Pittsboro, NC — Whether it’s a cook-out or a twilight trip to see the fireworks, everyone loves a good 4th of July party. And no patriotic party is complete without festive desserts.
One of my favorites is a colorful tart, made to resemble the flag with the fruits of the season. If you know where to look, you can put it together with ingredients grown in Chatham County.
The Fruit Tart, Demystified
Like many of our favorite dessert recipes, the tart was invented in France — but there’s nothing especially exotic or complicated about this recipe.
Most tarts have three layers: the crust, the filling, and the topping. I like to make each from scratch, though that’s not entirely necessary these days. But if you take a little help from the store, you may have to sacrifice some flavor for convenience.
Sure, you can buy a pie crust in the freezer section, but why not go all out for the holiday? To make your own, you’ll need just 5 ingredients: flour, butter, eggs, sugar, and salt.
Consider buying your butter and eggs at your local farmers’ market in Pittsboro, Goldston, or Siler City. Lindley Mills produces organic flour from North Carolina wheat in Graham, NC — and you can quickly find their products in the bulk section at Weaver Street Market in Chapel Hill or Carrboro.
Many folks fill their tarts with Cool Whip, but there’s a homemade alternative. You’ll need more eggs and some milk from the farmers market, plus sugar, flour, cornstarch, and a vanilla bean.
With a little technique — and a splash of your favorite liqueur — you’ll end up with a smooth, creamy, and slightly sweet pastry cream that you can pipe into or spread on top of your freshly baked tart shell.
Now’s the time to get creative. At this time of the year, your Chatham County produce basket could include blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, peaches, nectarines, and red plums.
Mix and match something blue with something red and you’ve got all the colors you need to recreate the American flag. Baking with a rectangular tart pan will give you the right shape.
One of my favorite fruit tart recipes comes from the Joy of Baking. Check it out for fool-proof preparation and baking instructions.
Focusing on local ingredients and a festive shape and color palette will produce a real Independence Day show-stopper.
Have a happy Fourth!
Photo by Christopher Connell.