Berry-Topped White Balsamic Custard Tart (and LA!)

June 8, 2011 at 7:42 pm 71 comments

Berry-Topped White Balsamic Custard Tart

Pulled pork tacos. Mexican cokes in slim, tapered glass. A bowl of kumquats, gem-like, straight from tree to counter. And food trucks selling $21 foie gras PB & J sandwiches – welcome to LA!

It’s not my first time in the city of angels. I came at 15 with a couple friends, but the trip was forgettable. We stuck to downtown, mostly malls, and the Sunset strip. We tried to find celebrities and instead lost the chance to really dig into LA. Where were the farmer’s markets and neighborhood dives? Where were the local vendors? Where was the character? It’s no wonder the state left a bland taste on my tongue. California, that colorless word.

As a result, I spent the last four years telling people, “Oh, I don’t really like LA.” When pressed for reasons, I said the city was superficial, and for good measure, “I like seasons.” But I couldn’t resist when C-, an LA-based friend from college, invited me to stay and visit. I resolved to make this trip different, if I had to eat my way across California to do it.

Berries, berries, berries!

I admitted defeat two days later, the car parked on a ridge overlooking all of LA. The sun had dipped past the horizon. The palm trees I thought looked so silly became unexpectedly beautiful against the blackening sky. As night fell, millions of lights edged the foothills, the city actually shimmering like a mirage. “Okay,” I told C-, who had known all along that I’d be easy to break. “I kind of love this.”

Maybe it’s naïve to think there’s a “real LA” to discover, but I’ve felt it everywhere. I waited in line for cheap, cheap tacos piled with cheddar in Culver City. In Santa Monica, I fell in love with a fashion designer’s tiny house, decorated with lime green plastic couches and funky glass lights. C- and I had dinner in a Hollywood club with a full jazz/swing orchestra. Unbelievable.

It’s hard to call California bland while you sip watermelon-rosemary lemonade, nibbling the last bit of salted caramel macaron.

Chilled pie crust

When C- goes to work, I take advantage of California produce. His parents graciously opened the whole house to me, saying that every ingredient and kitchen counter was available. When I opened the fridge and saw quality coconut milk, spice flecked pumpkin butter, fresh avocado and more cherries than I could eat, my fingertips began to itch. I found their food processor, pulsed the butter, and had a tart crust chilling in the fridge in a heartbeat.

While I was in school, I bookmarked hundreds of recipes I wanted to try but couldn’t make. No tools, time, or ingredients there – but here the afternoon was mine. Right away I knew I wanted to tackle a white balsamic custard tart, topped with a mosaic of fresh berries.

C-’s kitchen is a lot bigger than mine. I opened almost every cabinet and drawer trying to find white balsamic vinegar. I felt vaguely like I was robbing the house, but they’d specifically said I could look around. Finally, tucked in the corner of a slim cabinet, I found a raspberry blush white balsamic vinegar. It was even better than I could have expected.

Tart, anyone?

A few turns of the whisk, some gentle heat on the stove, and a yolk-colored custard came together. Opening the plastic cartons of raspberries honestly felt like unwrapping rubies. I snuggled the berries around the perimeter of the crust, circling the custard, one plump blackberry topping the center.

I was worried the balsamic vinegar would be too sour, but instead, the custard’s flavor is tangy and elusive. If I hadn’t baked it myself, I’d have no explanations for the mystery ingredient. Not citrusy enough to be lemon or sweet enough to be yogurt, but unusually pleasant. Paired with the fresh berries and buttery crust, the tart didn’t disappoint.

There’s a little less than half the tart remaining, and a full seven days to spend in California. Will there be any leftovers after my trip to the Hollywood farmer’s market? When I get back from Disneyland? Who knows, but I don’t mind. More raspberries magically appeared in C-’s fridge this morning. I can’t wait to see what else LA offers.

Raspberry blush

No, you don’t need a bottle Italian raspberry blush white balsamic to make this tart. But don’t be tempted to skip out on the balsamic vinegar. It’s just so interesting and unlike anything I’ve ever made. It’s also lovely with the fresh berries.

Next time I might try a different crust recipe. This one was delicious, but a little too crumbly. C- didn’t have any tart pans with removable bottoms, so I used a regular pie dish. Maybe that’s why I had a little trouble nudging each slice out of the pan. Oh well – still delicious.

Berry-Topped White Balsamic Custard Tart
Barely tweaked from Bon Appetit
Makes a 9″ tart

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large egg yolk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon whipping cream

1/2 cup whipping cream
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup raspberry blush white balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 (1/2 stick) butter
Fresh berries to top

Pulse the flour, sugar, and salt a couple times in a food processor to combine. Add the cubes of butter and pulse until the mixture forms little balls, like coarse meal. Add the yolk, extract, and cream, and pulse just until a dough comes together.

Press the dough into a 9″ tart pan with a removable bottom (I used a ceramic pie dish and it worked out okay.) Prick all over with a fork and chill for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake the crust until golden, about 20 minutes. Check carefully – the very edges of mine burned because I wasn’t paying attention! If the crust has bubbled up at all, use the back of a spoon to press it down. Let the crust cool completely.

To make the custard, whisk the cream and cornstarch together until lump-free. Whisk in the eggs, yolks, and vanilla until blended. Boil the vinegar in a small saucepan until reduced by half, to 1/4 cup. Add the water, sugar, and butter, and heat until the butter melts and the mixture returns to a boil.

Working slowly, gradually whisk the vinegar mixture into the egg mixture. Return to the pan and heat until the custard thickens and boils, about a minute. Strain into a bowl and let cool. Spread the custard into the tart crust and smooth with a spatula. Cover and chill for at least 3 hours or up to a day.

Top the tart with fresh berries and chill until ready to serve.

Printer-Friendly Version – Berry-Topped White Balsamic Custard Tart

Entry filed under: Pies/Tarts. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , .

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp Lemon Basil Olive Oil Cake

71 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Simone  |  June 8, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    This looks amazing, and very inventive! I’ve had that same raspberry vinegar in my pantry for some time now, mainly for making raspberry vinaigrette every now and again. I’m excited to try this new application! Thank you for sharing.

  • 2. deltayeltay  |  June 8, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    That looks amazing! And it sounds like you’re having an awesome time in LA; good thing you gave the city a second chance ;) And as always, beautiful writing! I always look forward to your blog updates because I know there’ll be beautifully articulated thoughts waiting. Cheers!

  • 3. Marcella  |  June 8, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    Glad you have warmed up to LA :) Now maybe I should give the east coast a chance….

    An LA girl through and through

  • 4. The Teenage Taste  |  June 8, 2011 at 9:15 pm

    I’ve always wanted to travel to California, but mostly for the chance to tour Hollywood and LA. Glad to hear you are having a good time! That tart looks delicious! Berries are so yummy this time of year!

  • 5. Kathy - Panini Happy  |  June 8, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    So glad you gave LA a second chance! I lived there for a few years and thought it was a lot of fun and tons to explore. Your tart is GORGEOUS!

  • 6. Mary @ stylefyles  |  June 8, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    That looks absolutely delightful. C’s parents must be thrilled at your presence! =)

    As a newbie Los Angelite (with three years of exploration under my belt and no immediate plans to leave, I think I deserve the title… long as the adjective “newbie” is carefully placed before it) I really enjoyed reading this post. I even did an emotional little chuckle laugh when I read your description of the beautiful palm trees and the city seeming like a mirage at the base of the foothills.

    I’m from the East Coast originally and I didn’t like SoCal at the outset, but every day I fall more and more in love with sweet LA. I’m glad you’ve come around.

    As far as the tart goes? Bookmarking it to try. This looks fantastic!!!!

    PS – out here, strawberries magically reappear in all our fridges each morning (just kidding, not even LA is that perfect).

    Enjoy the rest of your stay!

  • 7. Hannah @ Bake Five  |  June 8, 2011 at 10:22 pm

    I remember taking the bus with a couple of friends, hoping to catch the sunset at santa monica beach. We slapped on sunscreen and everything, just to get ourselves ready for the beach. Little did we know that the bus ride would take so long! By the time we reached, it was time for dinner.

    But LA nonetheless was an amazing city. It has a way of making you feel carefree, or maybe it’s just me. Enjoy the rest of LA! (:

    Once again, awesome writing and photography. Not to mention, the amazing looking tart you’ve made. I’m salivating!

  • 8. RWS  |  June 8, 2011 at 10:52 pm

    All my friends thought I was nuts when I went to LA and the only things I really wanted to see were the Bullwinkle statue and the Watts Towers.

  • 9. Lauren Gillespie  |  June 8, 2011 at 11:23 pm

    Loved this post! Maybe because I’m a California girl. Glad you are having a great time and baking again!

  • 10. D-  |  June 9, 2011 at 12:53 am

    You visited Culver City, and didn’t visit J-? For shame!
    Also, balsamic vinegar is one of my favorite ingredients. I cooked it with some chicken and some rosemary from the garden the other night and it was fantastic.

    • 11. Elissa  |  June 9, 2011 at 1:00 am

      I did visit J-! And Ca-! I just didn’t want to have two people with names that start with C (J-‘s girlfriend, and my host) and I didn’t even think about using Ca- until just now. Having a floor reunion right now with J-, C-, R.A. J-, H-, and Ca-. Awesome!

  • 12. jessica  |  June 9, 2011 at 1:37 am

    So glad you are back in the kitchen! I have missed your posts ;-) This tart looks fabulous!

  • 13. Rachel  |  June 9, 2011 at 1:46 am

    This looks amazing. I’m glad you got a second chance to see LA. I’ve found that sometimes you’re not really “ready” to see something, and then when you do finally see it – really see it – it’s worth the wait.

  • 14. Warm Vanilla Sugar  |  June 9, 2011 at 1:56 am

    Beautiful tart! LA sounds awesome. I’ve never been, and I like the way you described it. Very cool.

  • 15. chocswirl  |  June 9, 2011 at 6:11 am

    Hmmm… such a pretty tart! The balsamic sounds so interesting, definitely gonna give it a try!

  • 16. Lauren at Keep It Sweet  |  June 9, 2011 at 6:43 am

    I’ve definitely heard different perspectives on LA, but I loved it when I visited years ago. This tart look delicious and I love the balsamic aspect!

  • 17. Danae  |  June 9, 2011 at 9:05 am

    I just picked strawberries yesterday and wondered what i was going to do with all of them! Thanks for the recipe :)

  • 18. Jessica  |  June 9, 2011 at 9:26 am

    Wow I love this post. I’ve done some cooking in friends’ kitchens before and it”s always so much fun, like going through a treasure chest! I’ve always wanted to go to L.A too, I’m glad you found some of its truer character!
    The tart too – well, I’m lost for words. It looks beautiful and delicious!

  • 19. Carolyn  |  June 9, 2011 at 9:43 am

    Such a pretty tart! This looks amazing. It looks beautiful and delicious! Glad you are having a great time!

  • 20. Annalise  |  June 9, 2011 at 10:55 am

    Another fantastic post Elissa! And this tart looks amazing. I’m glad you’re enjoying your summer off and your trip to LA!

  • 21. Melissa  |  June 9, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    LA can be a lot of fun. I grew up just outside LA and when I visit I never miss a chance to go back to Venice Beach. One of my favorite places in So Cal.

  • 22. C-  |  June 9, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    Omnomnom so good! I think if this were the matrix, i would take the blue pill so i could keep eating food that was digitally made to taste good.

  • 23. Tiah  |  June 9, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    Would plain balsamic vinegar work for this? Or do you think it would be better to use a flavored vinegar? I have some Loganberry Vinegar I got last year at the farmers market, would that work? Thanks!

    • 24. Elissa  |  June 9, 2011 at 6:20 pm

      Tiah – Plain balsamic vinegar does have a slightly different flavor (I think white balsamic vinegar is a little more mild and a little less sweet) but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t work in the recipe. As for Loganberry, I have no clue what it would taste like, but you could definitely substitute it. I know someone on Epicurious made the tart with champagne vinegar and said it was good. Good luck! Let us know how it turns out if you experiment a little :)

  • 25. Sue  |  June 9, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    His parents must have been happy with their decision to give you full reign over the kitchen! :)

  • 26. sweetsimplestuff  |  June 9, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    I am glad that you are discovering L.A. There is so much more than “swimming pools and movie stars” … I have lived in the suburbs forever and I’m still finding new things to do. What a delicious looking tart! I bet you will be invited to visit again!

  • 27. C-'s Mom  |  June 10, 2011 at 12:19 am

    She sure will! As the lucky host of this amazing young woman, I get to share how incredible the tart actually tasted. Who knew my kitchen supplies could work such magic? Our family is so happy Elissa gave LA another chance!

  • 28. MaggieCooks  |  June 10, 2011 at 12:37 am

    This looks delicious! This def goes to my list of things I want to make and of course eat! thank you for sharing your recipes! :)

  • 29. rosie  |  June 10, 2011 at 3:17 am

    Looks absolutely delicious! Oh, and I was wondering if you checked your gmail account for 17andbaking often… I emailed you about a writing/college major question a couple months ago.. Please respond when you have the time! Thank you! (:

    • 30. Elissa  |  June 10, 2011 at 3:54 am

      Hi Rosie, I’m so sorry for not answering! The last few months of college were pretty crazy and I fell way behind on emails. I’ll take a look through them now and get that response for you :)

  • 31. Lea  |  June 10, 2011 at 3:28 am

    The Tart looks amazing! Love the colors from the berries, contrasting so beautifully!
    But: Why Google Ads? Are you earning money with this blog?

    • 32. Elissa  |  June 10, 2011 at 3:53 am

      Hi Lea, I’m not sure what you’re referring to – 17 and baking is ad free, and I don’t earn any money from the blog. Are you reading my site from your phone or iPod? My site is hosted on WordPress, and ads usually appear on WordPress blogs when you view them from a mobile device. Has nothing to do with me though.

  • 33. Lea  |  June 10, 2011 at 5:08 am

    Well, I couldn’t remember ever seeing ads on your blog, that’s why I thought it’s strange!
    Now, it isn’t there anymore… (it was a “lose fat”-ad, haha)
    I’m reading from my desktop computer, though!
    Thank you for your answer!

    • 34. Elissa  |  June 10, 2011 at 5:40 am

      A lose fat ad… Chuckle chuckle :)

  • 35. TasteFood  |  June 10, 2011 at 9:52 am

    I’ve never tried a balsamic custard. Luckily I purchased loads of berries at the market, so this will be dessert tonight.

  • 36. Geni - Sweet and Crumby  |  June 10, 2011 at 10:43 am

    Hello Elissa! You are almost next door if you are still here. I am in Burbank. A couple of recommendations: 1)Buttermilk Truck’s Red Velvet Pancakes…worth every extra pound (so much for the “lose fat” campaign!) 2) Picnic at the beach —Point Dume in Malibu…easy parking…not as crowded, just beautiful. 3) Take a Six Tastes tour (I am not affiliated in any way), their Little Tokyo tour is fab…Udon noodles, fresh ahi, a historic mochi bakery (Fugetsu Do), Yamazaki bakery AND tayaki. Cheap tickets are found on Goldstar all the time for almost every date available. Or email me from my blog and I’ll email you the exact places we ate. Everything was memorable. This post is amazing…the writing superb as usual but you sound happier and lighter in being if that makes sense so I am happy for you. BTW…tart looks incredible and so sophisticated. Take care. —Geni

  • 37. jess  |  June 11, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    this tart looks amazing!!!

  • 38. Julie  |  June 12, 2011 at 2:11 am

    I am also seeing a Google ad on your blog – for Big Fish Games. (I am using a MacBook.)

    • 39. Elissa  |  June 13, 2011 at 10:53 am

      Hi Julie, thanks for the feedback. I did a little research and found out that WordPress sometimes puts ads on free WordPress blogs to keep costs down. They don’t show up for every reader and they don’t show up all the time. Unfortunately there’s not much I can do about it unless I pay a $30 fee per year. I’d rather not, but if more people keep getting ads, I might have to go ahead and pay it.

  • 40. J. @ kawaiikitchen  |  June 12, 2011 at 10:40 am

    I’m always waiting for your next post and as always – I’m not disappointed. The idea of a balsamic custard in combination with berries sounds lovely, I’ll definitely have to try something like this soon ;) I hope you had an incredible time discovering LA!

  • 41. cocosrambles  |  June 13, 2011 at 11:56 pm

    just wondering- what jazz/swing place were you at?

    • 42. Elissa  |  June 16, 2011 at 3:41 pm

      cocosrambles – It was Cafe Was, on Sunset and Vine. I don’t think they’re normally a jazz/swing club, but that night they had Jeff Goldblum singing and playing the piano with an orchestra.

  • 43. greenthyme  |  June 14, 2011 at 10:29 am

    Wow, beautiful pictures and post! I am SUCH a big fan of fruit tarts and this one looks amazing. Thanks for sharing. I will definitely have to give this a try.

  • 44. Adam  |  June 14, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    I have a bottle of cherry balsamic vinegar (made right here in Michigan by a friend) burning a hole in my pantry, and this sounds like the perfect home for it.

  • 45. Baking Serendipity  |  June 14, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    I think the only way to truly experience a city is with one of its natives. I love that they know all the best spots and that the trip opens up an opportunity to show off my native town. I’m having the exact opposite experience of you today. I’m staying at the ultimate bachelor pad. Case in point: the entire spice collection consists of seasoning salt for steaks. Not even a measuring cup!

  • 46. Camille  |  June 15, 2011 at 12:12 am

    I made this for a potluck luncheon last week, and it turned out really well. I also had trouble getting the slices off of the bottom of the tart pan, but we didn’t mind too much. The balsamic flavor was a bit too much for me, but others thought it was nice. Overall, I thought it was good, but I’d probably use less balsamic next time. Thanks for another great recipe!

  • 47. lux  |  June 15, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    I love fruit tarts. This recipe was definitely a crowd pleaser. I loved it. My cousin is a vegan so I made her this recipe, which is a great alternative:

  • 48. Mathilde bohn  |  June 16, 2011 at 3:12 am

    Hi !
    I’m a teen blogger too, I figured I’d visited some peers, so here I am, I love your blog and I think it’s awesome to see all you’ve done..
    Your photos are beautiful
    Thank you for sharing all this
    M. Bohn (or the-wandering-girl)

  • 49. Elizabeth  |  June 17, 2011 at 1:05 am

    That recipe looks amazing! yum! I loved your little story about LA as Southern California was where I grew up. :) Fun to read about! I will definitely have to try your tart recipe…thanks for sharing!

  • 50. Yatee  |  June 17, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    This is the perfect summer dessert! I adore custard or anything custard-like (bread puddings, flan, etc.), and this is an interesting way to make custard, what with the unusual flavors and all. It is also the perfect chance to showcase any especially gorgeous summer berries that can be found! I have to try this.

  • 51. Paula at Dishing The Divine  |  June 17, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    We just went balsamic vinegar tasting and came back with loads of fruity ones! I will have to try them in a tart! :)

  • 52. Catherine  |  June 20, 2011 at 11:55 am

    Hi Elissa, I just discovered your blog yesterday, and I am loving it already. Your recipes, writing, and photography are all so great! I can’t wait to read more. Oh, and I love the tart!


  • 53. Cousin Sharon  |  June 20, 2011 at 8:44 pm

    Yum! Looks devine as usual. If you ever want to come visit Florida I promise to treat you to some of our delicacies.Stone crabs, key lime pie, mojitos. We have beautiful beaches and great sunsets. Did I mention mangoes? It’s mango season right now and our neighbors have a tree. I bet you could make something great with them! You’re always welcome.

  • 54. Sandy  |  June 24, 2011 at 1:38 am

    I love you blog, and I am glad you gave LA a chance. There are so many different places to eat and different types of food to try. If I am correct, the taco with lots of cheddar in Culver City is Tito’s Tacos?

    You must try Hae Jang Chon Korean BBQ Restaurant!! (AYCE all you can eat)

    3821 W 6th St
    Los Angeles, CA 90020
    (213) 389-8777

    Best of luck!

  • 55. Shar  |  June 24, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    That is a work of art. It looks so yummy. I would eat it with whipped cream all over it. MMM

  • 56. Jen @ keepitsimplefoods  |  June 27, 2011 at 10:37 am

    This is perfect for the upcoming holiday. Thanks!

  • 57. Christina  |  June 29, 2011 at 8:19 pm

    I LOVE your website. I just came across it. I am blogging tomorrow about your 4th Of July cake


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Elissa Bernstein

I'm Elissa: a 17 (now 21) year old baker in Seattle Boston juggling creative nonfiction workshops, subway maps, and my passions for writing, baking, and photography. Photo above © Michelle Moore

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