Thursday, March 7, 2013

Fresh Fruit Tarts with Pastry Cream

I guess you could call these tartlets, if you must.

Note to self: when baking pie, tarts or tartlets, make sure your house will be filled with friends and/or family who will actually help eat your creations.

Weekday dinners at our house generally consist of light fare lately... salads, soups, brown rice with sauteed veggies, fish. Pasta, bread, and desserts have loosely become weekend foods. I do mean ‘loosely,’ since sometime around Wednesday I start to crave a good juicy burger. Midweek also happens to be when cooking nightly dinners has worn thin and I want someone else to cook and do the dishes.

It’s hard to believe two weeks already passed since I created these. Fortunately, they freeze really well, so we were able to enjoy them for a few weekends. I want to share these little tarts so you too can experience their amazingness. Holy cow they’re incredible!

Unlike a pie shell, a tart’s shell texture is more like a shortbread cookie. It has to be sturdy enough to cradle its contents without crumbling.

I want to apologize right now for all the eggs you will need to make these. Oh, and you’ll also be needing cream and butter. Splurge on the best ingredients you can. Trust me, you won’t be sorry.


You can make the shells days in advance of the custard filling. I like desserts that allow me to do things in steps so they seem much less time consuming. The custard can also sit covered in the fridge for a day or so. Just add the freshly washed fruit and whatever other toppings float your boat just before serving.


I used three kinds of berries... blueberries, raspberries, strawberries.




Fresh Fruit Tarts with Pastry Cream
Makes ten 3 1/2 inch or two 7-inch tarts

(a slightly modified recipe from Miette pastry shop in San Francisco)

Pastry Shells:
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed
2 large egg yolks
6-8 Tablespoons heavy cream
1. Combine the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds using your paddle attachment. Add the cubed butter and beat until the mixture is as fine as cornmeal (about 5 minutes).

2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and 2 tablespoons of the cream. Add this to the flour mixture in the mixer bowl and mix it all until just combined. Add more cream 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together into large chunks. Gather the dough into a ball, pat it into a disk and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

3. Divide the dough to make the portions you need and pat gently into disks. Roll out each dough disk on a lightly floured surface to about 1/4 inch thick and 1 inch larger in diameter than the pans you’re using. Drape the rolled-out dough into the tart pans, gently pushing it into the bottom edges and against the pan sides to make a strong, straight shell. Trim the edges flush with the top rim of the pans. Prick all over the bottom with a fork and place them in the freezer for 30 minutes.

4. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake the shells for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in the pan, remove and cool completely on a wire rack before filling.

Pastry Cream:
2 cups whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean
7 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1. Pour the milk into a medium saucepan. Use a sharp knife to slit the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the milk. Throw in the pod. Heat until almost boiling (bubbles will begin to form at the edges). Remove from heat, cover and let steep for 1 hour.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch until smooth. Set the bowl on a kitchen towel or nonskid surface and whisk the egg mixture while pouring about 1/2 cup of the hot milk into the mixture to temper. Gradually pour in the rest of the milk, whisking constantly. Pour the contents of the bowl into the pan and turn the heat to medium-low.

3. Cook, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens and comes to a slow boil, about 2 minutes. Immediately strain the cream through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean container. Discard the vanilla bean. Let the pastry cream cool to room temperature, for about 10 minutes, then whisk in the butter until it’s completely incorporated.

4. Cover the pastry cream with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until well chilled, at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.

Final assembly: Divide the chilled custard among the shells evenly. Top with blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, or your favorite fruit. Make sure to wash the fruit just before placing it onto the cream filling so that it stays firm and fresh.


Sharon said...

You have a very lucky family. Too bad no one in my household bakes so well! Gorgeous photography as usual, Cindy!

Cindy said...

Hi Sharon, Good to hear from you! Thank you. I hope all is well in your world!

Cathy at Wives with Knives said...

These luscious little tarts are my favorite dessert when local berries are available. I've been looking for a new pastry recipe. Thanks for sharing, Cindy. I'll get some shells tucked away in the freezer so I'm ready.

Cindy said...

Hi Cathy, I was really happy with the way this pastry turned out. I'm planning to make even my larger tarts using this recipe in the future. Can't wait for the local berries!

Jeane M. said...

Looks good. Hoarding this recipe for St.Patty's day, glad you've shared. Got my eye on your next posts.