Strawberry Time! Lemon Cream Mixed Berry Tart

It’s strawberry time, a time to dream of lemon cream mixed berry tart.  Get to know the Lowcountry of South Carolina – a beautiful, historic place that inspires every day of every season.  Whether it’s creating new recipes with finds from our local farms and Farmers’ Markets, or strolling through Beaufort’s historic streets, please join me in exploring the goodness, history, and beauty of this special place.

Here’s a picture from my corner of the world in Habersham, Beaufort, South Carolina.  I never grow tired of strolling this neighborhood.  Although we cannot be at church this year on Palm Sunday, we can see the Lord in all of God’s creation.

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A drive through the countryside was the perfect thing to do this week.  Once over the bridge and just a few miles from Beaufort, I started seeing old farms. St. Helena Island is rich in Gullah history, where the descendants of slaves, in many cases, still farm the land of their ancestors.

If you get off the interstate and travel into the country, often you can find working farms that have been in families for generations. Dempsey Farm is one of those old family-owned farms. It has stood strong year after year under the scorch of the South Carolina sun. Its weathered wooden barns and outbuildings rest on stone foundations constructed many years ago, not with precisely executed plans but just with whatever materials were on hand.  I believe these buildings were built by men of an era when men were as strong and steadfast as the underpinnings of brick and stone in their buildings.

In the many years that have passed, this farm has endured hurricanes, torrential storms, and marching drought. Now its tired timbers moan and groan in the wind as ancient live oaks stand guard over the land, providing shade and solace for all who enter here.

Dempsey Farms Strawberries!!!!

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It’s a very special place, owned by the Dempsey family for over sixty years. where families still come to pick their own strawberries right out of the field. Check their hours of operation before you go, because they are affected by the weather conditions.

They plan on having strawberries now through May 30th.  After that, they will have squash and zucchini followed by lots of other vegetables throughout the late spring and summer.

Mixed Berry Tart

To maintain a crisp crust, assemble the tart within an hour of serving. Make this recipe in either one, 11-12 inch tart pan;  two, 8 to 9-inch tart pans; 2 – 4 x 14-inch tart pans. Both the crust and the pastry cream can be made a day or two in advance of serving. I like to use a simple press-in cookie crust.


Lemon Pastry Cream

2 cups half and half

⅔ cups granulated sugar, divided

Pinch salt

5 large egg yolks

¼ cup cornstarch

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

zest of one lemon, finely grated

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

This may be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.


Lemon Pastry Cream

Combine half and half, ⅓ cup sugar, and salt in a saucepan  over medium heat. Heat until bubble form around the edges and some steam begins to rise.  Remove from heat.

Whisk together egg yolks, ⅓ cup sugar, and cornstarch  in a bowl until combined.

Slowly add half of the hot half and half mixture to the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly.  This is called “tempering the eggs.” If you were to add it all at once, you might end us with scrambled eggs – and you definitely do not want that!

Cook over low, whisking until the mixture becomes thick and smooth.  Test to see if the mixture will coat the back of a spoon.

Remove from heat ans whisk in vanilla extract, lemon juice, and butter until smooth.  Pass mixture through a mesh strainer into a bowl and discard any small egg solids. Stir in lemon zest.

Cover pastry cream with a piece of plastic wrap pressed directly onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming.  Refrigerate until well chilled.

Topping for pastry cream:

1 recipe pate sucree, blind baked and cooled completely

1 cup strawberries, tops removed and sliced

1 cup blueberries

½ cup blackberries or raspberries

½ cup apricot jelly

1 tablespoon water or Limoncello


Spoon chilled pastry cream into the tart shell and spread to an even layer.  Top with strawberries, blueberries and blackberries.

In a small saucepan, heat jelly with water just until melted.  Pass through a fine mesh sieve to remove any bits of fruit in the jelly.  If using Limoncello instead of water, add it after straining.

Lightly brush the berries with the glaze.  Slice the tart into wedges and serve at once.

Press-In Cookie Crust

1 cup finely ground cookies: 8 whole graham crackers or 35 vanilla wafers

2 tablespoons sugar

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Position rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Have your tart pan or pans with a removable bottom ready. 

Mix crumbs with sugar using a fork. Drizzle melted butter over the crumbs and mix with the fork until crumbs are evenly moistened.  Pour crumbs into the tart pan and use your fingers to press the crumbs around the inside edge of he pan and create a wall going up the side of the pan. This should be about ¼ inch thick. I often use a metal measuring cup with straight sides and a flat base to press the crumbs across the bottom of the pan.


Bake about 10 minutes at 350 degrees.  Allow to cool completely before filling.

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