Fresh Strawberry Tart With Pastry Cream

I went to my sister’s house to grill and have a picnic this weekend, and I decided to make a dessert using the delicious strawberries in my fridge (actually I bought more strawberries because I love eating fruit). The New Best Recipe has a recipe for a fresh fruit tart with a variation specifically for strawberries, and that’s what I decided to make.

The tart has three parts – the crust, the pastry cream, and the fruit. Turns out it’s a lot more work than I expected!

The crust is made of sweet pastry dough, a more cookie-like counterpart to its cousin, American pie dough. According to The New Best Recipe, this dough is “tender and crisp,” not flaky like pie dough. The book also describes cookies as descendants of sweet pastry dough, claiming cookies were the result of the French deciding this dough was good enough to eat on its own.

I find pie dough to be about 10 times easier to work with than this sweet pastry dough. It may be delicious, but it warms up quickly and gets very sticky and hard to work with. Worst of all, every time I make it I can’t stop eating the dough raw!

The ingredients consist of an egg yolk, a small amount of cream, vanilla extract, flour, confectioners’ sugar, salt and a stick of butter. The yolk, cream and vanilla are whisked together while the flour, sugar and salt are supposed to be placed in a food processor – something I lack. My version involved mixing the two separately by hand. The cold butter is cut into the flour mixture, and then the egg yolk mixture is added and combined until the dough just comes together. Hard to do by hand, but not impossible.

The dough is then refrigerated for an hour, formed into a tart pan (I have a Nordic Ware tart and quiche pan with removable bottom that I bought at Target), frozen for 30 minutes, then baked. The crust is baked covered with aluminum foil using pie weights for 30 minutes, then the weights and foil are removed and the crust is baked until golden brown.

I don’t actually have pie weights, but beans work!

I won’t go into how pastry cream is made – it’s a pretty standard thing even if recipes vary. This recipe called for half-and-half rather than milk or cream. I used the quick-cooling method because I didn’t have a lot of time to wait. By spreading the pastry cream on a cookie sheet or other large pan (I used a 13x9in baking dish) between two layers of plastic wrap, you allow more heat to escape at once.

It might not look delicious here, but it is. The plastic prevents a skin from forming.

After cooling the crust and cream, the cream is spread over the tart crust. Strawberries are then placed in the pan, starting with the tallest strawberry in the center with the remaining berries placed in rings spreading outward.

First I cut the stem ends off the berries.

The recipe directs us to order the berries by size. They looked so good I couldn’t stop taking photos! This is before I lined up my strawberry army.

Once ordered by height the berries were ready to go into the tart.

Once great thing about this tart is that you don’t feel like you’re ruining the freshness of fruit by cooking it down – it doesn’t get cooked!

The final step is glazing the fruit. The New Best Recipe suggested using red currant jelly with strawberries, but they were out at the grocery store. I picked up apple jelly as a substitute.

Glazing involved heating the jelly to the boiling point and stirring enough to get the lumps out. The heated jelly is then brushed, flicked, and dabbed onto the fruit until everything looks shiny and delectable.

Doesn’t look particularly good, but it certainly makes the dessert look polished.

I cut way too many strawberries for my tart pan. I guess I’ll have to eat them later. Now the berries are ready for glazing.

The final product looked great, but be sure to serve it soon after you finish! The water in the strawberries will thin out the pastry cream making it hard to serve.


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