It’s springtime, baby!
You know what that means – winter is well and truly over, the days are getting warmer and we’re experiencing a glut of fresh fruit. Now I’m a savoury guy through and through, but there is a certain satisfaction in sitting down after a big dinner and tucking into a delectable, sweet dessert. Let’s just touch on that for a second though… the word sweet.
Until recently, I never took much interest in desserts because I associated them with being overly sweet. Sugar can be both the enemy and the saviour of any dish, so finding the perfect balance (the sweet spot, if you will) to your dish is crucial!
Firstly, we have to look at what we’re cooking. Baked goodies like cakes, muffins, and brownies all benefit from rich sugars like brown sugar, chocolate, and even
richness from vanilla which adds a kind of psychological sweetness rather than actual sugariness. Typically, we balance these sugars with fats and acids – the holy trinity. For example, putting ice-cream and some sour raspberry coulis with your slice of brownie will help balance the richness of the sugar and chocolate combo.
The other source of sweetness we typically think about is fruit. Even though fruit is already naturally balanced with acidity and sweetness, we still need to consider balance when incorporating fruit into a dessert – again, coming back to the sweetness, acidity and fat combo that is a must for making any dessert a winner. This is why when we think of fruits as dessert, we typically see them being paired with dairy. Consider fruit tarts with their rich, buttery pastry; fruit salad paired with fresh cream or yoghurt; and even fruity ice-creams. They all have the holy trinity! If you’re feeling experimental, a pinch of salt also goes a long way. Consider what a touch of salt adds to the often-one-dimensional sickly sweetness of caramel!
So, let’s make a delicious dessert that will combine what we’ve learnt about the holy trinity of sweetness, acidity, and fat – and of course, spring fruit. Strawberries and lemons are incredible at the moment, and as cheap as ever. They also combine beautifully for a light, seasonally appropriate treat.
Here’s my recipe for a banger dessert: Strawberry and Lemon Curd Tart.
• 2 ½ cups plain flour
• 1 egg, + 1 extra yolk
• 175g butter
• Pinch of salt
• 3 whole eggs + 2 extra yolks
• 1 cup of caster sugar
• 1tbsp lemon rind
• ½ lemon’s worth of juice
• 150g butter
• 1 punnet strawberries
• caster sugar
1. Heat oven to 180 degrees.
2. Add all pastry ingredients to a blender, and blend until the mix is a nice, crumbly dough. Remove dough and knead it until fully combined, then roll it out into a circle using a rolling pin.
3. Place this into a tart tin, trim the edges and pop it into the fridge for an hour.
4. Once your tart shell has chilled for, pop it in the oven. Bake until it is golden brown – this should take about 15 minutes but keep a close eye on it! Once cooked, refrigerate.
5. Now make your lemon curd. Cut butter into little cubes. Whisk the other ingredients until very well combined, and place into a small pot over low heat. When the sugar has dissolved into the remaining ingredients, start gradually adding butter cubes. Stir continuously until the butter has been combined, and curd thickens to a custard consistency. Take it off the heat. Pass it through a fine sieve before placing in the fridge.
6. Prepare your topping. Thinly slice all strawberries, place in a bowl and sprinkle with caster sugar – now leave them to mingle for 20 minutes.
7. Time to assemble! Place your lemon curd into the tart shell and spread evenly. Layer all strawberries over the top of the tart and place back into the fridge for at least half an hour to allow the tart to set.
Just before serving, garnish with some pretty edible flowers and fresh thyme leaves!
This dessert is the perfect finishing touch to a springtime barbecue or dinner party, as you can leave your guests with a hint of sweetness while avoiding the heavy feeling that often comes with richer desserts. Enjoy!
Harry Foster is a former Masterchef Australia contestant and NQ lad who each edition gives us a taste of his energetic approach to food.