The Recipe: My first and very favorite fruit tart recipe, Finland's traditional fruit or berry tart, called "rahkapiirakka" [RAH-ka-PEE-rah-ka] in Finnish. It was my very favorite dessert when I lived in Finland as an exchange student many years ago and was such a treat again just last month when we visited Finland and my Finnish "sister" served it to end a traditional Finnish meal in her home.
With a press-in whole-wheat crust and a sour cream and fruit filling, a Finnish Fruit Tart is ever so easy to make but yet looks really impressive. It's my "go to" fruit tart recipe for blueberries, sweet cherries, sour cherries, rhubarb and even raisins. It takes just 15 minutes to make in a single bowl, no mixer required!
The Conversation: To learn a new language, start with food words, easy to identify and remember. It's how I learned to speak Finnish, one bite at a time.
Conventional wisdom says that the Finnish language is virtually impossible for non-natives to learn. But when I was a Rotary exchange student in Finland – yikes, decades ago now even if it still feels almost-like-yesterday – I worked hard to learn to speak Finnish.
The kitchen was an easy place to start lessons at home. The very first afternoon, my host “mother” began teaching me food words such as maito (milk), juusto (cheese), voita (butter), leipä (bread), kala (fish) and more.
Later, she served a traditional Finnish lunch, a whole steamed salmon with fresh dill sauce, Finland's deservedly famous boiled Finnish potatoes, chewy rye bread with butter and cheese – and for dessert, rahkapiirakka, this delicious fruit or berry tart.
In Finland, this tart is traditionally made with rahka (quark) and puolukka (lingonberries), a decidedly magical combination of tang and tart. Neither is easily found here in the U.S., so I adapted the recipe to available ingredients – sour cream instead of quark and summer fruits like blueberries, sweet and sour cherries, even rhubarb. Raisins are delicious too (and traditional in Finland as well) though considerably higher in calories. Whatever the fruit, this makes an oh-so-impressive tart, even though it's so easy to make.
So try this simple tart on your family. They’ll be sure to say “kiitos” – that means, thank you!
MORE ABOUT RAHKA & SUBSTITUTES Rahka [pronounced RAH-ka, roll the 'r' if you can! take a little 'breath' on the 'h' for extra credit!] is tangy like sour cream but thicker, a little grainy like ricotta, definitely not the creamy curds of cottage cheese. In the U.S., look for a dairy product called "quark" or "farmer cheese". For my fellow St. Louisans, I find both at Global Foods in Kirkwood though I prefer the slightly more grainy and less expensive Lifeway Farmer Cheese to the smoother, more sour and pricier Vermont Creamery Quark. Still curious? More about quark on Wikipedia.
The easiest rahka substitute, however, one I'm quite enamored with in this tart, is sour cream. My Finnish "sister" Ritva nods at the idea: rahkapiirakka made with sour cream would be "different," she says, but still good.
MORE ABOUT LINGONBERRIES & SUBSTITUTES Lingonberries are the tiny, tart, crimson berries native to the northern-most regions of Scandinavia where the summer sun shines overnight. The Swedish retailer IKEA has made lingonberries famous, selling Swedish meatballs and lingonberry sauce at their restaurants. Lingonberry preserves are found in many food specialty shops, there are even growers in Wisconsin and the Pacific Northwest attempting large-scale cultivation. On two occasions, I have found unsweetened lingonberries in the U.S., once in a large tub, another time frozen. But other fruits work beautifully too. I'm especially fond of blueberries, sour cherries, rhubarb and raisins.
FINNISH FRUIT or BERRY TART
Time to finish: 1 hour
Time to table: 2 - 4 hours, preferably
8 generous servings
- 1/2 cup (113g) salted butter, softened or melted
- 1/2 cup (100g) sugar
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, fluffed to aerate before measuring or 95g
- 3/4 cup whole wheat flour, fluffed to aerate or 95g
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1/4 cup (50g) sugar
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon vanilla sugar (or vanilla extract)
- 2 cups fruit, fresh or frozen, such as sweet cherries, sour cherries, blueberries, rhubarb, mangoes and raisins
Heat oven to 400F.
CRUST Mix crust ingredients in a medium-size mixing bowl with your hands or a wooden spoon. Press into a cake pan, pie tin or tart dish.
FILLING In the same bowl, stir together sour cream, sugar, egg and vanilla sugar (or vanilla) until completely mixed. Fold in fruit, stirring just enough to distribute. Pour into crust and spread evenly.
Bake 30 – 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool and serve. Best on the first day but holds its shape and taste for two or three days. You'll want to refrigerate any leftovers.
MAKE-AHEAD TIPS Make the tart several hours before serving. My preference is to let the baked tart cool at room temperature, then to refrigerate it until it's well-chilled, that takes two to three hours. That said, it may be served "straight from the oven" (the raisin version is especially good that way) but will be soft and won't hold the shape of a crisp slice.
What Fruit Would You Use? Rhubarb?
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