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Friday, June 19, 2009

Strawberry Tarts with Cornmeal Crust

Growing up, I loved it when my grandmother would make a fresh strawberry pie. For some reason, I never came across the recipe for the filling. I guess I had always assumed it was just a jello filling. Silly me. I suppose I always could have looked it up, but somehow it had slipped into my subconscious... until two years ago. A friend made a traditional strawberry pie for a BBQ and she was kind enough to give me her filling recipe.

I have made a number of traditional strawberry pies since. But I've been wanting to try a recipe for a cornmeal crust and I felt that a cornmeal crust and strawberries would really go well together - and they do. While I think I may play with this crust recipe in the future, it is quite tasty as it is. The cornmeal gives a nice, subtle flavor enhancement to the crust as well as a beautiful light yellow hue.

You could make this as a regular pie or as one large tart, but I like to make the individuals. Not only are they darn cute, they're a great portion control. If I bake it as a whole pie, I somehow always seem to be able to justify a quarter of the pie being "one piece."

The first step is to make the crust. I use a food processor, but you could do it the old fashioned way, too. Mix the dry ingredients together. Notice that it's not an overwhelming amount of cornmeal.

Add the cold butter in chunks. Process until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. This is very much like making a pie crust. If you need a review of that process, you can visit my pie crust post. Then, while pulsing, add the buttermilk.

Only process until it starts to come together in a ball. Once it reaches this point, it is very easy to press the remaining crumbs together to form one big ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and flatten slightly to form a disk. Place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. This dough is a little on the wet and sticky side, so longer is better for the refrigeration.

When you are ready to roll out the dough, be exceptionally generous with the flour. As I said, this dough is a tad on the sticky side. Roll out to a bit shy of 1/4 inch thick.

I used the little tart pans with the removable bottoms, so I used one of those bottoms as a template to cut out rounds of dough.

Then I gently placed the dough rounds into the tins. Try not to stretch the dough. When you are putting it in the edges, try to gently "place" it into the tin versus pressing it in.

Then I used a knife right across the top of the tin to cut off the excess dough.

Prick the bottoms of the crusts with a fork and place into a preheated 400 degree F oven. Bake until they are starting to turn golden on the edges, about 20 minutes. If you notice them puffing up while baking, simply prick them with a fork to release the air. I had to do this two or three times while baking. Remove from the oven to a cooling rack when they are done. As soon as they are cool enough to handle easily, slip them out of the tins and continue cooling them on the rack until they are completely cooled.

While the crusts are baking, I like to start the filling. It is a very simple combination of sugar, water, cornstarch, and strawberry gelatin. If you want to use a different fruit, you can alter the flavor of the sauce by changing the gelatin. I really like fresh blueberry pies as well.

Make the sauce and then let it cool in the fridge before pouring over the fruit. When the crust and filling is all ready, mound fruit in the shells and pour the filling over. Once the tarts/pies are finished, they need to refrigerate for a few hours before serving.

Cornmeal Crust
Yield: enough for 6 small tarts or 2 full size pies

1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into small cubes
1/3 cup buttermilk

In a food processor, mix the first four, dry ingredients. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. While pulsing, add the buttermilk and process just until the dough starts to form a ball. Remove dough onto plastic wrap and form a disk. Completely cover and refrigerate for at least half and hour.

Roll out dough using plenty of flour. Place in desired pans and prick the bottom with a fork. Bake at 400 degrees F until gently browned, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a rack. Remove from pan when cool enough to handle and continue cooling on rack.

Strawberry Pie Filling
Yield: enough for 6 mini tarts or 1 full sized pie or 2 full sized tarts

1 cup sugar
2 TBS cornstarch
1 cup water
1/4 cup strawberry gelatin
food coloring (optional, I did not use)

Mix the sugar and cornstarch together in a sauce pan. Add the water and place over medium-high heat. Bring to a slow boil, whisking regularly. Cook until the mixture has thickened and has become translucent, about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the gelatin. Chill in the refrigerator until it starts to set before pouring over the fruit.


  1. looks great and I love the new header!

  2. I like the use of cornmeal in the crust. I can imagine the combination of flavors to be more complex than you average tart crust. Thanks for the idea!


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