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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

i <3 strawberries

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amaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaazing tart

When I was coming up with a menu for Saturday’s dinner, I knew for sure that the dessert would include fresh, local strawberries. Not just because I was writing about them for, but also because they are just awesome.

I didn’t want to go for strawberry shortcake, as I was looking for a little more sophistication.

In this tart, I found it. This was un-freaking-believable. I mean, I had a few missteps along the way, and the final product didn’t quite present as nicely as it maybe could have…..but the taste absolutely made up for it. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a more wonderful dessert.

I started by using my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, as it had served me well in the past for things like foccacia and other sundry baking items. So I thought that for pâte sablée (basically a shortbread cookie! Woot!) and pastry cream, it would serve me well.

And so it is with great regret that I must inform you that I was woefully disappointed in this manner. First, the crust was a bitch to work with. It stuck to everything, and by the time I finally wrestled it into the pan, it looked awful. REALLY awful. As I’ve mentioned many times before, I suck at pastry. But this was even worse than my average effort…..behold….

this crust sucked hard

Nice eh? REALLY promising.

Folks, it didn’t get better from there……

i suck at pastry

BAHAHAHA. Is that sad or what? Even though I don’t ever pretend to be a patissière of any sort, I just couldn’t live with that burnt wreck. So I ate part of it (ack!) and then tossed it to start over. I ended up using Mark Bittman’s crust recipe, which was far superior and didn’t fail me at all. I should never have cheated on Mark!

The pastry cream wasn’t much better – it tasted fabulous, but it was a little runny. Funny enough, when I looked up Mark’s recipe for pastry cream, he was using twice the cornstarch. So I bet that one wouldn’t have been runny. I didn’t feel like making over my pastry cream though, as despite its runniness, it really did taste amazing. But for future reference, I would up the cornstarch to 2 Tablespoons. And use one egg instead of two egg yolks. But oh well.

Anyway, any of you who are fortunate enough to have fresh local fruit, you should use this recipe and make yourself a tart – any berries would be fantastic, as would peaches or any other summer fruit. You could cut the fruit in thin wedges, or leave berries whole (like I did….don’t leave peaches whole though, that would be weeeeird). You can also melt apricot jam/jelly with a bit of liqueur to glaze the top – it adds a touch of formality, but isn’t necessary.

I’m drooling just thinking about the awesomeness that is this tart. A perfect summer dessert. So simple, so fresh and so amazing.

Strawberries and Cream Tart
(I advise starting with pastry cream as it takes the longest to chill!)

Pastry Cream
(you’ll notice method is very similar to crème brulée)

½ c. sugar
4 t cornstarch (I strongly suggest using 2 T)
¼ t salt
2 c. light cream (you can even use whole milk)
1 vanilla bean (PLEASE spring for a vanilla bean for this one)
4 beaten egg yolks

1. In a heavy medium saucepan stir together 1/2 cup sugar, 4 teaspoons cornstarch, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

2. Gradually stir in 2 cups half-and-half or light cream. If desired, add 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, with seeds scraped out into milk mixture.
the beginnings of pastry cream

3. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for 1 minute more.

4. Gradually stir half of the hot mixture into 4 beaten egg yolks. Return all of the egg yolk mixture to saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil; reduce heat. Cook and stir for 2 minutes.

5. Remove from heat. Remove vanilla bean. Strain into a bowl. If not using vanilla bean, stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla (but PLEASE use a vanilla bean – you won’t regret it).

6. Place bowl of pastry cream in a bowl of ice water; chill for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover surface with plastic wrap. Chill 4 hours or until cold; do not stir. Makes 2 cups.
chilling the slightly-runny pastry cream

Pâte Sablée
1 ½ cups flour
10 T butter (1 stick plus 2 T)
¼ c. sugar
pinch salt
2 egg yolks
3 T ice water

1. In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar and pinch of salt (one or two pulses).
2. Cut the butter in 10 pieces and drop in the food processor. Pulse 3-4 times, until the butter is relatively finely chopped.
3. Drop in the two egg yolks and run for about 10 seconds, so egg is well combined.
4. Scrape mixture from food processor into a bowl. Sprinkle with 3 T of ice water. Combine using either a wooden spoon or your hands until it can be formed into a ball.
5. Wrap the ball in plastic wrap, form into a disc and freeze for 10 minutes (or refrigerate for 30-60 minutes).
To parbake the crust…..
1. Take out a 10 inch removable-bottom tart pan (you CAN make it in a pie pan, but a removable bottom is definitely your friend. You could alternatively try a springform pan, though you won’t end up with fluted edges).
2. Take the dough out of the freezer and place on counter (I put it on floured waxed paper). I also like the trick of topping it with a sheet of plastic wrap, as this avoids the endless fun of picking bits of dough off your rolling pin and trying to squish them back onto the crust.
3. From the centre, roll out into a 12-inch circle. If you find the dough starting to get too sticky, put it back in the fridge for a few minutes.
4. Gently transfer the dough into the tart pan (I like to pick up my waxed paper, which my dough has inevitably clung to, and flip it over the pan….this helps avoid stretching).
5. Press dough into pan and trim edges with a knife. Try not to let edges be thinner than the rest of the dough or they will burn beyond all recognition (see picture above!). Prick all over with a fork.
better crust

6. Preheat oven to 425F. Line dough with a layer of foil, and then fill with some sort of weight. I used brown rice….if you have pastry weights, go for it, but any sort of dry bean/grain will work.
7. Bake for about 12 minutes, covered.
8. Reduce oven temperature to 350F and remove the foil/rice/beans.
9. Cook another 15 minutes (checking every five minutes!!!!!) until crust is browned but not blackened.
better crust

10. Allow crust to cool.

To assemble tart:
1. Spread pastry cream in tart pan. See those little black flecks? That's the vanilla peeps!
vanilla-flecked pastry cream in butter crust

2. Put fruit on top (about 2 cups or so….). Arrange it fancy, make it simple, however you like. I chose simple for this, because I just wanted pure, delicious, almost rustic taste. You can have various fruits of different colours….use your imagination. I sorted my strawberries from large to small to make it look prettier.
sorted from smallest to largest

So simple, yet so goooooood
strawberry cream tart

3. BUT MAKE THIS NOW. IT’S THAT GOOD. You can see my runny pastry cream here....but if you up the cornstarch, you can fix this problem and end up with a tart that looks as pretty on the plate as it did in the pan!
this is the most amazing thing i've ever eaten


Anonymous said...

Looks delicious girl! I'm impressed... What's this article you're writing for food tv? That's pretty darn cool.

-first_2b_abride from WB

Christy said...

That looks soooo good, my mouth is just watering! Adding it to long list of your recipes to try.

sher said...

Oh boy! I want some of that NOW!

HumanUnit said...

L, you're my inspiration! I'm totally making a fruit tart for a picnic on Monday now. I think I'm going to try Ina Garten's (Barefoot Contessa) recipe and will tell you how it goes!

Janet said...

This looks fantastic. I <3 strawberries too!

Lesley said...

omg, i am just loving this - I can't wait to try making it! Your pic at the beginning of this post is just amazing. mmmmm strawberries!!!!

Helen said...

This looks so good...I want some now!!!

Sarah said...

Last Friday I picked some fresh berries at a local farm. Last night I made jam and canned 8 half pint jars. I love fresh fruit too. Wonder if your recipe would be good with tart cherries. Here it go!!!

your little cousin kc said...

Wow, that looks great! mmm mmm.

plantchick said...

I made this over the weekend. TO.Die. FOR Thanks!

Lisa Hutch said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this inspiring dessert! I tried my own version, which isn't as pretty and is a little more lazy, but I'm so happy with the result (see here for a pic! Thank you!

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