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With blueberry season about to start in earnest, this recipe is sure to have a place on your summer table. It is more nuanced than its simple two-word title might lead you to believe: a flaky cream cheese pastry crust scented with fresh lemon zest; white chocolate pastry cream, somehow both rich and light at once; and a layer of sweet, ripe blueberries. Taking a bite of this tart makes me want to turn Iron Chef judge and say ridiculous, completely true things like, “I feel as if I’m tasting blueberries for the first time.”

This may not be the right recipe in its entirety for the novice or hurried baker, so do what pleases you without bringing frustration. I assure you no one will complain if you crumble store-bought shortbread in a glass and top it with pastry cream and berries. (Indeed, no one in my house would complain if you simply handed them a bowl of pastry cream and a spoon.) Or try your hand at the homemade crust this time, and fill it with a thin layer of purchased lemon curd, then top with berries and whipped cream. At the end of the day, a recipe is a success only when it puts both delicious food on the plate and a smile on the cook’s face.

A final note: you’ll notice the recipe below produces enough pastry for two 9″ tarts. I actually doubled the pastry cream recipe and baked and assembled two tarts, as we had company coming twice in one week. However, if you’d rather make just one tart, freeze the remaining uncooked pastry for use another time. It’s a lovely, useful thing to have on hand. And should you find yourself with some leftover pastry cream, it makes a perfect filling for a batch of Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes. (recipe coming next week :)

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Blueberry Tart
makes pastry enough for two 9″ tarts;
pastry cream and berries are enough for one 9″ tart, eight servings

For Cream Cheese Pastry tart shell:
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur)
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
finely grated zest of one lemon
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. cold unsalted butter (2 sticks), cut into 1/4″ pats
6 oz. cold cream cheese, cut into small cubes
10″ tart pan with removable bottom

In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, lemon zest, and salt and pulse a few times to blend. Scatter the butter over the dry ingredients and process until reduced to fine, buttery sand. Scatter the cream cheese cubes over the top and process until ingredients mix completely and come together in a ball of dough.

Divide dough in half and form into two discs, then wrap each disc in plastic wrap and chill for at least four hours, up to three days, before using. (If making only one tart, double-wrap unused portion and freeze up to one month. Thaw overnight before using, then proceed as usual.)

When ready to use, let dough sit at room temperature for fifteen minutes, then roll out between two pieces of parchment paper until it forms a 12″-diameter circle that is 1/4″ thick. Carefully place into a 10″ tart pan and trim away excess dough. (Quick tip: to easily remove extra dough, simply roll the rolling pin across the top rim of the tart pan.) Prick the bottom of the crust with a toothpick every few inches to allow steam to escape and keep your pastry from bubbling up while it bakes. Freeze the tart shell for twenty minutes before baking. (This solidifies the butter and cream cheese again and produces a flakier, more tender cooked pastry.)

Oven 350F. Bake the tart shell for 20-25 minutes, until edges and bottom are light golden brown. The crust will shrink quite a bit, hence the finished 9″ size, but this shrinking makes removing the tart shell from the pan a breeze. Allow tart shell to cool completely, then remove from pan, place on desired serving platter, and set aside until ready to fill. This can be done the day before, but be sure to wrap the cooled pastry well while it sits.

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For White Chocolate Pastry Cream:
1 1/2 c. milk
1/3 c. granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste or real vanilla extract, or the seeds of 1/2 a vanilla bean (for more about vanilla bean paste, see these recipe notes)
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp. all-purpose flour
2 large egg yolks (check the bottom of this earlier post for something to do with those leftover whites)
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/2 c. white chocolate chips or 3 oz. white chocolate bar, chopped
1/2 c. heavy whipping cream, whipped to soft peaks

In medium saucepan, stir together one cup of the milk, the sugar, salt, and the vanilla bean paste or vanilla bean seeds. (If using vanilla extract, wait to add until just before refrigerating the hot custard.) Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat.

Meanwhile, whisk together the remaining 1/2 c. milk, cornstarch, flour, and egg yolks in a small glass bowl or measuring cup. Transfer a 1/2 cup of the boiling milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture and whisk until combined. (This step changes the temperature of the eggs slowly so that you don’t wind up with white chocolate scrambled eggs.) Pour the tempered egg mixture into the boiling milk and stir thoroughly. Bring back to the boil and cook for 30 seconds until thickened.

Immediately remove from heat and pour through fine wire mesh strainer positioned over large mixing bowl; this step removes any remaining cornstarch or flour lumps. You will need to help the last of the custard through the strainer by pushing on it with a silicone spatula or the back of a spoon. Be sure to scrape the underside of the strainer too, so you don’t lose any of that yumminess. :)

Stir the butter and white chocolate into the hot custard until it is all melted and thoroughly combined. Rub a bit of butter over the top of the custard, then cover well with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic down on to the surface of the custard so that no skin forms as it cools. (The butter will keep the plastic wrap from sticking.) Refrigerate until cold, at least four hours. Once cooled, gently fold in the 1/2 cup of whipped cream and refrigerate again, tightly covered, until ready for use. Pastry cream will keep up to a week.

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To assemble:
2 cups fresh blueberries, washed and picked through to remove stems
2 Tbsp. apricot jelly
pastry shell
pastry cream

Spread a generous layer of pastry cream in the bottom of the tart shell, about 1/2″ deep. Scatter blueberries over surface of pastry cream in an even layer. (I favor a more rustic and arbitrary arrangement, but feel free to place them in precise concentric circles. Whatever floats your boat, captain!)

Place apricot jelly in a small bowl and microwave until melted. Brush on surface of berries with a pastry brush to produce a shiny glaze. You won’t taste the jelly at all, it’s just there to be pretty. Chill until served. (I meant the tart, but this could also apply to the cook. You’ve earned it.)

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P.S. — If you’ve read this far, you get a gold star! This is my longest recipe post by far, but I promise it’s worth it. ;)

Recipe Variations/Notes:
If you’re not a blueberry fan or they aren’t in season, try a Banana Butterscotch Tart instead. Simply substitute butterscotch chips for the white chocolate in the pastry cream, and sliced bananas for the blueberries. Omit the apricot jelly glaze and drizzle a little caramel over the top instead.

The Cream Cheese Pastry recipe above comes from Flo Braker’s fantastic book, Baking for All Occasions: A Treasury of Recipes for Everyday Celebrations. It is firmly ensconced as one of my favorite baking cookbooks of all time, and I highly recommend it. Not only is it full of inspired, yummy recipes written with detailed directions, you can just tell the author truly loves to bake, and that matters to me. As Braker suggests, this pastry makes a lovely crust for a savory pot pie or tart (like this one); simply omit the sugar and lemon zest and proceed as directed.

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(Chronicle Books: 2008; ISBN 978-0811845472)

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