Strawberry Tart à la Gradissima

I bought the mother lode of strawberries last weekend at the farmer’s market, and yesterday it was apparent the lovely berries needed to become a tart. It was fate.

I had a store-bought puff pastry dough (masa folhada) ready for the occasion, and I had lots and lots of berries. Thanks to a quick Google search, I got the basic idea of how to make the filling. The setting agent for a berry pie/tart is usually either gelatin (not my thing) or made by making a jam out of part of the berry filling with sugar and cornstarch on the stove.

I don’t have cornstarch, so I got a little creative on my thickening agents.

Here’s what I had:

  • A square pyrex baking dish, about 8″x8″ (I think)
  • pre-made puff pastry dough
  • about a cup (maybe a little more) of roughly diced fresh strawberries
  • about 2 tbsp of ground hazelnuts
  • about 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 5 or 6 whole, roasted cacao nibs
  • small handful of raw almonds
  • about 1/4 cup oatmeal flakes
  • at least a cup of sliced fresh strawberries

Put the roughly diced fresh strawberries, ground hazelnuts, and sugar into a pan and heat slowly until bubbling. Stir frequently, and keep the filling from drying or burning on the sides of the pan. Let it bubble (while stirring) for a couple minutes until it thickens a bit. Turn off heat, stir a couple more times, and let cool.

Cut the pastry dough to fit inside the baking dish. Be sure to line the dish with parchment paper first. Tuck the dough into the dish.

Put the cacao nibs, almonds, and oatmeal flakes into a food processor/grinder/blender/grinding-instrument-of-your-choice and grind until it becomes a floury, coarse powder.

Sprinkle the powder generously on the inside of the pastry crust. Spread the cooked berry filling into the crust. Dust a generous layer of powder over this cooked berry filling. Add fresh strawberries in a thick layer. Sprinkle to taste with the powder and with about a tbsp of sugar.

Bake at a medium heat until the puff pastry crust is golden.

The powdery goodness adds a nice, nutty, mellow flavor (plus good minerals, antioxidants, and I’m sure some other stuff), plus it thickens the otherwise too-runny berry filling. The sugars and juice from the berry filling combine with the cacao-infused nutty powder and create an almost honeyed baklava bottom crust. The puff pastry just enhances the sensation.

Granted, it isn’t hard to make a kick-ass crust that would not only taste better but would be healthier than a fat-bastard puff pastry crust… but let’s be honest- this was easy, and it was good. 🙂

This recipe is ripe for hacking, so I’d love to hear your tweaks as you come up with them.

Here’s another glamor shot of the end result (doesn’t it look like a happy little tart?):

PS- This recipe has been My-Man-Tested and Portuguese-Approved. 😉 It is also a valid breakfast food, in my house.


5 thoughts on “Strawberry Tart à la Gradissima

  1. This looks scrumptious AND pretty. What are cacao nibs? I would have thought that the oatmeal in the berries that you cooked would have been a good thickening agent…especially if ground first. Anyway- sounds like a pretty good recipe. Good job! Wools

    1. Thanks, Woolsie! Cacao nibs are Cacao beans that have been roasted and cracked. The rough chunks are ‘nibs’ 🙂 Cute name, eh? Here’s a link to the wikipedia page on cocoa production, in case you would like to learn a little bit about the production of cocoa 🙂 I rather like this page because it shows the fruit, the beans, and the way it all looks after roasting. (I’m STILL thrilled that I picked the fruit and harvested and roasted these nibs myself!)

      I agree– the oatmeal is a great thickening agent, and next time, I think I will add the oatmeal powder (isolated, rather than combined with cacao and almonds) to the berries and sugar on the stove rather than in a combined powder in layers. It certainly worked this way, but I like the idea of the almonds and cacao remaining on their own as a sexy little layer all to themselves 🙂

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