After two installments of what I started as the "fruit tarts to make now" series in editions Autumn and Winter, I fully intend on posting you what should obviously follow - Spring. Hopefully while it is still, well, spring. As I write this I've got all the photos sorted out, but haven't got enough time to do the writing bit, not for another week or so.
UPDATE: Post now (very belatedly) finished! Thanks and sorry if I've kept anyone waiting...
If you are willing to go back to around the beginning of March...
Also, the quality of the snow changes too. It tends to be light and powdery in the deep of winter because the air is fairly dry. As the warmer weather approaches, so does the humidity which makes the snow wetter and heavier. Also, it melts more quickly.
From the months of January through March or even April, our local green markets are all but closed with very little on the shelves. All you may find would be dried foods, root vegetables, and perhaps apples. Even when the temperatures start going up and the day growing longer, spring seems to be still far off as far as fresh produce is concerned.
So all in all, we mostly eat the remains of winter fruits for a little while longer.
First on the list: lemons.
Anyways, lemon thyme and yogurt tart.
Here I took Greek-style yogurt and drained it further of fluid, and replaced it with the equal amount of juice of lemon, together with grated zest for good measure, to make a lemon-flavored filling. I also added chopped fresh lemon thyme leaves.
Another lemon tart recipe I made was perhaps not particularly springy, but anyways...
While lemons are around all year round, the same cannot be said of the yuzu.
I employed basically the same tactics in making this as I did for the yuzu tart I wrote about in the winter fruit tart post, which was a version of lemon squares; just bake it in a tart pan. I liked the (mostly) vegan one I used last time, but here I looked around for some other new recipes, and settled on this.
Not surprisingly when you see how much coconut that goes in the tart, the dominant flavor of it was coconut. I think I could have used a little more yuzu and mint, but the flavors played out really well all the same.
As the yuzu makes an exit, arrives amanatsu - another one of Japanese citrus fruit.
I think it's safe to say that this was one of the more elaborate recipes I ever make, but the result was well worth the trouble. The recipe can be found here (in Japanese).
And now, one of the most versatile citrus fruits - oranges. Once found almost exclusively imported, oranges are increasingly more widely available domestically-grown in this country, which I think is great.
Another one with the two types of oranges plus strawberries...
I used this recipe, and replaced spelt instead of regular wheat flour, mascarpone rather than Neufchatel, and added some grated zest and juice of an orange.
...Okay, moving on.
You can find these salty-buttery-all-round-rich cookies in Japan, both imported and domestically made. But not so often in a way, as it is here, paired with fresh fruits and served as a tart. I think I first came across it in this book.
...Which probably explains why my sable Bretons looked rather like cupcakes, especially with all the cream on top...
This winter, by the way I went to town on produced-in-Japan oranges (and other citrus fruits). I wasn't in a full-on candied peel or marmalade making mode, but I did make something sort of like candied slices - but in honey (like these). Here's a tart that used some of them:
Now, as April rolls around, the persistent snow finally melts, and gets replaced by a hint of green that starts showing on the grounds and on the trees.
As I've already said, sights of green come a little later at our local green markets, and the absence of fruits are especially conspicuous (except perhaps for languishing apples).
Green or red, rhubarb is one of the very few fresh fruits (ok, it is really a vegetable... but still) that are around in early spring, so I tend to bake a lot of things with it, including, yes, tarts.
And this one was pretty simple to make, which was like a bonus. All you need to do is roll out a piece of (store-bought) puff pastry, place stalks of rhubarb on top, drizzle with honey, and bake.
Something a little different with red rhubarb and puff pastry...
The recipe calls for store-bought puff pastry, but I had, on a whim, just made a batch on my own, so that was what I used here. Mind you, it was not the proper, folding a sheet of butter in a flour dough kind, but a simplified version (so-called rough puff) - but I think it worked perfectly fine for this kind of pastries.
The recipe is from Annie Rigg's new book Summer Berries & Autumn Fruits: 120 Sensational Sweet & Savoury Recipes (Kyle Books, 2015). This was the first recipe I tried from this beautiful book, and it wasn't until I started making the tart that I realized I was making the cover recipe. (Incidentally, the second recipe I tried happened to be the one of the back cover. Funny how these things happen....) A simple and gorgeous tart at any rate.
While I love how red rhubarb make the prettiest pink pies and puddings, red ones are hard to find around here, so most of the things I bake with rhubarb end up looking, well, NOT pink.
While I don't terribly mind my rhubarb things dull green, when I do want to make them pinkish, I do a bit of tweaking. Sometimes I just use redder parts of the stalks. Other times, I cook it with some decidedly red fruit, to 'tint' the rhubarb pink.
Another rhubarb pistachio tart that I made a little more recently...
Meanwhile, for these rhubarb brioche tarts, I used only red parts of rhubarb, AND paired it with a raspberry jam for a good measure.
Another brioche tart...
And then, I made something else where I 'colored' my rhubarb with raspberries.
Later, I made another tart, taking particular care not to let my rhubarb turn into mush...
This brilliant idea of cooking rhubarb with hibiscus, by the way, was first introduced to me through this other rhubarb tart recipe:
While hibiscus wins the rhubarb-painting game hands down, there is one fruit that is around at the same time as rhubarb is and tastes really well paired with the latter, while giving it a pretty shade of pinky red.
And! Strawberries are generous in sharing their color with any green rhubarb that goes with them.
This rhubarb and ricotta tart also pairs cooked rhubarb and fresh strawberries, in a different way.
Another good example of strawberries making up for the lack of 'pinkness' of rhubarb:
But before the tart got baked?
It is likely to have escaped your notice in the first picture, but the tart was covered with the dough cut into cherry blossoms shapes. I made this two years ago, thoroughly inspired by a picture I found on Instagram, of a "flower pie" like this one; isn't it just so pretty?
And so, with spring comes sakura, both in a form of food and the real thing, on the trees.
We have a few cherry trees along our street up here, and while they aren't as extravagant as a lot of them you'd admire at the country's more famous sakura sights, we cherish them all the same.
This spring I didn't go for hanami anywhere, nor did I made many sakura sweets as I had done in some other years. But I did try and make a sakura-themed flower tart - again.
Off it went in the oven...
For those who are wondering, I used strawberries and apples for the filling, spiced lightly with cardamom and nutmeg. The crust was made using corn flour (i.e. very finely ground cornmeal), based loosely on this recipe. Hence a strawberry apple tart with cornmeal crust.
So, as you can see, strawberries have a very important role to play in spring fruit baking, either together with other fruits or on their own.
Considering that strawberries are around since late November, you may think we'd be tired of seeing them by March or so. But somehow, they never fail to thrill me when I see them in early spring - and invariably I find myself picking up a punnet or two. So, more strawberry baking is in order.
But that doesn't mean I'm averse to baking with apples in the dead of winter and early spring. In fact, here in Nagano where everyone seems to either grow apples on their own or receive a whole bunch from folks who do, we often find ourselves left with more apples than we know what to do with; so I've got to bake, and things like these apple and strawberry tarts can turn some of your dull apples into something delightful.
And for a little while in early spring, I bake with nothing but strawberries...
I wish I could say these tasted as good as they looked pretty, but alas, not really. Funny how, a lot of times, something you make halfheartedly tends to taste, well, halfhearted? This was one of such instances, but they tasted ok enough.
Another no-recipe strawberry tart - but this time, one that actually tasted good.
And now this one, I actually do remember what recipe I used!
In general, I prefer my fruits fresh to cooked, particularly so with strawberries. (My worst enemy is strawberry jam; but interestingly, I can enjoy roasted strawberries - often with olive oil and/or balsamic vinegar. Go figure.) But once in a while, I don't mind baking with them if the occasion calls for it - like, when I happen to have hell a lot of them in the house.
Another reason I may want to bake with strawberries: when I've found a recipe that I just HAVE to try.
And I was left with a LOT of strawberry caramel after the tarte tatins, and it was so good there was no way I could just throw it away. So I used it to make yet another strawberry tart.
Meanwhile, come May the mountains become greener by day, quite literally.
The light can feel almost summerlike, but it's still on the cool side of warm up here.
By mid May, while still busy baking with strawberries and rhubarb, I'd start spotting some other fruits at the store.
I just said that the loquat isn't my favorite fruit, but in the last few years I came to realize that I tend to enjoy them cooked rather than eaten fresh. And even more importantly, I treasure their seeds more than the edible flesh; loquat seeds have an aroma that's strongly reminiscent of amaretto, just as apricot kernels do, without the fuss of cracking open the tough shell required with the latter. I've used loquat seeds to make a liqueur, and flavor things like custard and panna cotta, to an excellent result.
Another stone fruit that arrives in late spring:
A few mango tarts I made last spring:
These are another one of simple tarts that take advantage of store-bought puff pastry and involve very little preparation. The recipe has you serve them with a berry cream, but here I just had them with vanilla ice cream.
Another one, with unbaked mangoes:
I think I made the crust a little too thick (a pitfall I fall into rather often), but the luscious mangoes and the fragrant cream were more than make up for it.
And that's a wrap for my spring fruit tart galore...
And both rhubarb and strawberries may be found well into early summer, so there might just be a few more coming.
Before I sign off, here's one last bit...
Lastly, my apologies for taking so long to finish up this spring post that I first posted at the end of May (which was already late for a 'spring' story). Thanks for putting up with me and my regrettable blogging habit and I hope to see you all here soon-ish...!