As May arrives, it is the end of the road of the Spring strawberry season. The price of a punnet dips and we are more enticed to buy in bulk to make some lovely strawberry jam. One thing many people might not realise is that while the price is attractive, the strawberries are at their ripest. They are dark red and sweet. Once you slightly cook them they melt in the pot.
Since they are ripe you don’t really need to put in so much sugar to make your jam or fruit filling. We all love our strawberries but as summer is approaching we would also love to take care of our waste line. So who needs the sugar?
Coinciding with preparation of a batch of strawberry jam, we received some cookie cutters the shape of the Maltese Cross. We got them for a bread experiment but then after realising the ruby red of the strawberry jam, a eureka moment hit us. We decided to make some short crust pastry and test our cookie cutters on some strawberry tartlets. The rest is history.
They looked so pretty that we put them on our dessert menu at Maldonado Bistro. You might know… Eugenio Ramirez Maldonado was a Spanish Knight serving as Governor of Gozo. Therefore what better way to celebrate Governor Maldonado with a dessert with the coat of arms of the Knights of Malta.
The photos below are from our first trial. We still need to perfect the method to ensure the strawberry filling doesn’t spill onto the shortcrust pastry. But below is an outline of what we did and your invitation to give it your best shot. Good luck!
Noble Strawberry Tartlets
- Sugar Thermometer
- Food Processor
- Weighing Scale
- Rolling Pin
- Individual Tart Tins (with loose base)
- Circular Cutter (2cm wider in diameter than the tart tins)
- Cookie Cutter (shape of Maltese Cross)
For the shortcrust pastry
- 500 grams Flour
- 250 grams Butter (unsalted)
- 175 grams Icing Sugar
- 1 Tsp Salt
- 1 Lemon (zest only)
- 1 Egg
- 1 Tbsp Water (optional)
For the strawberry filling
- 300 grams Strawberries
- 100 grams Sugar
- 1 Lemon (juice only)
- 1 Sprig Mint (finely chopped)
To make the short crust pastry
- Put the flour, icing sugar, butter and lemon zest in a food processor. Blend until the butter has combined with the dry ingredients.
- Add the eggs and continue blending. If you feel the dough is still sandy then add in the water to help it come together. You don't want a sticky dough though.
- Collect the pastry dough into a ball, dust with flour, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes to 1 hour.
To make the strawberry filling
- Thoroughly wash the strawberries and leave to drain in a colander.
- Snip off the green tops and quarter the strawberries.
- Add to a heavy-bottom pot with the sugar and lemon juice and boil on your oven top.It is essential to use a tall pot because once the sugar mixture boils it can easily double or triple in size and the last thing you want is for the syrup to spill on your oven top.
- Once the strawberries boil, or reach not more than 80°C, then take off the heat and leave to cool.A common mistake is to overcook the fruit. This makes the jam darker and we lose the vibrant red colour of the strawberries. Therefore a sugar thermometer comes in handy to let you know the exact point to stop cooking.
- Fold in the chopped mint.
- At this stage you can opt to liquidise the fruit filling. We prefer not to as the tart looks more rustic with a slightly chunky filling. Much better than guests thinking that the fruit filling came out of a tin.
To assemble and bake the tartlets
- Pre-heat your oven at 180°C.
- Butter and flour the tartlet tins and refrigerate.
- Take half of the shortcrust pastry from the fridge, dust with flour and place between two sheets of baking paper. With a rolling pin open evenly roll out the dough to around 3mm thickness.
- With a large circular cutter, cut the dough and place each disc in one of the tartlet tins. Gently tuck into the bottom edges to shape the tart shell. Poke the bottom of the dough with a fork and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- With the remaining shortcrust pastry repeat the step above to roll out the dough evenly to approximately 3mm. Use the Maltese Cross cookie cutter to cut your shapes. You will have to roll up the dough and repeat this step until you cut out enough Maltese Crosses to top your tartlets.Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.With the extra handling you might end up warming up the dough which will eventually make it more difficult to handle. If this is the case refrigerate the dough again until firm enough to continue.
- Fill the tartlet shells with baking beads and bake in the oven for 15 minutes, or until slightly brown on the edges. Also bake the Maltese Crosses for not more than 10 minutes.
- After baking the tartlet shells, fill with the strawberry filling. Do not fill the tart shells to the top because in the oven the filling will bubble and spill and bake for another 10 minutes.Leave the Maltese crosses out to cool
- Remove the strawberry tarts from the oven and leave to cool. Once cool, place the Maltese Cross on each tartlet.
- Keep in an airtight container before serving. Sprinkle with icing sugar when serving.