This beautiful bake is the culinary find of the most fantastic week skiing in Meribel, France. Blueberry tart, or tarte aux myrtilles as it is known in the French Alps, is a local favourite. These wild blueberries are found in the mountains, and whilst Waitrose didn’t stock quite the same calibre, this tart will still blow your socks off.
I love skiing. Or at least, I love it now. Years of doggedly pushing through tears and terror on the mountains to keep up with my family and Tim have finally paid off. No more screaming my way down the ‘misery run’ for me! Two years ago I had a breakthrough, last year I was keeping up, and this year I felt like I was flying! It is such a wonderful feeling to throw yourself over the edge of the piste and not worry about what is to come as you know you can tackle it. While I am no alpine Goddess just yet, I was rather pleased I could run with the pack this year. I even went off-piste with Tim, I even relished it, whizzing down through powdery, puffy fluff, and ducking and diving through winter wonderland forests.
All that tomfoolery builds up rather a healthy appetite. The snowcapped eateries dotted around the mountain are a welcome sight after a few hours on the slopes, and inside are all sorts of lovely treats. Much like my hot chocolate recipe of last week, the chocolat chaud here are rich, thick and so ridiculously chocolately. Fancy something to take the edge off the fear? Vin chaud is another regular favourite; warming, slightly spiced, and makes you a slightly better skier.
BUT…the sweet stuff here is something else. At the top of the Rhodos lift in Meribel, is a wonderful restaurant serving the most delectable of tarts. Tarte aux myrtilles was devoured by all in our party, and then some more. The creamy creme patissiere, the buttery shortcrust pastry, the sweet yet slightly tart blueberries all come together in one, delicious mouthful. In this tart, the blueberries coloured the creme patissiere the most vivid purple, which is also a feast for the eyes.
Whilst I haven’t been able to achieve the rich, purple colour running all the way through my tart, (I am sure you could experiment with adding blueberries to the creme patissiere mix before baking) the taste is still wonderful.
In the Rhodos restaurant, they also chose to glaze the top of their tart (perhaps with a blueberry jam) whilst I dusted mine with icing sugar. Both are delicious.
Also whilst in the Meribel, we came across yet another culinary find. Natural, raw energy bars by Snow Grenades. Something of a rarity in an area full of hungry skiers eating their body weight in high-carb ‘yellow food’ and Mars Bars, this rather cool brand is something of a pioneer. In addition to selling caps, beanies and t-shirts, their mission is to give a natural energy option for boarders and skiers, which is such a brilliant idea. Their bars are packed full of nuts (previously soaked in water) and other goodies like dates, coconut oil, coffee beans, and fresh juices. So tasty you can’t believe that they’re good for you! If you’re out on the slopes in Meribel this year, keep your eyes peeled for them.
Back to the blueberry tart, I want you to know that this recipe is special. Very special, because it comes completely from my French grandmother, Janine. Growing up, her creme patissiere was the stuff of legends. As children, my brother and cousins used to feast on it on a regular basis. Bowls and bowls of thick, creamy, vanilla creme patissiere. Our favourite dessert was her own tarte, but rather than baked left as it was, then piled high with seasonal fruits and berries with an apricot glaze on top. Perfection.
When designing this recipe, I had several disasters. I attempted to make a walnut pastry and failed (twice!) as it came out oozing in grease. The second attempt was with wholemeal flour (I used up the plain attempting the walnut pastry) and as I was short on just about everything, the pastry was so thin it barely made it round the tin. Then, I’d only made a single batch of the creme patissiere, which only half-filled the tart. Much to my family’s disappointment on Sunday supper, I was only able to present an edible, yet rather sad looking tart.
My grandmother came to the rescue. She gave me her classic shortcut pastry recipe (which I added an egg yolk to and a little caster sugar) then I made a double batch of creme patissiere and voila! A perfect tarte aux myrtilles.
Despite my disasters, this recipe is easy and satisfying to follow. It will also be devoured in two minutes flat by your family! I know two vanilla pods for the creme patissiere sounds a lot, but trust me, it really makes a difference. You could use a few drops of vanilla essence instead, but it won’t be quite the same. My grandmother’s other top tip was instead of cold butter, use butter that ‘you can press your finger into and it will leave a little squish.’ The theory being that it will work its way into the pastry better when at this temperature. I also think this recipe would work really well with blackberries, cherries, or blackcurrants and redcurrants.
I hope you love this special recipe as much as I do!
- 350g blueberries
- icing sugar for dusting
- 300g plain flour
- 175g unsalted butter, diced (at room temperature)
- 50g caster sugar
- 2 tbsp ground almonds
- 1 egg yolk
- 100g caster sugar
- 6 egg yolks
- 2 tbsp cornflour
- 600ml full-fat milk
- 2 vanilla pods
- Preheat the oven to 180 deg C (fan).
- Sift the flour into a large bowl. Add the butter. Using your fingertips, rub together until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
- Add the caster sugar and ground almonds and stir in.
- Whisk the egg yolk together with 3 tbsp cold water. Pour into the flour mixture and stir together until a dough forms. Shape into a ball, cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
- After chilling, roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface. Place the pastry over a 9 - 9.5" fluted tart tin and press down gently, leaving about 1cm draping over the edge. Prick the base with a fork. Return to the fridge for 20 minutes.
- Remove from the fridge and line with greaseproof paper, filling with baking beans (or rice if you don't have baking beans.) Place in the oven and blind bake for 25 minutes. Take out of the oven, remove the beans and greaseproof paper and trim off the excess pastry. Bake again for a further 5-7 minutes until the base is cooked through.
- Slice the vanilla pods in half lengthways, and scrape the insides into the milk.
- Whisk together the sugar and egg yolks until pale and light.
- Sift the cornflour gradually into the mixture, whisking all the time.
- Gently heat the milk and vanilla in a saucepan until just before it begins to boil. Then, pour it over the egg mixture, whisking constantly.
- Transfer the mixture to a pan and heat gently, stirring all the time until thickened (this may take a while - at least 10 minutes or so.)
- Remove from the heat and leave to cool, stirring from time to time to avoid a skin forming.
- Once the pastry has finished blind baking, pour in the creme patissiere. Cover with the blueberries, leaving as few gaps as possible. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the pastry is nicely browned and the blueberries are beginning to burst and ooze their juice. Remove from the oven to cool.
- Once cooled, dust over some icing sugar and serve.