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If you are heading east for peak-season strawberries, you must make a literal fork-in-the-road decision. Turn off Route 27 at Westhampton Beach to the North Fork or stay straight on towards Amagansett.

Luckily, farm stands on both forks are abundant with this Long Island-grown treat, overflowing from the familiar green cardboard containers waiting to be shared and enjoyed.

Ashley Rempe saves the season with her delicious tart. (Photo credit: Doug Young)

With a quick rinse in the colander, strawberries inevitably stay on the countertop for most people, never lasting long, with only a few missed-opportunity stragglers left to get mushy and stain the dish towel they sit on—all part of summertime and a reminder that everything has a shelf life.

But instead, seize the moment and don’t let a berry go to waste: Baking with strawberries is the best option to savor the season longer. 

“Being a Long Islander, you always look forward to the fleeting strawberry season,” says pastry chef and Riverhead native Ashley Rempe, who uses her French Culinary Institute training to make a pâte sucrée (pronounced pat-sue-cray, a French pastry dough commonly used as a tart base) in which to cradle the delicious fruit in her strawberry tart. “I especially like this recipe because you can mold it into whatever fruit is in season.” 

Rempe’s impressive culinary and hospitality resume also includes both forks, recalling childhood memories of baking at her grandmother’s orchard farm in Riverhead. “Babysitting at my grandma’s house usually involved making 1,200 muffins,” she laughs. After returning home from culinary school, Rempe found it challenging to find a full-time pastry position at most establishments. She adjusted her talents to include front of the house and serving. “If you want to have that small-town experience and still want to do what you want to do, you have to do a little bit of both.” 

This ability to wear a lot of hats allows Rempe to include her pastry and dessert offerings on the menus of many impressive restaurants, including Michelin Star chef Joe Isidori’s former South Fork Kitchen in Bridgehampton (Isidori is back at the exact location with Arthur and Sons), Vine Street Café on Shelter Island and currently at First and South in Greenport. “Sarah [Phillips Loth, First and South’s owner] encourages me to do what I want with the desserts, as long as it fits within the model of what we’re doing,” she says. “She supports people passionate about this field because she’s also passionate.”

While this may explain First and South’s house motto “don’t skip dessert,” it also highlights Rempe’s desire to offer simple, uncomplicated recipes perfect for a special occasion or relaxed gathering, including the dough for this tart. 

“If you can make cookie dough, you can make this tart,” she says. “Traditional pie dough involves having to piece in the butter. It’s a pain and sometimes a little tricky to make if you are not always making dough,” explains Rempe. “In this dough recipe, you cream the butter and the powdered sugar together, which makes it a little more sturdy and a bit foolproof, which is excellent.” 

Home cooks can take comfort in knowing they don’t need a degree to make this delectable crust. “The dough is very smooth and forgiving,” assures Rempe, “you can kind of just squish it back together if you make a mistake.”

Rempe’s favorite place to grab some local strawberries? “I like Latham’s in Orient. Growing up, we went to Bayview a lot just because that’s a little closer to Riverhead — and I’m a Riverhead girl!” South Fork residents also have many choices to grab these fleeting sweets, but locals rave about Balsam Farms’ red beauties.

A quick tip: Grab yourself a strawberry huller tool (Williams Sonoma in Bridgehampton or in Riverhead’s Tanger Outlets carry them), which removes leaves and stem from the strawberry while leaving as much fruit as possible in tact.

Another reason to make this dessert is how countertop-friendly it is. “It holds well,” says Rempe. “You can make it a day ahead of time, and you don’t have to put it in the fridge since it’s already baked.” 

And while we think this would be delicious with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, Rempe steps it up a notch. “Serving it with some macerated fruit on top would be lovely.”

Ashley Rempe’s strawberry tart

Prep Time 2 hours 45 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Serves 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 qt strawberries, cleaned and hulled

For the dough:

  • 9 oz all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 3 oz powdered sugar
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder

For the brow-butter filling:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 orange, zested
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste

Streusel topping:

  • 1 stick butter
  • 3 oz brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Directions

Make the dough:

  • Add softened butter to a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or a bowl using a hand mixer). Add sugar and beat until light and pale yellow color. 
  • With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs and emulsify while scraping down the sides of the bowl until fully incorporated. 
  • Add the flour and baking powder and mix to combine.
  • Remove the dough from the bowl and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until dough is firm, about an hour. 

Make the brown butter filling:

  • Brown the butter in a sauce pan on low heat. (Browned butter happens when the milk solids toast once separated from the butter; it should smell nutty and be dark brown, not black. You might have to take a metal spoon and scrape the bottom of the sauce pot to release the browned butter bits from the bottom). Remove butter from heat and let cool  
  • Add eggs, sugar, orange zest, salt, vanilla and flour to a large bowl. Mix to combine. Slowly (or you'll wind up scrambling them) whisk warm butter into the egg mixture. Dont forget to scrape the bottom of the pan to incorporate the brown bits into your egg mixture. There should be no lumps and the butter should be fully incorporated 

Make the streusel topping:

  • Melt butter in a microwave-safe bowl.
  • Add flour, sugar, oats and salt. Mix to combine. The topping should slightly clumped together.

To assemble the tart:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Roll out the tart dough and place in a 9-inch tart pan. Trim off the excess dough from the edges.
  • Add in half the quart of strawberries to the bottom of the pan.
  • Pour the brown-butter filling over the strawberries.
  • Sprinkle oat topping all over the tart. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow to cool before slicing.
  • Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
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