There they sit. Small, nubbly red denizens of juicy tartness. In gazing upon them, I can not help but have a moment… were this a human, the nubbly surface would be declared somehow unattractive, but here on this salacious little red-fruited Rubus idaeus, I am reduced to salivating. The high season of summer produce is upon us here in the Midwest, and my joy knows now bounds. In frittering about the internet looking at raspberry recipes, there were all manners of ingredients and solutions, various ways to bathe your berry in this liqueur, reduce it with this herb, breathe on it with air captured from the Western Slope of Mt. Everest… OK, that might be exaggerating. But everything was twiddling about with additions to the raspberry, which might be fine in winter when the berries come from little plastic clamshells, shipped in from miles away, but these are summer berries. Delicious, exuberantly plump summer berries, still half-glowing with the sun (or maybe triumph after the picker was scratched to pieces on the spiky little vines they grow on, being members of the rose family.) They need no fancy adornment. Maybe just a nice pedestal.
After plowing through many a fresh raspberry, I decided the time had come to make a little baked good out of them. I could macerate them, then reduce the juice into an even more intense round of flavor and drizzle it back over, and perhaps I shall on the next time, but I wanted simplicity here. The magnificent nubbly berries demanded the least amount of mucking about, and I was going to give it to them. I slapped together a quick pastry dough, sneaking in a touch of cornmeal and almond extract to build a better pedestal for these ruby beauties.
I rolled it out into a plain circle, dropped the fresh raspberries in the center, and then baptized them in a small touch of sugar, just enough to coax out their juices whilst they baked. A quick fold of the edges, and a galette was made. Quick, simple, and deceptively fancy. As it baked in the oven, I had to grip the edge of the chair I sat in so I would not be tempted to dive headfirst into the oven so I could just marinate in the divine scent coming forth.
And there it was. Glistening crimson with a bubbling mass of tart magma in the center, faint scents of almond gently breezing through. I wanted it. Now. And yet, had I sliced in, the merry filling would have oozed forth, ruining the simple perfection. I had to wait. And then I could wait no more.
Simple Raspberry Tart
serves 4 if you are being stingy, 2 if you love the one you are with, 1 if you feel you deserve it, and I think you do
1/3 c. flour
2 Tbsp. fine cornmeal
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. cold, unsalted butter (reduce your salt to 1/4 tsp. if you only have salted)
1/8 tsp. almond extract
1-3 Tbsp. cold water, or enough to bind
Combine the dry ingredients, then using a pastry blender or knives, cut in the cold butter until you have big coarse crumbs. If you have a food processor, you can do this in there with only a few pulses (so damned easy). Add in the almond extract, and just enough water to form a dough. This can differ wildly based on the humidity that day, the mood of the flour, anything. So do it slowly. If you are doing this in a food processor, pulse gently a couple of times, and with it off, reach in and test your dough, because it will still look like crumbs, albeit slightly bigger crumbs. If you can grasp a generous pinch of it and it holds together, you are good to go. Gently gather together the dough until you have one cohesive ball. I like to do a bit of fraissage here, which is to say… put the ball of dough on a lightly floured surface, then using the heel of your hand, mash down and spread it outwards, sort of like you are smearing it. Gather it back in, turn it, do it again. Do it a few times, then gently form it into a disc, wrap it in plastic wrap, and let it rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
1/2 pint fresh raspberries
scant tablespoon of sugar
Wash the berries, gently tossing to shake off water. Let them sit until your dough has rested. If you are making this for other people who are present in your home, remain in the kitchen and make vigorous noises, as if this is a trial. Splash some flour on yourself to amp up the illusion, and wearily poke your head out and say it will be done soon. Retreat to the kitchen and eat some raspberries. You really didn’t just buy one half-pint, did you?
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Take dough out of fridge. If it feels too stiff, let it rest for 10 minutes. It will warm up and be easier to roll. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough until you have a roughly 10″ diameter circle. Arrange the raspberries in the center of the circle of dough, leaving a good 2-3″ around the edge. Sprinkle the sugar over top (let me pause a moment to say… this is not a lot of sugar. This will leave you with a tart raspberry tart, which is personally how I like to fly. You can add more sugar, but BEWARE! More sugar means more juice will bubble forth, and I can not vouch for crust integrity. Try it with less, like I have written above. It will taste more like raspberries. Which is the whole point.) Wet the edges of the dough, then work around, gently folding the dough up into loose folds, VERY gently pressing to make sure they are adhering to one another. Slide into the oven and bake for 25 minutes, or until the crust has browned. Try to not dive into the oven to get closer to the scent.
Remove from the oven and do not panic over how liquidy the center looks. Slide the galette on its parchment paper onto a cooling rack, and let cool for at least 15 minutes, or until the center looks set. Cut up and serve. Best on the same day.