Sweet Solutions III: Local Strawberry Tart with Basil-Infused Mascarpone Custard and Cracked Black Pepper
Last Saturday after the farmer’s market Jaime and I decided to walk down to the il laboratorio del gelato on Houston St. We were already in need of a cool refresher, but the walk escalated the effects of the sticky summer afternoon– at least we were heading to the perfect spot. Picking out which flavors we were going to get was probably the most difficult decision of the day. With so many fruity, sweet, and even savory options– the combinations seem endless!
I was immediately drawn towards the honey-lavender, but at the last minute I decided on the basil gelato with raspberry sorbet. The mix of puckering tartness from the raspberry and the mild, creamy, herbal finish of the basil was everything one could hope for on a humid day. Not too sweet, but amazingly refreshing, cooling, and my favorite summer colors– pink and green.
The treat inspired my own take on the flavor combination later that weekend, with my farmer’s market purchase of some tiny (more tart than sweet) local strawberries. I sliced the berries and tossed them in just a bit of sugar and freshly ground black pepper, and let them soak while I made pate brisee tart shells, and the basil-infused mascarpone custard.
For the custard I brought 1 cup of heavy cream to a boil, and then removed it from heat. I added 1/2 cup of roughly chopped basil to the cream, covered it, and allowed it to steep until the tart shells were baked-off and cooled. When I was ready to fill the tarts, I strained the basil cream and set it aside. Then, over low heat, I combined 2 egg yolks and 1/2 cup sugar in a small saucepan, and whisked them until they were light yellow in color. I slowly added the cream, whisking well until the mixture was thickened, and then I folded in one container of mascarpone cheese. I filled the tarts, and let them chill overnight, before I topped them with the sliced strawberries. The syrup from the strawberries makes a beautiful decorative and delicious sauce for serving with the tart, top with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream if desired.
Martha Stewart also has an excellent strawberry galette recipe in her Pies and Tarts cookbook if you don’t have any tart molds on hand. She pairs the rustic tart with a basil whipped cream. This elegant flavor combination is really something special to share over the summer when fresh ingredients are available.