Spring in South West France is a gastronomic feast.....all our local markets are overflowing with luscious new vegetables and fruits. My favourites are the little "wild woodland" fraises des bois strawberries, which I am growing in my own garden this year. I thought I would share this pretty way of serving these deliciously sweet strawberries with you - I call them a flavour explosion of strawberry essence! If you cannot get fraises des bois, use seasonal and small strawberries instead. You can buy barquette tins quite easily in France, but if you can’t find them locally, this recipe will work equally well with ordinary round tart tins, as I have used for the photo. Alternatively you could make one big tart. (Barquette tins are shaped like small gondola boats!)
- First make your pastry. Place the flour and sugar in a food processor and whizz for thirty seconds. Turn the processor back on and add the chilled butter and finally the egg. If the pastry needs a little more liquid add a spot of water until the dough rolls cleanly round the bowl. Wrap your pastry in Clingfilm and chill for half an hour whilst you prepare the tartlet tins and strawberries.
- Taste one of your strawberries to judge their sweetness. If they are sweet and luscious, as fraises des bois generally are, they will only need hulling, rinsing and a final dressing with the sugar syrup. If they’re a little too tart, rinse them, lay them on a plate and sprinkle with caster sugar to give them a bit of a boost.
- Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
- Butter your barquette or round tart tins, take the pastry out of the fridge and roll it out. Line each tin and prick the bottoms well. Bake in the oven for about fifteen to twenty minutes, but keep an eye on them, they may need pricking again. Leave to cool.
- Make a simple sugar syrup by boiling two tablespoons of caster sugar with the water for two minutes or so. Allow to cool. Mix the icing sugar & vanilla essence with the crème fraiche and chill.
- When you are ready to serve your barquettes/tarts, spread them with crème fraiche mixture; sit the strawberries on top and brush with the glaze.