It’s strawberry season in California! Actually, I think it might be strawberry season in California 365 days/ year, but it seems like in the spring the berries are always more plentiful, extremely cheap, and gorgeous. I was at the supermarket the other day trying to decide what to purchase and I saw some amazing strawberries and decided that I needed to continue on my dessert-making spree.
Additionally, it’s Dave’s birthday on Monday! It’s always tricky trying to bake for him because he doesn’t like birthday cake; therefore I wanted to test a recipe for him that he might actually enjoy- dessert with fresh fruit. I won’t pretend to understand the lack of appreciation of “normal” birthday desserts. It’s somewhat upsetting, but his lack of interest does keep me from regularly binging on cookies and cakes.
This recipe took a little bit of testing for me. Due to my general baking incompetence, also known as a very poor ability to follow written instructions, my initial pastry was completely burned and inedible. It ended up in the garbage and I became irritable and whined loudly to Dave about my misfortunes for the next 30 minutes. I jumped back on the horse, however, and my second pastry crust turned out very well, if I do say so myself! Having never attempted a tart shell before, I was extremely concerned about the possibility of crust shrinkage due to various horror stories I had read on the internet while searching “how to bake tart shells” recipes. From my research, this can be remedied by freezing the shell and/or baking it with pie weights. Not having pie weights I attempted the freezer method only, and was pleased with the results. I got a small amount of shrinkage, but nothing that dramatically affected the final product.
This is the dough for the tart shell. It’s a lot like the consistency of dough for sugar cookies. The fancy name for this type of pastry is pate sucree.
In my opinion, rolling pastry dough is an advanced technique. I have never been able to do it competently without significant ripping and shredding of the dough. I found that putting the dought in the fridge as well as putting it between 2 pieces of parchment paper significant improved my results.
Here you can see the amount of shrinkage I got with my tart shell. This was after freezing it for about 1 hour, and then putting it inthe oven at 375, covered with foil, for about 15-2o minutes.
You don’t want to prepare the tart until right before you serve it. You can make all the ingredients ahead of time, but once the pastry cream is put on top of the shell, you are starting the timer for mushy dough-cream. Additionally, the berries will do a lot better if you keep the separate and don’t put them on the tart until the last minute to preserve freshness.
A lot of people decorate their tarts with an OCD level of precision I am unable to muster. My method- I put the strawberries around the edges because they were the biggest fruit and then just started piling the other fruit on top. The results are semi-haphazard which I think looks appealing, but feel free to experiment and do whatever works for you! Also- you can substitute different types of fruit. I’m sure stone fruit, like peaches or nectarines would be great. Also cherries would be tasty or perhaps kiwi for added color.
Fruit Tart with Fresh Berries
_For the Pate Sucree Pastry (Makes enough for an 11-inch tart pan)_
- 1 3/4 cups allpurpose flour
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 10 tablespoons butter chilled and cut into small pieces
- 1 egg yolk
- 3 tablespoons cold water
_For the Pastry Cream_
- 2 cups half and half
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar 2 tablespoons reserved
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 5 egg yolks
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 quart fresh strawberries thinly sliced
- 1 pint raspberries
- 1 pint blueberries
- 1 pint blackberries
To make the pastry
- Combine four, sugar, and salt in food processor. Pulse to combine. Add butter, cut into cubes, to dry ingredients. Pulse until the mixture resembles the texture of coarse meal.
- Whisk together egg and water. With food processor turn on, gradually drizzle egg mixture into the dry ingredients. The mixture should gradually form into a ball of dough. If dough is not coming together, add a few extra drizzles of water until you reach the desired texture.
- Turn dough out onto a piece of plastric wrap. Press into a disc, about 1-inches high. Cover with plastric wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes- 1 hour.
- Place pastry between 2 sheets of parchment paper. If you refrigerated longer than 30 minutes you may need to let your pastry warm up a bit before using. Roll out pastry until it is about 13 inches in diameter. It should be about 1/8 inches thick. Drape pastry into an 11-inch greased tart-pan. Press into edges and patch any holes as necessary. Run rolling pin over edges to get rid of any excess dough. Poke holes all over dough with a fork.
- Chill in freezer for about 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Take pastry out of freezer and cover with aluminum foil that has been greased with butter or vegetable oil (to prevent the foil from sticking). Bake for about 15 minutes. Remove the foil. Bake an additional 8-10 minutes or until crust is golden brown.
- Cool on a cooling rack while you make the pastry cream.
To make pastry cream
- Combine half and half, most of the sugar (except 2 tablespoons), and salt in saucepan. Heat until sugar is dissolved and mixture is simmering.
- Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks, remaining sugar, and cornstarch in a medium bowl, until mixture is thick and creamy.
- Whisking constantly, gradually pour heated half and half mixture into the egg mixture to temper.
- Pour mixture back into saucepan. Turn heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer, continuing to whisk. Wait until mixture is thickened and a few bubbles have popped on the surface- this will only take about 30 seconds. Turn off the heat. Immediately add butter and vanilla, and mix together until butter is melted and fully incorporated.
- Pour pastry cream into a bowl, straining out any lumps using a fine mesh sieve. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing plastic directly onto custard to avoid forming a skin. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or until it is chilled and set. (You may also store the pasty cream for up to 2 days in the refrigerator if you plan on making it ahead of time).
- Pour pastry cream into tart shell. Using a spatula, smooth out the cream until you have a nice even layer.
- Arrange sliced strawberries and whole raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries in a design to your liking.
- Serve immediately.