You know how these things start: you’re innocently wandering around the produce section when an abundance of berries catch your eye. When the supply is good they’re also cheap, and before you know it your basket is filling with punnetts. So it went last week with blueberries, and in a stroke of inspiration they were joined by some lemon thyme.
Now the problem: what to make? For me this was easy: I was inspired by a free-form blueberry tart, a galette, that my mum makes with blueberries. I recall as a fussy youth I used to complain about the crushed amaretti biscuits in the pastry, but would wolf down the tart in any case! Now that I’ve grown up I appreciate little extra flavour, so added a subtle nod to those biscuits in this recipe via almond meal. In fact this recipe is all about subtle highlights: the centerpiece is undoubtedly the berries, but hints of lemon, lemon thyme and almond just help to lift them to something special.
The best thing about these free-form tarts is they’re meant to be rustic. That is: you can make whatever size you like, and you don’t need to fret about getting the pastry perfect! Just fold it any old way and patch it up if you need to. Remember: it’s not a mess, it’s artisan ;). I made individual tarts, but you could also follow my mum’s example and make a single large one.
For our Aussie followers: make sure you try these soon while the berries are still abundant!
- For the pastry:
- 180g plain flour
- 30g almond meal
- 125g cold butter, diced into 1-2cm cubes
- 70g caster sugar
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1 egg
- pinch of salt
- For the filling:
- 350g fresh blueberries
- 20ml lemon juice
- 1-2 tablespoons caster sugar
- several sprigs of lemon thyme
- To serve:
- Mascarpone (optional)
- Begin by making the pastry dough. Sift the flour and pinch of salt into a large mixing bowl and add almond meal. Add the butter and work it into the flour with your fingertips until there are no large pieces left. The mixture should resemble breadcrumbs, though may clump a little (it is a little "wetter" than other pastry due to the almond meal).
- Add the sugar and lemon zest, mix well to combine.
- Whisk the egg in a separate bowl. Mix a little bit of egg into the pastry dough to start bring the dough together. When moist enough It should combine into a single ball. Keep adding egg gradually, you will not need it all. Reserve the remaining egg for later.
- Divide the pastry into six equal portions, roll each into a ball then flatten slightly between your palms. Wrap tightly in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to rest (it will keep overnight).
- Preheat the oven to 180°C.
- While the pastry is resting, prepare the filling. Add the blueberries to a mixing bowl. Tear up the lemon thyme sprigs into small pieces, discarding any thick stems, and add to the berries. Add the lemon juice and sugar then stir well to coat the berries. Allow them to sit while you wait for your pastry.
- To make each tart, prepare two squares of baking paper. Take a portion of pastry from the fridge and place it between the two squares, then roll it out into a circle about 18-20cm in diameter (it should be 1-2mm thick). It's OK if the edges crack a little at the start, this is due to the pastry being cold. As it warms it becomes easier to roll and you can fix any bad cracks with your fingers.
- Place the pastry circle, complete with baking paper, into the freezer for 3-5 minutes to chill again so it is easier to work with. To fill: remove the top layer of baking paper and spread a layer of berry mixture in the centre of the circle, leaving 3cm around the edge.
- Using a thin spatula lift one side of the pastry to fold over the edge of the berries. Work your way around the tart, pleating the pastry a little as you fold it. Again: if you get any splits or cracks you can just fix them by pushing and pinching together with your fingertips.
- Brush the folded edges of the tart with a little of the reserved egg then place (still on the paper square) on a tray and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the filling is bubbling and the pastry is golden brown.
- When you remove the tarts from the oven the bottom pastry will be quite soft, especially in the middle. Use a large serving wedge to carefully lift each tart onto a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes, allowing the pastry to crisp. (If you can wait that long!)
- Serve with a dollop of mascarpone and garnish with a little extra thyme.