Tarte aux myrtilles, or bilberry tart

This is a patisserie staple in France. I love the look of these tarts, so dark purple they are almost black, glistening with juice, with just a sprinkle of icing sugar. They taste pretty good too 🙂 I had a big bag of frozen bilberries in the freezer and 6 guests coming, so the conclusion was obvious. I googled, and found Clotilde’s recipe, so I started with that, but tinkered a bit to suit my own tastes. Frozen bilberries have lots of juice, which risks making the pastry soggy and purple even if you blind-bake it. So I added a layer of almonds, sugar and flour to soak up the juice. This worked really well; the tart was easy to slice and serve, and tasted gorgeous with a blob of crème fraîche on the side. Within minutes, there was none left, that’s why there’s no photo. You can take my word for it that it looked just like Clotilde’s.

I used Clotilde’s pastry recipe since I didn’t have any on hand, but if I’d had some of my usual pâte sablée in the freezer, I’d have used that. You do need a crisp, biscuity pastry for this.

Pastry
170 g flour
85 g caster sugar
85 g butter, softened
1 tbs milk or water

Filling
2 tbs ground almonds
2 tbs caster sugar
1 tbs flour
350 g bilberries (fresh or frozen)
2 tbs crème fraîche
1 tbs sugar
1 egg
icing sugar

Note: Clotilde recommends just putting the frozen bilberries directly in the tart without defrosting so they don’t lose too much juice. I defrosted mine a bit in a colander over a bowl and then poured the juice that had drained off over the bilberries before putting it in the oven, fearing that it would get really soggy if I cooked them from frozen.

For the dough: in a food processor or by hand, beat the sugar and butter till pale and fluffy. Beat or cut in the flour until you have coarse crumbs (I did it in the food processor up to this point). Scrape out into a bowl and add about a tablespoon of milk. Then use a fork to mix it in, and your hands to pat the dough into a ball. Wrap in clingfilm or put in a plastic bag and let it rest in the fridge for at least half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 200C and grease a shallow 22-cm tart tin, preferably with a loose base. Roll out the dough on a floured surface, as thinly as you can. It’s difficult to roll and might fall apart, but if it does, either roll it out again or just put the pieces in the tin and stick them firmly together with a little water. Bake blind for 15-20 minutes; the dough should be only lightly coloured. Reduce heat to 180C.

While the crust is baking, mix together the almonds, flour and sugar. Spread this mixture evenly over the tart base and then spread a generous layer of bilberries on top. Taste a bilberry, and if it’s really sour sprinkle a little extra sugar on, but don’t overdo it; it needs to be a bit tart. If you are using fresh or still-frozen bilberries, return the tart to the oven at this point and cook for 10 minutes to start the juices running; I decided my (defrosted) frozen bilberries were soft and juicy enough already, so I skipped this step.

Whisk together the egg, cream and sugar and drizzle this mixture over the bilberries. There isn’t much of it; this isn’t supposed to be a custard tart. Return to the oven for 15 minutes or until set. Turn off the oven and leave for another 10 minutes before removing.

Allow to cool and serve at room temperature, sprinkling a little icing sugar over it just before serving. Accept the compliments of your guests.

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