Festive blueberry tarts decorated with star cutouts and red berries are irresistible for a Fourth of July picnic. As blueberries are very plentiful in July, we make all kinds of excuses to serve them. I am not a great fan of most cooked fruit fillings – too gooey – so this technique solves the problem. A small quantity of berries is cooked down with a binder (cornstarch and flour) and cooled. Three times the berries are then added raw, allowing the raw and the cooked to combine in a well balanced, sweet-tart fruit filling for a pre-baked tart shell. The idea for cooking the filling this way came from a “ladies committee” cookbook produced for the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
2 c blueberries, divided ½ c and 1½ c
½ c sugar
1/3 c water
1½ tsp cornstarch
1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp water
Juice of ½ lemon
1 pre-baked tart shell (8-9 inches diameter or 4 x 10 inches rectangular)
Place ½ c berries, sugar and 1/3 c water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. In a small covered jar, shake the cornstarch and flour with 1 tbsp water to combine into a slurry (or stir together thoroughly in a small bowl). Add to the berry mixture, stirring to avoid lumps and cooking for a few minutes until the berries pop and the mixture becomes thick. Set aside to cool.
Add the lemon juice and the balance of the berries and spoon into a pre-baked tart shell.
Crust for pre-baked tart shells (makes 2 8-inch shells)
2 c flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
10 tbsp (1 ¼ sticks) very cold butter, cut into ½ inch cubes
1/3 c plus a couple tbsp ice cold water
Place the flour, salt, sugar and butter in a food processor and pulse a couple of times until the mixture is crumbly. With the motor running, quickly add 1/3 c of ice water and turn off motor immediately. Pour the mixture into a shallow bowl and add additional ice water, a few sprinkles at a time, until the dough holds together. Do not over mix. Divide the dough in half and place each half in plastic wrap in the refrigerator (which will relax the gluten) for at least 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Roll out the dough on a floured board (also flouring the rolling pin) and place it into a fluted tart pan. Run the rolling pin across the top of the pan to level the edges. Prick the bottom of the shell with a fork, line it with foil and add dried beans (I’ve used the same ones over and over for years) or pie weights. Bake the tart shell for 10 minutes, remove the foil and beans and bake for about another 10 minutes until just browned. Remove to cool before adding a cooled filling.