Berry season is nearing its end for the year as the tips of the trees give way to yellow, orange and red hues. Cooler days and the welcome of autumn bring a shift in the kitchen from light fare to more hearty and warm dishes. With more than my fair share of wild berries resting on my countertop, my thoughts are immediately filled with dreams of baked goods and their aroma sifting from the kitchen. Berries paired with dough. Their sweetness nestled in a blanket of creamy cheese surrounded by a hazelnut crust and drizzled with local honey. Just large enough to be handheld, cut into little servings and shared among friends.
Not long ago, we visited the lovely village of Undredal in Aurland in Sogn og Fjordane. The village rests along the Aurlandsfjord, just between Flåm and Gudvangen. It is a beautiful village with a road, just large enough for one car to fit through, which slopes down the towering mountains and leads to the base of the village which overlooks the vast and extensive fjord. Scattered around the small area is an array of colorful houses, lying close together. Flower blossoms and fruit trees decorate the landscape creating a picturesque and enchanting area only enhanced by the blue waters and cascading rocks.
Amidst the natural beauty is the long tradition of farm operations and cheese making. It is here that Undredal Stølysteri has earned the reputation as one of the best goat cheese producers in the country. Around 300 Norwegian dairy goats graze on the soft grasses along the fjord, creating a wonderful and unique flavor in the milk. Undredal Stølsysteri remains one of the few cooperatives that makes raw milk geitost (goat cheese), and recently became the first authorized producer of cheeses from raw goat milk in the country. They produce three types of geitost; Brun Undredal (brown cheese), Kvit Undredal (white cheese) and Sognakvitost (a traditional white cheese of the area).
Leaving Undredal without sampling the local cheeses and taking some home would just be nonsensical. Just as nonsensical as it would be to not take a moment to embrace all the splendor and majesty of its scenery. As small as one feels in this tiny village amongst the towering mountains and vast fjord, it also has a way of making one feel relevant and substantial. Clearly, those living here continue to embrace the nature they live in and create a life which reflects this thoughtful and responsible relationship.
Being inspired by the coming of autumn and by using fresh and local ingredients, here is my recipe for savory berry tartlets. Using an aged Kvit Undredal Geitost for the filling gives these tartlets a salty and rich contrast to the pungent cloudberries, tart blueberries, fragrant thyme and sweet honey. The hazelnut crust adds a depth and texture. Feel free to use berries which are in season, especially if you cannot get a hold of cloudberries (multe/molte).
Savory Berry Tartlets (Bærpai)
Makes 8-10 tartlets
- 1 ½ cups whole hazelnuts
- 2 cups (150 g) flour
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup cold butter (225 g), cut into small pieces
- ¼ cup (60 ml) ice water
- 2 cups (150 g) sharp goat cheese, grated (such as an aged Kvit Undredal Geitost)
- ½ cup heavy cream
- Fresh thyme
- Handful of wild bilberries (or blueberries)
- Handful of cloudberries
- Honey, to drizzle
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon milk
For the dough, place the hazelnuts, flour and salt in a food processor and pulse until well combined. Add the butter pieces and continue to pulse until the mixture resembles course meal. Add the ice water (but not the ice) to the mixture and pulse until the dough begins to form together. If the dough is too dry, add a little bit more water but be cautious as you do not want your dough to be sticky.
Divide the dough into two, equal pieces and flatten into round discs. Wrap them in plastic and place in the refrigerator to rest for at least an hour. When ready to use, leave the dough out at room temperature for a few minutes before rolling out.
Heat the oven to 180°C / 350°F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
Prepare the filling. In a small bowl, combine the grated goat cheese and heavy cream.
Prepare the dough. Flour your work surface and place one of the chilled dough on top of the floured surface. Gently roll out the dough from the center until it is about 1/8 inch thick. Using a 6-inch bowl (or other preferred size), cut circles into the dough. Lay each circle on the parchment-lined baking sheets.
Place a small amount of the goat cheese filling on the center of each circle, leaving an edge about the size of an inch.
Assemble the tartlets as follows:
-Blueberry tartlets: Place blueberries on top of the filling, sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves and a drizzle of honey.
–Baked cloudberry tartlets: Place cloudberries on the top of the filling, sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves and a generous amount of honey.
–Plain tartlets topped with fresh cloudberries: Place a few thyme leaves on top of the filling and bake. Add the fresh cloudberries and honey on top and serve immediately.
Prepare the egg wash by whisking the egg and milk together in a small bowl. Take each tartlet and fold the edges up and over a little bit of the filling. Brush the edges with the egg wash.
Bake the tartlets for 20-25 minutes. If the edges are browning, cover loosely with foil for the last 5 minutes.