Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Strawberry Shortbread

I love butter. I have always sneered at the thought that butter is bad for me and never even entertained using anything else for baking. Certainly it is the only thing to use for slathering on bread and rolls and bagels and corn on the cob and etc., etc., etc. But I have never been a butter snob. Honestly. Even when I was a kid, and my grandmother insisted on using big blocks of butter purchased from Castle Farms in the Broadway Market. Sure, the butter was a bit tastier than the pale sticks of commercial butter my mother purchased at the supermarket, but I didn't think it was that big a deal. I know--heresy.

For much of my life, standard supermarket butter was the butter of choice. Eventually, European gourmet butters came to be available, at Whole Foods and Weis Market. But I always felt those butters were too...funky. If I accidentally got some of it on my fingers, I was stuck with the smell all day long. Thank goodness I don't have facial hair, otherwise eating gourmet-buttered corn on the cob would be a real trial (so I didn't eat it).

And then I found Finlandia Butter. Made from the milk of hormone-free Finnish cows, this rich butter is creamy and fresh-tasting. It's perfect for both cooking and topping freshly baked bread and corn on the cob. And its safe for those who have facial hair (and I still maintain I have none).

Finlandia was kind enough to send me samples of both their salted and unsalted versions, and I happily got to work creating recipes that showcased their butter's creamy goodness. What better way to show off the flavor of butter than shortbread? With only three essential ingredients--sugar, flour, and butter--there's nothing to get in the way of enjoying that luscious dairy.

Curd, too, is a buttery product. At least, that's the way I prefer my curd (some are more eggy). But I feel that I've made lemon curd so many times and needed to try something new. Pureed strawberries make a lovely pink curd, and the fruit is just acidy enough to tame the richness of butter. This recipe makes quite a bit of curd, about 2 pints, so you can enjoy it on scones or toast or by the spoonful (my favorite way).

I used 4" springform pans to make the shortbread, but you can use tartlet shells if you have them (reducing baking time accordingly if the shells are smaller) or press the dough into a single 8" tart pan with removable bottom. Heck, the dough is pretty sturdy, so you can even hand form it into large cookies with a slight rim to contain the curd.

Top with whipped cream and a mint leaf garnish, or enjoy as is. Either way, these buttery tartlets are sure to please.

Rustic Strawberry Shortbread Tarts

For curd:
1 lb strawberries, hulled and cut into chunks
2 large eggs + 3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons Finlandia unsalted butter, cut into small bits
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla

For crusts:
8 tablespoons Finlandia salted butter, softened
1/3 cup confectioner's sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 cup all-purpose flour

To assemble:

To make curd:  Puree the strawberries in a blender. Pour the puree into a saucepan and bring to a simmer. While the puree is warming, whisk the eggs and sugar in a bowl. Add the puree to the egg mixture in a slow stream, whisking all the time. Return the puree to the pan and heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in the butter a few pieces at a time, then stir in the orange juice and vanilla. Pour into a covered container and refrigerate until cold.

To make crusts: Stir butter and sugar together in a bowl. Mix in yolk. Add flour and stir until butter and flour are well combined and mixture is crumbly. Press dough into bottoms and a tiny bit of the way up sides of 4 4-inch springform pans. Freeze pans until dough is firm, 15 minutes or so.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake shells until crust turns lightly browned around the edges, about 12 minutes. Allow to cool slightly on a wire rack before removing outer rings. Gently slide tart shells off of pan bottoms. Cool completely before filling.

To assemble tarts:  Hull strawberries. Cut each one into slices from bottom to top.

Fill baked crusts with strawberry curd. Top with sliced strawberries arranged in a fan pattern.

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats.
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