Yes indeedy!! Healthier is the word! Woohoo! And also flavourier! Surely that’s a word too? Having just discovered anise pairs really well with strawberries, it flavoured the pistachio crème pâtissière and the taste combination is truly amazing (thank you Ms Segnit). But why is this Star anise strawberry and pistachio tart healthier you ask? Well it involves a crumbly spelt flour sablé breton base, a sugar-free sweetener and almond milk! Can I say ‘woohoo’ again? Woohoo! And long live la Bretagne where this sablé originated – a leetle more information for yoou later mes amis! You’d think I’d be normal and less hyper writing without the sugar high, but no… What’s that floating in the milk?
This tart was invented by combining and adapting various recipes to include ‘healthier’ ingredients and star anise, which you can of course replace with vanilla. But The Flavour Thesaurus guru Niki Segnit reckons the combined powerful sweet flavours of strawberries and vanilla are ‘too much’ and almost ‘synthetic’ so I tried ignoring it for this recipe (don’t shoot me, I’m just the messenger). Anyway, it felt very unnatural not seeing a vanilla pod swimming in my crème pâtissière. Look!Yup. Two star anise! This gives you a lovely subtle taste of anise which won’t remind you of drinking too much Greek Ouzo and Turkish Raki, or scoffing Liquorice Allsorts sweeties. Yes, lovely and subtle.
What’s a sablé breton?
Good question! Sablé actually means sandy, like this pastry’s rich crumbly texture. Sablé breton is from the northern French coastal region of Brittany (breton means ‘from Brittany’), where they make their famous sablé biscuits with beautiful regional butter and salt, la fleur de sel de guérande. It differs from its sister pastries in that the flour is added at the end. It’s almost a cake-pastry hybrid and similar to shortbread.
Beware! It’s rather soft and delicate to roll out, tending to stick and collapse. So if you struggle a bit with pastry you might want to (a) enlist specialist help, (b) have really cool pastry, (c) substitute with shortcrust pastry or (d) give it a try, why not – you only live once! If your interest is piqued you should give sablé breton a go! 🙂
Sablé breton pastry base
- 4 medium-sized to large egg yolks (around 230g) – freeze the whites or make macaron shells/meringues
- 140g/1 cup ground xylitol (sugar substitute) or icing sugar
- 160g/two-thirds of a cup softened unsalted butter
- 200g/1 and a half cups plus 1 and half tablespoons fine white spelt flour (or plain)
- 10g/1 and a half tablespoons ground almonds
- 2 scant teaspoons/8g baking powder
- half to three-quarters tsp/2 to 3g fine sea salt or fleur de sel (to taste)
- Sieve the flour into a bowl with the ground almonds, baking powder and salt, then whisk to combine.
- Whisk the egg yolks till pale and fluffier.
- Whisk in the xylitol or icing sugar, then the butter till combined.
- Use a silicone or plastic spoon or spatula to quickly stir in the flour.
- It will come together in a sticky ball. Don’t overwork.
- Use a little flour to cover and smooth the outside of the ball and wrap it in clingfilm.
- Keep in the fridge for 2 hours to chill.
AFTER TWO HOURS
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (static oven) or 160°C (fan oven).
- Line a 30x40cm baking tray with greaseproof paper.
- Lightly butter some moulds if using.
- Roll the pastry carefully between two pieces of lightly floured baking paper into a rectangle between 2 to 5 mm thick (to taste, but remember it will puff up).
- Unpeel the top sheet of paper then trim the pastry if necessary with a sharp knife or by using a mould to press down and cut out the shape. Freeze leftover pastry or roll some extra pastry squares for mini tarts.
- Place on your baking tray and then peel off the sheet of baking paper on top.
- You could place a mould around the pastry so it rises within the mould. Or leave the pastry without. Prick all over with a fork. You can flatten it a little in the middle to give a slightly higher border.
- Bake in the middle of the oven around 14 to 20 minutes. It’s ready when golden brown and an inserted skewer comes out clean.
- You can cut or trim the pastry into the shape you require as soon as the pastry’s out of the oven by pressing down with a mould or trimming with a sharp knife. Don’t worry if it’s not very neat – the sides will be covered.
Super simple pistachio paste
- 40g/a quarter cup unsalted pistachio nuts – blanch by covering in just-boiled water for 1 minute then rubbing in a teatowel to remove the skin. I didn’t do that this time but will in future to get that nicer colour!
- three-quarters of a teaspoon xylitol or caster/superfine sugar
- Spread the blanched pistachios out on a baking tray or dish and bake at 180°C (static oven) or 160°C (fan oven) 10 to 15 minutes till the nuts are toasted but not black.
- Grind the pistachios and xylitol or sugar with a coffee grinder or pestle and mortar. Keep going 5 to 10 minutes till they stick together in a paste. Keep till needed.
- 300g/1 and a quarter cups almond milk (or any kind)
- two star anise
- 3 egg yolks – around 57g
- 50g/quarter of a cup finely ground xylitol (sugar substitute) or caster sugar (preferably unrefined golden)
- 25g/a quarter cup less 1 generous half tablespoon cornflour
- 30 to 40g/the quantity you made of pistachio paste
- Heat the milk and two star anise (or vanilla) in a heavy-based saucepan till just simmering. Remove from heat. Cover and allow to infuse for around an hour for a more pronounced anise flavour. Then warm again.
- In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks till pale and fluffier.
- Add the xylitol or sugar and whisk till well combined, then add the cornflour and salt and whisk till combined and fluffy.
- Pour the warm milk slowly into the bowl while whisking.
- Pour all the mixture back into the saucepan and whisk constantly on a low to medium heat until it thickens. Too liquid and it’ll be a loose cream on the run, too thick and it’s a tad gungy. Try to get it to a nice creamy consistency that will hold but not gooey.
- Whisk in the pistachio paste till well combined (it’ll be greener next time!)
- Pass through a sieve into a small-medium glass or metal bowl. Cover with plastic wrap/cling film on contact with the cream. Store in the fridge and chill a few hours till needed.
- 20 to 30 medium-sized strawberries and extra to serve (to taste)
- 60 to 70g/half a cup or more finely chopped pistachios
Once made you can store them in an airtight container in the fridge and they’re still great up to three or four days later. The pastry doesn’t seem to get soggy!
I experimented making a cherry mini tart but though pretty it didn’t cause the same ‘wow!’ taste explosion which made me appreciate the amazing strawberry-anise combo and realise why people say certain flavours ‘marry’ well.
So I think for cherries the following flavour combinations, based on Segnit’s suggestions, would work very nicely. There are loads of cherries around so I’ll be ‘testing’ variation no.1 soon!
1. Cinammon and clove cherry almond tart. Use blanched ground almonds instead of pistachios. Don’t use star anise but instead 1 stick of cinammon and 3 cloves to infuse the milk for the crème pat.
2. Anise strawberry and almond tart. Use almonds instead of pistachios.
3. With cream. For a lighter crème pat fold in some whipped double cream.
Time to party with the tart! Ahem. It’s going to the Perfecting Pâtisserie June challenge organised by Kevin of The Crafty Larder and Lucy of BakingQueen74 where it’ll meet some lovely cakes and pastries. Then off to the lovely sociable Fiesta Friday party hosted by Angie@thenovicegardener and cohosts Quinn @Dad Whats 4 Dinner and Naina @Spice in the City. – friends, food and fun! 🙂
And please help yourself to a few more slices as it’s relatively guilt-free! Shall we all ‘woohoo’ together?!
Have a lovely flavoursome end of the week and weekend sweet reader with a delicious combination of yummy stuff! Happy baking and eating! 🙂 x
P.S. Go on, make a tart!