Berry Mascarpone Tart – reworking a classic

When I was studying at Le Cordon Bleu in London it was a few weeks in before we tackled pastry. Listening to the conversations during the lead up to “pastry day” was interesting. Some students were looking forward to it, particularly those who had an interest in pâtisserie. Others were dreading it.

I was somewhere in between. I’d always quite enjoyed making pastry. During the morning demonstration we were shown a shortcrust pastry, which Chef rolled into the most perfect circle I’d ever seen. He then made a Quiche Lorraine with it (one of my favourite things to eat – do I say that a lot?) He next made a sweet pastry, which was to be turned into a classic fruit tart.

In class that afternoon I nailed the shortcrust pastry and the quiche and while I also did a good job with the sweet pastry there was no doubt it was the trickier of the two. More delicate it has to be handled with care. Admittedly it’s all worth it and the results are delicious. But still, I can understand why pastry making isn’t for everyone.

Enter then this reworked version of the French classic. Replacing pastry is a biscuit base – the work of minutes. And replacing pastry cream is a mascarpone cream – lighter but no less delicious and perfect for a summer’s evening.

When I’m invited to friends for dinner I never arrive empty handed. And at this time of year when the nights are long and warm entertaining tends to be more informal – barbecues and al fresco eating. These evenings lend themselves perfectly to the food being a joint effort by everyone attending.

We’ve been lucky enough in Auckland to have enjoyed two long weekends in a row and fabulous weather to go with them. What better way to spend them than catching up with friends over food and conversation?

When our friends issued the invite I immediately raised my hand and put first dibs on bringing dessert. Because I knew this tart would be perfect. In fact, it’s perfect whether you’re entertaining at home or going elsewhere because it travels easily. It also looks stunning, tastes delicious and happily feeds 8-10 people. What more could you want from a dessert?

The tart comprises three parts. Firstly there is the biscuit base. As I said, this is the work of minutes but still tastes wonderful. I love the addition of ground almonds but if you’d rather replace with more biscuits that is no problem.

The second part is the mascarpone cream. I cannot tell you how delicious this is – you’ll just have to make it and taste it for yourself. Mascarpone and double cream whipped together produces a beautiful texture. A little sugar and a hint of vanilla and you’re getting into dessert heaven territory. And if all that isn’t enough reason to make it, once again it’s the work of minutes.

The last – although certainly not the least – part is the berries. These blushing beauties have to be one of the best things about summer. I love them all – strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries. And they do this tart proud, turning it into something truly special.

Ironically, although you would think that preparing a bit of fruit would be the quickest and easiest step, it probably takes the longest. And by that I don’t mean it takes a long time, it’s just that the biscuit base and mascarpone cream are such a cinch to make that you’ll be surprised the time it takes to slice and arrange all the fruit. But it is oh so worth it.

The next time you’re cooking for friends or taking a dessert elsewhere, arrive with this beauty and wait for the gasps of appreciation.

Berry Mascarpone Tart

Serves 8-10

Biscuit Base

Ingredients

  • 250g Digestive biscuits
  • 70g ground almonds
  • 100g unsalted butter, melted

Method

  1. There are two ways to deal with the biscuits. Either use a food processor to reduce them to a fine rubble or pop them into a large snap lock bag and use a rolling pin to crush them. I find the most effective way is to run the rolling pin firmly over the bag a few times, crushing the biscuits as you go. Then turn the bag over and do the same on the other side.
  2. Tip the biscuits into a bowl, stir through the ground almonds and then the melted butter. Use a fork to stir through the butter so it doesn’t clump.
  3. Transfer the mixture to a shallow tart tin. The tin I used is 26cm in diameter and 2½cm high and has a loose bottom.
  4. Using the back of a spoon, spread the mixture across the tin and up the sides. I find it’s easier to deal with the sides first and then it’s a quick job to spread the base evenly. You may not need the entire mixture – you don’t want it to be too thick.
  5. Cover with cling film and put in the fridge. I made my biscuit base the night before but try and make it a couple of hours in advance so it has time to set before you add the filling.

Mascarpone Cream

Ingredients

  • 250g mascarpone
  • 200ml double cream
  • 40g icing sugar, sieved
  • ¼-½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Method

  1. Spoon the mascarpone into a bowl and give it a quick stir. Add the double cream and icing sugar. For the vanilla extract add a ¼ teaspoon at first. Vanilla is quite strong and it doesn’t take much for it to overpower.
  2. Using a freestanding or hand mixer, beat the mixture until thick. Watch closely because it thickens quickly – in less than a minute – and the last thing you want is an over-whipped buttery mess. Have a taste and decide if you’d like a little more vanilla. You can gently stir this through.
  3. Spoon the filling into the biscuit lined tin and spread out smoothly.
  4. At this stage you can cover the tart and pop it back into the fridge until you’re ready to add the berries and serve.

Berries

  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Blackberries
  • Apricot jam for glazing
  1. The berries I’ve listed above are merely a suggestion. Use whatever berries you’d like and arrange them however you’d like.
  2. Once you’re happy with the arrangement, heat a few tablespoons of apricot jam until melted. Take it off the heat and push through a small sieve so you don’t have any clumps of fruit. Add a little water to the jam to loosen it, take a pastry brush and gently glaze the fruit to give it a lovely shine.
  3. This will also help if you’re not going to be eating the tart straight away. Once it’s glazed you can cover and leave in the fridge for a few hours until you’re ready to eat.

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Once you are ready to eat simply slice and serve. You will be immensely popular.

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21 Comments

  1. Pingback: Mascarpone Cream with Morello Cherries and Amaretti | Tracey O'Brien

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