Rustic Blueberry Tarts with Ginger
"Wild" Maine blueberies – the smaller berries borne on ankle-height bushes that cover Maine's sunny hillsides – are only in season for a few weeks in late summer and I love them. (They're actually cultivated, not wild-harvested, but genetically they're closely related to the wild varieties still found in abundance in Northern wilderness areas. Maine grows 25% of the U.S. harvest and is the world's largest producer of wild blueberries.) The only blueberries available the rest of the year are the "high-bush" variety – mostly hybrids, they're cultivated in Michigan, Georgia and North Carolina as well as South America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand – which have a larger berry and, to me, far less flavor. Some say that the higher proportion of berry skin relative to the fruit in the small berries is the reason for this but all I know is that I like the little guys better and I can only get them fresh a few weeks a year.
This year in August I bought a five-pound box of wild blueberries from one of the Maine blueberry farms and froze them, thinking that they would become blueberry pies for Thanksgiving and Christmas. An accident involving a broken leg, surgery, plates, screws, and a subsequent doctor's order not to put any weight on my foot for at least 8 weeks severely curtailed my holiday cooking this year so I didn't get to the pies. But now I'm back in the kitchen at least part time, so when we planned a New Year's Eve dinner I immediately thought of my blueberry stash.
These tarts are relatively quick, decorative on the plate, and don't require any special bakeware. The blueberry taste is dominant and pleasing, with the ginger adding a surprise accent note.
For people looking to control calorie or carbohydrate intake, these tarts fall in the middle range compared to other holiday temptations: at 218 calories each and 29 grams of carbs they aren't diet food, but on the other hand, many goodies on the holiday board can be much, much worse. My approach is to allow myself some moderate special pleasures like these, while keeping a lid on the more ordinary comfort foods like mashed potatoes, cornbread stuffing, and big slices of apple pie with ice cream. It's been working for me...
Rustic Blueberry Tarts with Ginger
Makes 6 single-serving tarts.
Note that while the ginger adds an interesting accent to these tarts without distracting from the blueberries, it can be omitted if you like a more traditional blueberry taste.
For the crust:
- 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose white flour
- 1/4 cup almond meal/flour (such as Bob's Red Mill ground blanched almonds)
- 2 teaspoons no-calorie granulated sweetener (such as Splenda)
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons cold butter, cut in 1/4" dice
- 2 tablespoons cold non-fat or low-fat milk
- 3 tablespoons water, very cold
For the filling:
- 4 cups blueberries
- 4 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 1" piece of ginger, peeled and grated
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/2 cup no-calorie granulated sweetener (such as Splenda)
- Pinch salt
- 2 teaspoons maple syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon water
Make the crust:
1. Stir together the two flours, the no-calorie sweetener and the salt.
2. Add the butter and, working quickly, rub the butter chunks between fingertips to break down and mix with the flour until the mixture has the consistency of corn meal.
3. Add the milk and water and stir to combine (the mixture will be crumbly.)
(Alternatively, the procedure can be done to this point in a food processor, with a few quick pulses to break down the butter and a couple more pulses to incorporate the liquids. Do not overprocess.)
4. Scoop the dough mixture into a plastic food storage bag and knead it for a few seconds to press it into a ball. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Make the filling:
5. Reserve and set aside 1/2 cup of the blueberries – these will be scattered, uncooked, over the finished tarts.
6. Simmer 1 cup of the blueberries with 2 tablespoons water for 3 minutes.
7. Add the corn starch, granulated sweetener, zest, ginger, salt and lemon juice to the pan. Stir to combine and simmer another minute.
8. Stir in the remaining 2 1/2 cups of blueberries. Remove from the heat.
Assemble and bake the tarts:
9. Preheat the oven to 425º.
10. Roll out the dough to about 1/16 inch thickness.
11. Cut the dough into 6 rounds approximately 4 1/2" in diameter. Divide the blueberry mixture between the six dough circles, mounding it up in the middle of each circle.
12. Gather the edges of each piece of dough and fold it upwards and towards the center of the blueberry mound, pinching the dough together to form a little pouch to contain the filling. Place the tarts on parchment paper on a baking sheet.
13. Bake 15 minutes in the preheated 425º oven, then reduce the oven temperature to 350º and bake another 20 minutes or so. The tarts are done when the crust is golden and the filling is bubbly.
14. Stir together the maple syrup and water and paint the crust with the glaze. Scatter the reserved uncooked blueberries over the finished tarts and serve.
Vanilla frozen yogurt or ice cream makes a nice accompaniment.