg, desiccated coconut, cooked rhubarb, strawberries and raspberries, and mix until just combined. Spoon mixture into muffin cases; sprinkle with extra coconut.
- Bake at 200°C for 20 minutes or until set. Stand muffins in pan 5 minutes then place on wire rack to cool.
Rustic chicken finger sandwiches:
- 2 large cooked chicken breast fillets, shredded
- ½ cup whole egg mayonnaise
- 1 tbsp chopped parsley
- ½ tbs chopped chives
- ½ tbs chopped dill
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- salt and pepper to season
- ½ loaf sourdough, thinly slice and chopped in half
- Combine chicken, mayonnaise, herbs, and lemon juice in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Spread filling onto slices of bread and top with remaining slices. Serve immediately.
Zucchini, mushroom and bacon frittata
- 3 cloves crushed garlic
- 1 diced onion
- 4 rashers chopped bacon
- 115g sliced mushroom
- 2 zucchinis, grated
- 5 eggs
- 3 srpigs thyme (leaves only)
- ½ cup grated parmesan
- ¾ cup flour
- olive oil
- Preheat oven to 200°C. Grease and line a 15cm square baking tin.
- Heat a pan over a medium heat with some olive oil.
- Add garlic, onion and bacon and stir until bacon is cooked through and onion is soft.
- Add mushrooms to pan and let them soften.
- Add zucchini to pan and let it warm through slightly.
- Remove from heat.
- Mix together eggs, thyme, parmesan, flour. Add in ingredients from pan to egg mixture and combine.
- Pour into tin and bake for 40-45 minutes.