I'm a big fan of tarts, but my favorite kind are the ones that have a shortbread crust. I love how the shortbread ends up so buttery and crisp that you only need a scattering of toppings to compliment it. And when that topping is comprised of fresh summer berries, homemade jam, and drizzled with mascarpone cheese I basically have to come to terms with the fact that I'm going to eat half of it before anyone else even gets a slice.
I feel it's the crust that separates the tart from being just a pie with no lid on it. While the crust on a pie plays an important role, the pie filling is usually the star of the show. With a tart, the topping and the crust each have to hold their own in a 50-50 split. It's simple dessert math: Perfect tart = 50% delicious crust + 50% delicious topping. Dessert math is my favorite math.
With the shortbread's crust weighing in so heavily on the success of my tart, I decided to break out the good butter from my freezer. Most Canadian butters have 80% butterfat but this bad boy here has 84%. That 4% increase in fat creates a noticeably more rich and creamy butter which leads to flaky, more flavorful baked goods.
Stirling sent me a package of their butters to try (best mail day ever!) and although I tried to save (aka hoard) them for baking endeavours, you can see that the whey butter just kept making it's way onto my toast. Practically against my will! It's not my fault that it tastes so much better than the stuff in my butter dish.
I'd been playing around with this recipe for a few days just to tweak some of the topping ingredients, but I had decided to save the Stirling butter until the recipe was finished. So although I've made this tart numerous times, this was the first time making it with a higher fat butter.
The dough felt similar, perhaps a bit stickier to press into the tart pan..
..But I just dipped the bottom of a glass in flour and used it to smooth out the edges without much fuss. It's another reason by shortbread crusts are so great. No rolling and cutting, just dump the dough into the pan and press it down. In theory your counters shouldn't even get dirty! That's just in theory though, my counters were - and are - definitely dirty.
To create a crisp bottom the crust gets partially baked until it's light golden around the edges before the fruit is added. When I pulled out the tart I could see the different between it and my batches from the day before. It looked way more buttery and was even sizzling against the hot tart pan.
I like to let the crust cool a bit before filling it, so I usually set it aside while I get the fruit together. Even though I've had more than my fair share of fruit recently, I just keep on buying those beautiful berries every time I go to the grocery store. Lately it's been getting chilly in the mornings and I feel like this compulsive berry buying is my way of trying to cling onto summer.
Just look at how summery it is! The peach jam and blueberries add a bit of sweetness against the tartness of the blackberries and raspberries. The berries are all gently tossed with lemon juice, a bit of sugar, and then spread over the tart crust. It's topped off with dollops of the peach jam and put back into the oven for another 40 minutes or so.
While it cools slightly, mascarpone is mixed with a little bit of vanilla, icing sugar, and whipping cream just to thin it out enough to spread. If you haven't tried mascarpone before it's technically a fresh cheese, but tastes like a super thick whipped cream.
In previous versions of this recipe the mascarpone was baked along with the fruit, but I found that the flavor was lost. When you're paying extra (this is pricey stuff!) you really want to let that ingredient shine.
I made the same tart yesterday and it was delicious, but this one made with the better butter was just on another level. The crust was so flavorful, somehow both tender and crisp at the same time. I wonder if I'm ruined now for regular butter.. only wanting to use artisan things can turn into a pricey habit when you bake as much as I do. A delicious, buttery habit. But so, so worth it when your desserts end up tasting like this.
No. I pick it up like a piece of pizza and eat it while I wash the dishes. Maybe deep down inside that's why I love shortbread crusts.. pie crust is simply too floppy to get the job done.
Brambleberry Tart Shortbread Tart with Mascarpone
Makes one 9.5 inch tart
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1/3 cup icing sugar
1/2 tsp almond extract (optional)
1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup blackberries
1/3 cup raspberries
2/3 cup blueberries
3 TBSP sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
1/3 tsp cornstarch (optional)
3 - 5 TBSP peach jam
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
1 TBSP whipping cream
1 TBSP + 1 tsp icing sugar
¼ tsp vanilla
1. Preheat the oven to 375. Cream together the butter, sugar, and almond extract. Stop stirring and add the flour and sugar to the bowl. Stir until the butter has coated the flour and the mixture looks crumbly.
2. Squeeze the dough together into a ball to help bring it together, then place in a 9.5inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Use your fingers to pat down the dough and push it along the edges. It will only be enough dough to make a shallow lip around the edge. Use a flat bottomed glass to make an even lip around the tart pan.
3. Bake at 375 for 10 -15 minutes until the edges of the crust are light golden and the base of the crust is starting to take on some colour. Remove crust from the oven and allow to cool while you prepare the fruit. Reduce the oven to 350
4. Gently toss the berries, lemon juice, sugar, and cornstarch (if using. My raspberries were very crushed and juicy and needed a bit of something to help manage the juice). Fill tart shell with the berries and then top with dollops of jam.
5. Place the tart in the 350 oven and bake for 40-45 minutes until the berries and jam are bubbling and the crust is deep golden brown (but not burnt!). Remove and allow to cool slightly while you prepare the mascarpone
6. Stir together the mascarpone, sugar, and vanilla. Dollop/spread it over the warm (but not hot) tart and allow it to melt into the juices. Serve immediately.
Tip: The tart can be left at room temperature without the mascarpone, but with the cheese it needs to be kept chilled. So only add the mascarpone to the parts of the tart that will be eaten right away. Store the extra cheese in the fridge and the tart at room temp.