OK, OK – so this posting is not seasonal (hey I only missed it by a bit 😉 ) – but this recipe was too tasty not to share. You can substitute other fruit – I was thinking it would be superb with plums – but the gooseberries really add something special. The first time I had gooseberries in a dessert was in Paris back in 1992. My boyfriend, at the time, and I went to a lovely bistro and they served caramelized gooseberries, cooked table side – which they poured over vanilla ice cream. It was a very simple dish – but the flavours burst into my mouth like a riot of colour. Sweet, tart, warm, cold and salty all melted on my tongue. It’s one of my fondest food memories. There were times I thought about recreating that recipe – but decided against it because there was just something about the moment that will never be replicated.
Gooseberries are native to Ontario – so we get an abundance of them. They are a strange looking little fruit and there are many different varieties. They also have a high level of pectin so they are a great option for jam. For some, they are too tart – but I personally love that about them. They add a lot of depth to a sticky sweet recipe and give it some sophistication and interest. Despite the uniquely tart flavour of the gooseberries in this shortbread my youngest son Jack loved it. He even had seconds!
Gooseberry Almond Meringue Shortbread
Ingredients Shortbread Crust
1 cup softened unsalted butter
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/8 – 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
Directions Shortbread Crust
In mixer combine the butter, vanilla and powdered sugar on medium speed until throughly mixed. Add flour on low speed until just combined (mixture should be a bit crumbly – with pieces the size of large marbles). I add two cups of flour and gradually and add a bit more until the mixture just comes together (this may be 1/8th or 1/4 cup). Most of my cooking is done by feel.
You can roll the dough out – but I take the lazy way and press it into an 11 inch tart pan (my pan is fluted and has a removable bottom)! Bake the crust at 325 degrees for approximately 20 minutes or light golden brown.
Ingredients Filling (Frangipane)
2 cups almond meal
3/4 cup salted butter softened
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon almond extract (we do not use this when the kids have the tart as they find the taste too strong – but if you love almonds add away!)
1 1/2 cups halved gooseberries (more or less you can decide how many you would like to put in the tart)
Directions for Filling
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Whip the butter and sugar together until light. Add eggs one at a time. Fold in the almond meal and extract. Spread the mixture on the cooled shortbread. Stud with halved gooseberries and bake for approximately 35 minutes. The tart will be golden brown.
Ingredients Meringue (mine was taken from the Wall Street Journal: Check it out here)
3 room temperature egg whites
1 pinch of salt
1 teaspoon of cream of tartar
3/4 cup of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
Directions for Meringue:
Start with a clean aluminum bowl. I wipe it down with some lemon juice to make sure there is no grease left on the bowl as this will not allow the whites to get stiff and fluffy.Beat the egg whites and salt until frothy on low speed and then add the cream of tartar. Turn the mixer up to medium high until the whites form soft peaks – then shake the sugar slowly over mixture while continuing to beat the whites. The Wall Street Journal recommends one tablespoon at a time but I do it faster than this – shaking about 1/8th of a cup sugar over the eggs whites while I whip them on a medium high setting. When all of the sugar is incorporated switch the beater to high and whip until the whites form stiff peaks. The Wall Street Journal covers it all in greater detail. You can also let the meringue rest a bit before you spread it on the tart. This will keep it from sweating (when tiny beads of moisture appear after you bake the meringue).
Turn the oven heat up to 450 degrees – spread the meringue on the cooled tart and bake in the oven for 3 minutes or until meringue is browned. All times are approximate as I have an old Viking range that is unpredictable at best! It’s always good to get personal with your cooking process as everyone’s tastes are different. Maybe you like crisper shortbread – or browner meringue. The choice is yours!
Happy Mondays “Tart, Tart”