Marzipan-Stuffed Danish Strawberry Tart with Chocolate
August 28, 2018
Before the slow descent into autumn, I’m cramming my kitchen with as many of summer’s sweetest berries as reasonable. Most of the time, I don’t get around to doing anything with them–they generally don’t last long as soon as my children spot the nubby raspberries, glistening cherries, and plump strawberries on the counter. The other day, however, a Danish strawberry tart was in order.
Back in college, while studying one summer in Normandy, I discovered the magic of the French patisserie. No matter where I went–from the tiny beachside town where I lived to the bigger cities–the pastries were consistently excellent. Over the years, as I continued to visit that country, I settled upon my favorite: a simple fruit tart. A firm but flaky buttery crust cradled the silkiest cream. Whether it was topped with strawberries or a medley of fruit, it looked like a work of art, and it tasted just as spectacular.
I recently discovered a Danish version rich with marzipan and chocolate, and it’s quite possibly a contender for one of my favorite desserts I’ve made. Honestly, it takes little more than the words strawberry, chocolate, and marzipan to get me to try a new recipe. Marzipan–while not unique to Scandinavia–is one of the most quintessential flavors of my Norwegian heritage, and I’ve enjoyed almond in virtually all forms since my childhood (fyrstekake–Norwegian prince cake–is one of my lifelong favorites, for example).
Today’s recipe begins with a typical buttery crust. But nestled between the crust and thick layer of crème pâtissière, you’ll find a rich filling of marzipan. That’s the detail that sets this recipe apart from those irresistible French tarts and makes it taste decidedly Scandinavian.
These days I’m not eating much in the way of dessert. I don’t really have a sweet tooth, to be honest, and I’ve discovered over the course of working with a dietician and paying attention to my body’s cues that refined sugar makes my body feel less than optimal. Still, I love to bake and think there’s magic in the way that a handful of ingredients can transform into something utterly irresistible. Baking is one of my love languages, and even though I will generally eat only a few bites, if I’m going to bake a dessert for someone I love, it had better be spectacular. This tart certainly is.
And while those sweet berries of summer need no help to stand out, a bit of marzipan and chocolate never hurt, right?
For the crème pâtissière: 3 tablespoons cornstarch 1 1/4 cups whole milk, divided 3 egg yolks 1/4 cup sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 cup heavy cream
For the tartshell: 1 1/2 cups flour 1 teaspoon salt 3 tablespoons powdered sugar 1 stick ice-cold butter, cubed 2 egg yolks
For the filling: 3.5 ounces marzipan, grated 1/2 cup sugar 2 eggs 3/4 stick butter, room temperature, cut into small pieces 1/3 cup flour
Additional ingredients: 3 ounces dark chocolate 1/2 pound fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
Begin by making the crème pâtissière, as it will need time to cool. In a small bowl, stir together the cornstarch with 1/4 cup of the milk until it dissolves, then whisk in the egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla. In a medium saucepan, heat the remaining milk over medium heat until almost boiling. Add the egg and milk mixture in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly. Allow it to come to a boil and cook for a few minutes, continuing to stir constantly, until it’s thickened and there’s no remaining hint of cornstarch flavor. Transfer this to a bowl and cover, then refrigerate for at least two hours. (The cream can also be made a day or two in advance.)
In a food processor, whirl together the flour, salt, and powdered sugar. Add the butter through the feeder tube while continuing to pulse until the dough forms a coarse texture like sand. Add the yolks and whirl until the dough comes together. Transfer it to a sheet of plastic wrap and press it together into a ball, then wrap with the plastic and chill in the refrigerator for an hour.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Roll the dough into a circle just a little larger than a 9-inch tart pan, then press it into the pan. Prick the bottom a few times and bake for 5 minutes, then remove.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl whisk together the marzipan, sugar, and eggs until the sugar dissolves. Add the butter and stir until the filling is smooth and fluffy. Add the flour and fold in until incorporated. Pour this into the tart shell and spread evenly. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes.
While the tart and filling bake, remove the pastry cream from the refrigerator and whisk until smooth. Gradually add the heavy cream and continue to whisk until smooth.
Then in a double boiler, melt the chocolate. When the tart is done baking, spread half of the chocolate over the top of the marzipan. Add the pastry cream on top, filling almost to the top of the tart shell (reserve excess pastry cream for another use). Arrange the strawberries on top and drizzle with the remaining chocolate.
Refrigerate for about a half an hour or so to let the pastry cream firm up before slicing.
Makes 1 9-inch tart.
Adapted with permission from From the North by Katrin Björk, Page Street Publishing Co. 2018.