Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Lemon-Blackberry Tart

Jen's receipts (the old-fashioned spelling of recipe) are always the best, hands down. I don't know how she does it, especially working full-time and with her two kids, but I am amazed and grateful that she takes the time to share with the fans. The idea of lemon and blackberry together was just too much for me to resist, and wouldn't you know I had just the perfect occasion to try this recipe: Amy Tudor and our gardener Jenna's, birthday party! 

As you already know, we love parties! Amy and Jenna have birthdays close together, so we celebrated them on one sunny, perfect May day, after spending the morning in the garden. Winslow made some mac 'n cheese, Christina brought a beautiful salad, and we had this gorgeous tart from Jen Tudor's receipt.

 party setting

I have to admit this is one of the easiest recipes for such a sophisticated and enviable result! Jen says (on our recipe page) that this is easily play-around-able. I searched high and low (three stores) to find miniature tart pans, but to no avail. I couldn't even find miniature pie pans! So I improvised and used just a regular pie dish, which worked out just fine. The crust shrunk enough in the pan that it was the perfect height for a tart. I also opted to make my own lemon curd (this recipe from Joy of Baking is quite easy), but for those of you in a rush, the jarred variety will work perfectly fine. Lemon curd might seem intimidating, but it's just eggs, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and butter over a double boiler.

ready for lemon curd

I've noticed that thin-skinned lemons have the most juice and are not great for zesting, but thick-skinned lemons have less juice but great zest.

I made the lemon curd the night before, and baked the crust, too. The next day I just assembled everything. I had some lemon curd leftover, so I spread a thin layer on top of the cream-cheese/lemon-curd filling for good measure. You can't have too much lemon in my book! I arranged the blackberries in a circle, and decorated with some johnny-jump-ups from the barrel right outside the Rookery door. 

 Too pretty to eat? Almost, but definitely not!

Jen suggests spooning the sauce over the tart, but we served this with vanilla ice cream and spooned the sauce over the ice cream. Easiest sauce ever, I will be making that all summer (it's just jam and lemon juice! But so delicious!). 

This truly received rave reviews. I think it will be my new standard "summer entertaining" recipe. Have you tried it? Let us know what you think, and send us pictures so we can share! Don't forget, the recipe is available by clicking here!

Happy baking!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Painted Turtles

Dear Friends,

We have some new friends at the Rookery! A few days ago, Seth Tudor happened upon a pair of painted turtles laying eggs in our sandy/gravel driveway. There is a pond right behind the Rookery, so we see painted turtles occasionally, but we've never had any nests! Seth very carefully marked the nests with bricks and made sure to tell us all not to disturb them.

We all did a bit of research because we were curious to see when they would hatch. It looks like (Thanks to Wikipedia) they take approximately 72-80 days to hatch. We spotted them on May 24th laying their eggs, so we have a pretty good idea when to look for them to hatch now, though another source told us it really depended on the weather. Wikipedia also tells me, "Females prefer soft, sandy soil with good exposure to the sun for their nest site. Nests are dug with the turtle's hind feet, usually within 200 metres of water. The nest is no deeper than 10 to 12 centimetres. The females will lay 4 to 15 oval, soft shelled eggs, in a conical flask-shaped hole. The eggs are elliptical, white to off-white and are mostly smooth with slight pits. Once the eggs are laid the mother will cover the hole with dirt or sand and leave the nest unattended." 

 (above photo from

Look at those gorgeous colors on that painted turtle! I also read that the turtles hibernate for the winter in up to 3 feet of mud under up to six feet of water, for up to 5 months in temperatures of about 37 degrees F. Fascinating to know that is how they survive our cold winters, insulated in the mud. Wikipedia says that is, "longer than any other known air-breathing vertebrate." 

I will be sure to let you know if we are able to see them hatch!
On a lovely Vermont Wednesday,