Everyone should eat fresh fruit tart in the summer. Everybody. It’s that good. Plus, you can do what you want with the fruit part. All strawberries. No strawberries. I don’t care. It’s yummy. How can you go wrong with shortbread, custard and fruit? You can’t.
Oh, and my friend Krissy was the assembler of the tart. Doesn’t she have lovely hands?
This tart pairs well with red wine. But then, doesn’t everything?
Fresh Fruit Tart
This recipe’s a four-parter. It’s not hard, so don’t let that scare you!
1) Tart shell
2) Pastry cream filling
3) Fresh fruit topping
4) Final fruit glaze
Shortbread Tart Shell
¾ cup unsalted butter
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ¾ all-purpose flour
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the butter and sugar together until they are just combined. Add the vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on a low speed until the dough starts to come together. Mine, did not come together. So I just melted some butter and poured it slowly in until I had the right consistency. The recipe called for forming it into a flat disc, but seriously? That did not work. So, I flattened it out, but then just picked up chunks and put it into the pan, pressing it into place. Chill until firm.
Butter one side of a square aluminum foil to fit inside the tart and place it, buttered side down, on the pastry. Fill with beans or rice (or pie weights). Bake for twenty minutes. Remove the foil and beans, prick the tart all over with the tines of a fork, and bake again for 20-25 minutes more, or until lightly browned. (I should have just done 15 minutes, my shortbread was a BIT too crispy. Tasted good, but hard to cut.) Allow to cool at room temperature.
PART 2- The Pastry Cream
1 1/4 cups (300 grams) whole milk
1/2 moist, plump vanilla bean, split and scraped or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (Okay, where do you buy a moist, plump vanilla bean? Mine was skinny and dry. I address that below)
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
3 tablespoons (30 grams) cornstarch
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
Fresh lemon zest and lemon juice (optional)
1. Bring the milk and vanilla bean to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cover the pan, turn off the heat, and set aside for 10 minutes. Or, if you are using vanilla extract, just bring the milk to a boil and proceed with the recipe, adding the extract before you add the butter to the hot pastry cream.
2. Working in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan, whisk the yolks, sugar, and cornstarch together until thick and pale. (Mine wouldn’t whisk, it was too thick. So I just stirred it all together until combined.) Whisking all the while, very slowly drizzle a quarter of the hot milk onto the yolks. Then, still whisking, pour the rest of the liquid in a steady stream over the tempered yolks. Remove and discard the vanilla pod. (Okay, at this point, I removed the whole vanilla pod, split it, scraped out the pulp, and put it in the cream. This was the point where it actually got the point I could work with it. Maybe I did it wrong, but it tasted good)
3. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously and without stop, bring the mixture to the boil. Keep the mixture at the boil, whisking energetically, for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat and scrape the party cream into a clean bowl. Allow the pastry cream to cool on the counter for about 3 minutes.
4. Cut the butter into chunks and stir the chunks into the hot pastry cream, continuing to stir until the butter is melted and incorporated. Add a splash of whipping cream, especially if your custard got really thick. Like mine. At this point, the cream needs to be thoroughly chilled. You can either set the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water and, to ensure even cooling, stir the cream from time to time, or refrigerate the cream, in which case you should press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal.
When you’re ready to work with your cream, whisk it vigorously to get it back to that custard consistency. I had to add more cream at this point. I also added some fresh lemon zest and lemon juice here, because I like lemon custard. (Actually, Krissy did that, but with my approval.) If you do this, just do it to taste.
(The cream can be kept tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or packed airtight and frozen for 1 month. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator and whip before using to return it to its smooth consistency.)
Part 3: Fresh Fruit
You can add whatever fruits you want to the tart. I did strawberries, raspberries and mango. The final step was just sprinkling some sugar on top. Oh, and devouring it. Lordy, it was good.