Bilberry Tart, Tarte aux Myrtilles

If you’re familiar with the French bakery-cafe chain Paul then you’ll know they do a mean Tarte aux Myrtilles, so deeply purple as to be almost black and utterly loaded with the tiny berries. For me, Paul are one of the few places helping to rescue the word “chain” from being shorthand for “crap”.

I’ve noticed, while seeking recipes, that myrtilles translate into English as “blueberries”. But they’re not. They’re not the fat, blue American imports that Tesco & co refer to as blueberries at all. They are bilberries, whortleberries, wimberries, or whatever local dialectal term for the wild English blueberry you care to name. I wish the supermarket sold these by the punnet, just so I could get them a teensy bit out of season.

But since it’s August and we’re still enjoying tramping into the hills to pick loads of bilberries of our own I decided to make a tarte aux myrtilles. Bilberry tart, as we ought to say. I found a good looking recipe here on La Recette du Jour and didn’t really play with it much at all.

The result was bloody fabulous. Okay, along the way I over-cooked the first pastry case. The instructions said 20 minutes, I checked after 15 and it was too far gone. Lesson: your oven and your cookware are your own, don’t trust the recipe, trust your eyes.

But the second time, the result was a tart-and-a-half! Dead simple sweet crunchy pastry to go with the ever-so-slightly tart but mostly sweet bilberries. The tiny bit of simple custard in the recipe turns the same black-purple as the berries and is scarcely present as a binding, so you’ve essentially just got beautiful fruit and pastry. Veronica at La Recette suggests serving with a blob of crème fraiche. Non. Superfluous to requirements. Just the tart, I promise you.

Bilberry tart (Tarte aux myrtilles)

350g bilberries
170g plain flour
85g caster sugar
85g butter
1 egg
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp crème fraiche
  1. Cream together the butter and sugar in a bowl until pale and fluffy (easier if the butter isn’t too cold)
  2. Sieve the flour in and use a cutting motion to mix it in until you have a crumbly mixture
  3. Add about 1 tbsp milk, mix together with a fork and eventually use your hand to pull it all into a ball of pastry. Wrap in clingfilm and leave in the fridge for 30 minutes or more
  4. Pre-heat the oven to 200C and grease a 22cm tart tin
  5. Roll out the pastry to just over the size of the tin and transfer it. If there’s one problem with this simple pastry it’s that it falls apart very easily. Don’t worry! You can mush bits back together and basically mould it with your fingers once it is in the tin. In fact, the edges of the tart only need to be a centimeter or so high, and it may be easiest to form them by squishing the pastry up from the base.
  6. Pop the tart tin in the oven for about 15 minutes, but what you’re really looking for is the pastry to be going lightly golden, not properly brown. Take it out of the oven, and turn the oven down to 180C
  7. Add perhaps a half tablespoon of sugar to the bilberries, just to balance the tartness, then tip them all into the pastry case. Stick it back in the oven for another 10 minutes
  8. Meanwhile, beat the egg with the tablespoon of sugar and a big tablespoon of crème fraiche
  9. Pour this mixture slowly all over the bilberries, then put the tart back in the oven for a final 15 minutes, although what you really want is for the visible bits of custard to be set and a bit browned. Turn the oven off and leave the tart inside for 10 more minutes, then take it out to cool
  10. Wait as long as you can, then enjoy!

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  1. Salty plums : General Articles : My own 2012 was...

    […] about my own cooking? My favourite thing this year is undoubtably learning to cook Tarte aux Myrtilles better than Paul, though I must admit that foraging our own myrtilles (bilberries) made it even […]

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