Jacob Schor ND, FABNO

June 1, 2019

There are certain advantages to baking fruit tarts over fruit pies.  For one, you can manage to get along with difficult to handle doughs that would be frustrating to attempt to make a pie with.  Second there is something more satisfying about the dough to fruit ratio that is pleasing to my taste and sense of balance.  

I’ve recently written about the health benefits of walnuts:

https://www.naturalmedicinejournal.com/blog/celebrate-health-benefits-walnuts

This has left me eager to experiment baking the tarts with a crostata dough that contains fair amounts of walnut flour.  Well technically, I’ve succeeded to date with equal weights of white flour and walnut flour.  If we were to express this ratio in a standard baker’s formula where ingredients are expressed as percentages of the weight of the flour, one could say these doughs are 100% walnut flour, but while technically accurate, such a statement would be grossly misleading.[1]  Even with only half walnut flour, this is a challenging dough to work with.  One useful trick is to roll the dough between sheets of wax paper and refrigerate (or even freeze) the dough between steps.  

Tradition here in Denver is for King Soopers to put raspberries on sale for the Fourth of July.  I am particular to the combination of chocolate with raspberries so may add cocoa to the dough I make for that special occasion.  I have tried a similar recipe using almond flour and found the results particularly pleasant in combination with last year’s cherries, a few quarts of which still reside in our freezer.  I think this is because almond flavoring goes so well with both the cherries and the almond flour.  I’m always thinking I should try a bit of amaretto in a cherry pie but fail to remember this idea while shopping.

The current recipe for a fruit tart, which I kind of follow:

[note this recipe was updated July 5, 2019. The original one was just too complicated, too many steps, too many dirty dishes. It felt like it was a Cooks Illustrated recipe. Instead everything is now done in a food processor, starting with nuts, then flours, followed by powders, butter and then liquid. The end result so far feels similar]

Filling

3 TB butter melted in non-stick pan, to which one adds:

4 cups frozen fruit (cherries or blueberries). I no longer bother to pre-thaw this mixture.  I just heat the fruit in the pan until it starts to simmer. Using fresh frtuit is fine but less liquid comes off and you may need to decrease the starch. hen I add:

1/3 cup cherry concentrate (1:8) as a sweetener. Blueberries don’t need close to this much but cherries do.

Cook until just starting to boil then thicken it with a bit of

Corn starch:   about 3 TB mixed with about ¼ cup water.  Stir this into the fruit and return to a simmer.  

Remove from heat and cool awhile and then refrigerate. You will regret being hasty if this filling isn’t cold when assembling the tart.

Dough:

Nut flour: Add one cup whole walnuts and half a cup of whole almonds to the processor, grind until about to get clumpy.   Add a cup of flour

 We’ve been using mistures of white all-purpose and freshly ground wheat from Wheat, Montana.

Process until mostly blended and add

Salt ½ tsp

Baking powder ¼ tsp

Next add one stick of Butter cut into half inch cubes. I’m not sure it matters if yu cut it neatly but it’s ok to be obsessive trying to make them all the same dimensions. : 6 ounces (one and a half sticks) is what Ruth Reichl suggests in her original recipe [2]but walnuts are rather oily, and so I’ve decreased the butter by a 4 tablespoons .

toss in 1/4 cup sugar. The recipes call for a lot more but this is enough to do the trick.

add

Grate and add rind from half a lemon

1 tsp vanilla

then add

one beaten egg but reserve about a quarter of this to wash the tart with prior to baking.  A full egg is usually too much for the dough. This is the tricky step. Mix it in with quick spurts just enough for the dough to come together.   Shape into two round flat lumps and refrigerate until ready to roll.

Roll to fit a tart pan, 9-10 inches in diameter, assemble, wash with retained egg and bake.  A pinch of coarse sugar sprinkled over the egg wash goes a long way to making this look and taste over the top.


Bake at 375 degrees. 

Since I’m updating this anyway, we should mention a new study on nuts that was published since we initially sent out this recipe. In June 2019 Xiaron Liu and colleagues from Harvard’s TH Chan School of Public Health published their analysis of data from three separate large cohorts that showed increasing nut consumption was significantly associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. This is an important enough study that it deserves a more complete description. Just at the moment I want to get that tart in the oven in time for dinner. Full text of the study is here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6577377/pdf/nzz039.or17-08-19.pdf

While we are thinking about berries we should detour into the National Library of Medicine and see if anything new and exciting has been published related to berries.

Let’s start with blueberries as I’m told Sprouts has then on sale this week.  Just last week, on May 21, Krishna, Ying, and Gomez-Pinilla reported that feeding rats blueberries for two weeks after they had experienced a traumatic brain injury. They concluded that blueberry “…. supplementation has a beneficial value for mitigating the acute aspects of the TBI pathology.”  [3]  That feels like a no-brainer recommendation for anyone who bangs their head.

Back in April, a review article written by Travica et al summarized the results of a dozen studies that had examined the effects of blueberries on cognition and mood. There was so much variation between studies related to dosing, anthrocyanin content and other variables it was challenging for the authors to sum up the information more than to say, “Based on the current evidence, blueberries may improve some measures of cognitive performance.” [4]  

Barely a week earlier a similar review was published, written by Heinz et al, summarized 11 trials of blueberries.  “Findings from these studies indicate that cognitive benefits may be found for delayed memory and executive function in children and for delayed memory, executive function, and psychomotor function in older healthy and MCI adults”. [5]

A paper be Van de Velde et al is scheduled for publication this coming July, which will report that extracts of raspberries and blackberries exhibit wound healing properties in addition to their well-documented anti-inflammatory action. [6]  

Back in May a paper by TJ Smith et al confirmed what we have mentioned over the years that consumption of certain berries actually lower the glycemic index of other carbohydrates, that idea that berry jam on your toast lowers the bread’s glycemic impact. [7]  I know this sounds counter-intuitive.  Read the earlier review on this phenomenon that I wrote in the Natural Medicine Journal in 2013:  https://www.naturalmedicinejournal.com/journal/2013-10/berries-improve-glycemic-response-bread-or-sugar

I use cherry syrup in these berry pies for the extra flavor impact as well as the anti-inflammatory effect.  Martin, Burrell, and Bopp reported last October that tart cherry juice reduced all sorts of inflammatory markers though I don’t think this was really new information for anyone. [8]  Keene et al reported last summer that drinking some cherry juice improved exercise capacity, most notably that, “…  peak power over the first 20 seconds … and total work completed during the 60-seconds all-out sprint … were 10% higher…” in after drinking cherry juice than after placebo. [9]These findings are not news.  We’ve mentioned similar reports that have been published over the years. [10]  

Health Effects of Tart Cherries: 2011 https://www.naturalmedicinejournal.com/journal/2011-08/health-effects-tart-cherries

Cherry Juice Eases Pain: 2010 https://www.naturalmedicinejournal.com/journal/2010-07/cherry-juice-eases-pain-running-race-participants

Anthocyanins and CVD Markers: 2011

https://www.naturalmedicinejournal.com/journal/2017-08/anthocyanins-cardiovascular-health


[1]https://www.kingarthurflour.com/professional/bakers-percentage.html

[2]http://ruthreichl.com/2013/07/the-last-sour-cherry-tart-this-summer.html/

[3]Krishna G, Ying Z, Gomez-Pinilla F. Blueberry Supplementation Mitigates Altered Brain Plasticity and Behaviour After Traumatic Brain Injury in Rats. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2019 May 21:e1801055. 

[4]Travica N, D’Cunha NM, Naumovski N, et al. The effect of blueberry interventions on cognitive performance and mood: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Brain Behav Immun. 2019 Apr 15. pii: S0889-1591(18)31195-4. 

[5]Hein S, Whyte AR, Wood E, Rodriguez-Mateos A, Williams CM. Systematic review of the effects of blueberry on cognitive performance as we age. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2019 Apr 3. pii: glz082. 

[6]Van de Velde F, Esposito D, Grace MH, Pirovani ME, Lila MA. Anti-inflammatory and wound healing properties of polyphenolic extracts from strawberry and blackberry fruits. Food Res Int. 2019 Jul;121:453-462. 

[7]Smith TJ, Karl JP, Wilson MA, et al.  Glycaemic regulation, appetite and ex vivo oxidative stress in young adults following consumption of high-carbohydrate cereal bars fortified with polyphenol-rich berries. Br J Nutr. 2019 May;121(9):1026-1038. 

[8]Martin KR, Burrell L, Bopp J. Authentic tart cherry juice reduces markers of inflammation in overweight and obese subjects: a randomized, crossover pilot study. Food Funct. 2018 Oct 17;9(10):5290-5300. 

[9]Keane KM, Bailey SJ, Vanhatalo A, Jones AM, Howatson G. Effects of montmorency tart cherry (L. Prunus Cerasus) consumption on nitric oxide biomarkers and exercise performance. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2018 Jul;28(7):1746-1756. 

[10]Kelley DS, Adkins Y, Laugero KD. A Review of the Health Benefits of Cherries. Nutrients. 2018 Mar 17;10(3).