One day, I bought a quart of berries at his stand, and Mark gingerly slipped them into a bag. As we made the exchange, he looked at me with faint recognition, but the pulse of the crowd stifled any conversation. I returned to my tent with a box overflowing with red jewels and proceeded to eat half of the quart before I even got home. The berries were so sweet I couldn't stop myself. Later on after the masses thinned, Mark came over to my tent and handed me some change. "I forgot to give you a vendor discount." I insisted he keep the change, but he left the money on the table and walked away with a smile and twinkling eyes. My future husband. The thought of that moment warms my heart.
This year I have a new appreciation for strawberries. There are different sections of our strawberry field, parts of it older than others. We planted a new section this season. Plastic was laid out in rows and then holes were cut by hand. You heard that right. All the strawberry "plugs," or bare-root plants, were planted by hand as well. And then, the new blossoms were pinched off - you guessed it, by hand. We did this the first year because the plants need to focus their energy on taking root and establishing themselves; sending forth flowers would weaken them in the long run. Then next year, the berries will be picked by hand as well. Believe me when I tell you, a real labor of love goes into each of those precious boxes you buy from us.
Tune in tomorrow for Part II of III and find out how the farmer finally mustered the courage to ask the baker on a date...
Makes 1 - 10" tart
Adapted from David Lebovitz
For the pastry crust
3/4 cup (170 g or 6 oz) unsalted butter, cubed
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/3 cup water
2 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3 1/3 cups (360 g or 12 1/2 oz) pastry flour, sifted
6 ounces white, milk or dark chocolate, chopped
For the pastry cream
2/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp corn, potato or tapioca starch
1/8 tsp salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups cream, half + half or whole milk
2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla extract
For the final garnish
1 quart strawberries, washed, dried + hulled
For the pastry crust
Place a 10" tart pan with a removable bottom onto a parchment lined sheet tray and set aside.
Add the cubed butter, oil, water, sugar and salt to a small saucepan and heat it on a burner over medium high heat until the butter melts and becomes a bit bubbly.
Off the heat, dump all of the flour into the butter mixture and stir until it forms a ball of dough that pulls away from the sides of the pan. Dump the dough into the tart pan and let it cool slightly. Press the dough evenly across the bottom and up the sides with lightly floured hands. Chill the dough for about 20 minutes in the freezer. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Remove the tart shell from the freezer, prick all over with a fork to prevent the dough from puffing up too much in the oven. Place the tart on the center rack and bake it for about 30 minutes, or until lightly golden brown all over. Cool the crust completely before moving on.
Melt the chocolate over a double boiler or carefully in a microwave. Pour it into the cooled tart shell and spread it evenly over the base of the tart with an offset spatula. Let the chocolate cool and harden before adding the cream.
For the pastry cream
In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, flour, starch and salt. Whisk to combine. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs well and then whisk in the cream or milk. Slowly pour it into the saucepan, whisking all the while to prevent lumps.
Heat the mixture over medium high heat and whisk constantly. Scrape the bottom and sides of the saucepan and continue to whisk steadily as the mixture heats and then thickens after about 10 minutes. The pastry cream is cooked when it is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon and a line drawn through it with your finger holds it shape.
Off the heat, stir in the butter and vanilla. Strain the mixture into a clean bowl if you think there are any lumps, then place some plastic on the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming. Cool completely in the refrigerator.
To assemble the tart
Remove the tart shell from the pan and place it on a plate or tray. Pour the chilled pastry cream into the tart and spread it evenly with an offset spatula. Arrange the strawberries on the pastry cream and dust with powdered sugar if desired.