How Swede it is: Fresh Strawberry Tarts
I had to chuckle to myself when Sabina, our guest from Sweden asked, "I hear that in the United States people eat muffins and donuts for breakfast. Is this true?"
I positioned myself in front of the fresh-from-the-oven blueberry muffins cooling on the counter as I sheepishly admitted to Sabina that yes, it is not uncommon for Americans to start their day with sweet baked goods. I didn't even mention the deep-fried bismarks and donuts that some call their breakfast. Very discreetly, I pushed the warm muffins to the back of the counter.
"Oh, where I live in Sweden, we never think of eating something sweet until the afternoon. We eat a very healthy breakfast."
As a member of the Rotary International Group Study Exchange, Sabina Andersson had traveled from Falkenberg in the county of Halland, Sweden. The team of young professionals would be spending about a month in Rotary District 5580, spanning all of North Dakota, northern Minnesota and into Canada.
Eating a healthful breakfast may be part of the reason the residents of Halland have held not only the Swedish record, but also the world record for longevity for the past 100 years.
Living well and growing old may be facts of life in Halland partly because of their use of fresh, local ingredients: kale, salmon, horseradish, blue cheese, cheddar, wild game, potatoes, fresh vegetables and berries.
In keeping with the healthful Swedish-style breakfast, I was able to provide Sabina with yogurt, granola, artisan cheeses, fresh fruit and whole-grain crispbread.
I saved all things sweet for afternoon snack. The blueberry muffins would keep until later.
In "A Taste of Halland," the cookbook that Sabina gave me, it is obvious that the sweet tooth there is alive and well. It is also very evident that the sweet indulgences of the people of Halland make good use of fresh local ingredients.
Strawberry Tarts are my adaptation of a recipe in the book for Blackberry Tarts. It's a wonderful way to use some of those fresh strawberries that are becoming available at farmers' markets, roadside stands and local strawberry fields.
The shortbread crust is buttery and not too sweet. I pressed the dough into small jelly jars, making just the right serving size for an afternoon pleasure with tea or an after-meal dessert with coffee. Glass custard cups could also be used to hold the little tarts. The original recipe makes 20 miniature tarts. That may be another explanation of the health and well-being of Halland residents - desserts that are one-bite size and their discipline to eat just that.
After a brief bake in the oven, the pastry crusts are filled with a creamy almond-studded filling, topped with fresh strawberries and then make a trip back to the oven. Once cool, the tarts can be served with a tiny scoop of ice cream or a dollop of freshly whipped cream.
You'll be tempted to eat these sweet berry-topped tarts for breakfast. Enjoy them with brunch, for sure. But, if you're Swedish, you'll have to wait until after noon.
Fresh Strawberry Tarts
4 tablespoons butter
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup chopped blanched almonds
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh strawberries
1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons cold butter
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Make Filling first by melting 4 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Whisk in the eggs and sugar. Whisk over low heat until the mixture thickens. Add almonds and powdered sugar. Set aside to cool.
Make Pastry by combining all ingredients in a food processor and process until grainy. Form into a ball, kneading lightly until the pastry just holds together. Using about 2 tablespoons pastry dough per jar, press into the bottom and up the sides of 8 (4-ounce) ungreased jelly jars or glass custard cups. Place jars or custard cups on a baking sheet. Place in oven and bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes.
Remove from oven. Divide the filling among the hot tart shells. Top each one with chopped strawberries. Return pan to oven and bake at 325 degrees for another 20 to 25 minutes. The filling will have bubbled up between the strawberries and feel like soft custard. Transfer jars to cooling rack. Serve when completely cool. Cover and refrigerate extras. Makes 8 tarts.
Tips from the cook
--If you don't have a food processor, mix the Pastry ingredients in a bowl using a pastry cutter, two knives or even your clean fingers.
--Placing a silicone baking mat on the baking sheet before setting the jars on it will prevent the jars from sliding around when you transfer them in and out of the oven.