Lately beautiful small yellow flowers are taking over the landscape. In the dusky light, they glow like grounded stars, more and more every day. They’re tiny compared to the strangling vine, but they’re alive and growing, and the vine is slowly turning to dust. Each day we see more green, more gold, more leaves and flowers, we hear more birds, and watch as the creeks rise and fall with the spring rains.
The other night it was just Malcolm and Clio and me. A storm was predicted, and I’m predictably terrified of thunderstorms. I thought we wouldn’t go very far, I said we wouldn’t go very far, but I didn’t want to go back once we’d started out, and we followed almost to the end of the winding path. We walked back to a gathering of dark clouds over the river, and the rumble of thunder. I grabbed Malcolm’s arm. He shone his bright face at me and said, “Don’t worry, mom, it’s a sign of spring.” We tumbled into the house, laughing, as the real rain started to fall.
I think this strawberry tart is one of the best things I’ve made in a long time! And I’ve made a lot of good things!! I’m so proud of the stupid balsamic caramel. I feel as though I may have invented it, and I’m scared to google it and see how many millions of examples of balsamic caramel exist. So…we have a sweetened pastry crust shell, peppered with black pepper. We have a soft almond frangipane layer, topped with thinly-slice fresh strawberries. These are coated with an unbelievably delicious sweet-tart balsamic vanilla caramel glaze that’s perfect with the strawberries and the creamy frangipane. I’m patting myself on the back as I think about it!!
Here’s We Walk, by REM, live in 1983 (!!!!) Actually, the vine-clad terrain of our walks reminds me of the cover of Murmur!
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 t salt
lots of black pepper
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 stick butter, frozen (1/2 cup)
Combine the flour, salt, black pepper and powdered sugar in a big bowl. Grate in the butter and mix with a fork until you have a coarse, crumbly texture. Add just enough ice water to pull the whole thing into a workable dough. (Should be less than half a cup) Knead for under a minute, wrap in foil, and chill in the fridge for at least half an hour.
1 cup sliced toasted almonds
2 T flour
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1 t vanilla
4 T butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
Combine everything in a food processor or blender, and blend until completely smooth and creamy. It might look a bit curdled at this point, but it will come together when you bake it.
THE BALSAMIC CARAMEL
6 T brown sugar
2 t cornstarch
2 T balsamic
2 t vanilla extract
Whisk everything together in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar, and then let the mixture come to a gentle boil. Let it boil, gently, for a minute or two. Drop a little piece into ice water, if it spreads out but sets, it’s ready.
1 pint strawberries, hulled and sliced lengthwise into 1/4 inch pieces
Preaheat the oven to 400.
Lightly butter and flour an 11 inch tart pan. Roll the pastry to fit into the pan, and press it in, making the edges as tidy as you like them.
Bake the tart shell for about ten minutes, till it seems a fairly well set and it’s lost its shine. If the edges fall, carefully push them up again, but don’t get burnt!
Pour the frangipane into the tart shell. Bake for about ten minutes, till it’s set but soft, and has little golden spots on top.
Arrange the strawberries in a pretty single-layered patter on top of the frangipane. Drizzle the balsamic caramel as evenly as possible over the strawberries.
Return the tart to the oven for about five minute. The glaze should soften and spread, and the strawberries should just become soft and fragrant. Remove from the oven and with a spoon or knife, carefully coax the glaze into any patch of tart that hasn’t been covered.
Chill in the fridge until the glaze is set.
Serve with lightly whipped cream slightly sweetened and flavored with a bit of vanilla extract.