French fruit tarts are so dainty, impressive, and surprisingly easy to make.This tarte aux fraises (strawberry tart), is one of my absolute favorites, and with simple preparation, orgainiation, and planning, will be a breeze to make.
The procedure is multi-step, with the crust (my favorite, used here) and pastry cream (crème pâtissière) having to be made ahead of time and cooled completely. The crème pâtissière can be made the day before, and refrigerated covered tightly with cling film.
I like to brush the crust with some melted chocolate (milk chocolate or white chocolate, the choice is yours). The reason being that when the chocolate hardens on the crust, it will create a barrier between it and the pastry cream, so the crust will not go soggy overnight.
Crème pâtissière adapted from smitten kitchen.
For the crust:
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into small dice
2 Tbsp ice-cold water
For the crème pâtissière:
1 cup whole milk
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
3 Tbsp flour or cornstarch
2 pinches salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 punnets of strawberries
2 Tbsp jam
Make the crème pâtissière:
Warm milk in a medium saucepan until just steaming; set aside.
Whisk the yolks and sugar vigorously together for a minute, until pale and ribbony.
Whisk in flour and salt until smooth.
Drizzle in warm milk mixture, a spoonful at a time, whisking the whole time.
Once you’ve add half of it, you can add the rest in a more steady stream, again whisking the whole time. Pour the whole lot in the milk saucepan, return to the stove and cook on medium-high heat until it bubbles, then simmer for one to two minutes more, whisking the whole time.
Off the heat, whisk in the butter and vanilla extract.
Cool custard completely before using, placing cling film directly on the surface of the crème pâtissière to prevent a skin from forming. Put aside until needed.
Make the crust:
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Blend all the pastry ingredients in a food processor except for the water.
Add the water in a drizzle as the machine is on.
Be careful because maybe the pastry will be perfect with just two tablespoons of water.
Roll out the pastry and line a tart tin.
Poke with fork, weigh down with dried beans, and bake for 10 minutes.
Remove beans and bake for 15 to 20 minutes more, until edges have a hint of golden color.
Set aside to cool completely in its tin.
Melt the chocolate in the microwave or over steaming water.
Brush the chocolate over the base of the completely cooled crust, and allow to harden.
When chocolate has set, spoon the cold crème pâtissière in the crust.
Arrange the hulled strawberries decoratively over the crème pâtissière. (I simply cut them in half.)
Warm the jam in a small casserole and lightly brush over the strawberries to render them shiny.
You can serve the tart immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.
I use an oblong tin with a removable bottom, which makes life so much easier. (Found here on Amazon.)