Deborah Madison's Austere Berry Tart

"No need for a glaze or pastry cream, just perfectly sweet berries in a crisp buttery crust."

[Photographs: Caroline Russock]

I just love the idea of an Austere Berry Tart. Ripe berries, a buttery tart crust, and perhaps a bit of jam or a sprinkle of confectioners' sugar. This tart is an exercise in restraint, and when it comes to desserts a little restraint can go a long way, especially when you have fruit that's good enough to stand alone.

Adapted from Seasonal Fruit Desserta by Deborah Madison, this Austere Berry Tart was inspired by Lindsey Shere, Madison's pastry mentor. Shere taught Madison about minimalism when it comes to desserts, and this theme runs throughout Seasonal Fruit Desserts.

The tart starts with Madison's Tart Dough, which is an absolute pleasure to put together when compared to other pastry doughs. Simply buzz all the ingredients together in the food processor, drizzle in a bit of water mixed with vanilla and almond extract and press the crumbs into a tart pan. No rolling or chilling—just into the oven to brown.

Once the base is prepared, brush it with some warmed preserves and fill it with whatever berries look best. I chose strawberries.

The tart is placed back into the oven to just warm the berries through, then gets finished with a dot of jam on each berry and a dusting of confectioners' sugar around the edges. And that's it! No need for a glaze or pastry cream, just perfectly sweet berries in a crisp buttery crust.

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Austere Berry Tart

- makes one 9-inch tart (6 servings) -

Adapted from Seasonal Fruit Desserts by Deborah Madison.

Deborah Madison's Austere Berry Tart

About This Recipe

This recipe appears in: This Week In Recipes


  • For Tart
  • 2 to 3 cups berries (three 6-ounce packages)
  • 3 tablespoons raspberry jam or red currant jelly
  • Confectioners' sugar
  • For Tart Dough
  • 1 cup all purpose flour or 3/4 cup white plus 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry
  • 1 tablespoon organic dark or light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange, lemon, or tangerine zest, when called for
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
  • 1 tablespoon cold water mixed with 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and/or 1/4 teaspoon almond extract


  1. 1

    Line a 9-inch round tart pan or a rectangular pan measuring 4 x 13 inches wide with the dough. (If using the latter, you will have extra dough.) Chill while you preheat the oven to 375°F, then line with foil and pie weights and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the foil, then bake until golden, 12 to 15 minutes more.

  2. 2

    Lay the berries on a towel. Heat the jam with a few teaspoons of water to thin it, then press through a sieve. Brush about half on the tart shell. Starting with the larger berries, arrange them around the edge of the shell, working towards the center with progressively smaller fruits. Wedge them closer to one another, making a single layer. Return the tart to the oven for another 5 minutes.

  3. 3

    Reheat the remaining jam, then dab a little over each berry. Remove the tart from its pan, set on a serving plate, and dust the edges with confectioners' sugar.

  4. 4

    Tart Dough

  5. 5

    - makes one 9-inch tart shell -

  6. 6

    Put the flour, sugar, salt, and zest, if using, into a food processor; pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is broken up into pieces the size of baby peas. Drizzle in the water-vanilla mixture and pulse until large, moist-looking crumbs have formed.

  7. 7

    Gather the crumbs together into a small mass. If there is any dry flour left in the bowl, add a few more drops of water to bring it together as well, then add it to the rest of the dough. Shape the dough into a disk about an inch thick and refrigerate. If rolling the dough, refrigerate for about 30 minutes.


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