A classic berry tart, crumbly crust brimming with pastry cream and lined with neat rows of fresh fruit, is a refined and utterly traditional way to take advantage of summer's bounty.
That's precisely why I rarely bake them.
Too predictable, too staid, too dull. The kind of thing somebody's great-aunt serves to her vicar with a nice cup of tea. Despite my penchant for 19th-century English novels, a dainty berry tart is just never as appealing as a bubbling cobbler or oozing pie.
But this spring, a fecund rosebush made me reconsider.
I planted it a decade ago, yearning for old-fashioned, blousy blossoms, but I never got much more than a single bouquet. This year's rainy weather was apparently just what the flowers wanted, and my garden was heady with their scent.
The unsprayed petals were perfect for cooking. And their intense fragrance made me want to infuse them into something sweet and creamy.
So I steeped them in eggy pastry cream, which I spread into a rich almond crust and topped with fresh raspberries. (I made the same tart again later in the season after all my roses had withered, substituting a little rosewater. )
The end product looked like a classic vicar-worthy tart. But the rose flavor was sexier and more interesting. And the almonds in the crust made it softer and sweeter and altogether more alluring. A classic tart, slightly tarted up.
A few caveats about using fresh roses: They must be unsprayed, so the best way to get them is to grow them yourself. Make sure they are highly scented; as stunning as some varieties may be, if they don't smell like much, they won't taste like much. And don't wash them, just shake them out (a gentle misting is OK, but if you drench them you'll lose some of the delicate perfume).