Saturday, May 18, 2013

Gorgeous Strawberry Tart

Tarts are the best.

They're perhaps one of the greatest culinary inventions when it comes to showcasing the summer's best fruity bounty.  You can top them with just about any fruit, and they're always exceptionally yummy. 

A recent trip to the farmer's market resulted in a big, beautiful bucket of some of the juiciest, sweetest and most delicious fresh strawberries finding their way to my kitchen.  With my berry discovery, I knew that a tart was in our near future. 

For this tart, I used THIS RECIPE FOR A BLUEBERRY TART as my inspiration.  By the way, that blueberry tart is without a doubt one of my favorite desserts, like, ever in the history of mankind.  If you're a blueberry fan, you must try it. 

The pastry cream is dotted with little specks of vanilla bean goodness, fresh orange zest, and nutmeg (the secret ingredient!).

The tart shell is easy to assemble, and the ground almonds lend a wonderfully nutty flavor.

If you're looking for the perfect summer dessert, look no further.  Try this gorgeous tart and let me know what you think.  :)

Bon Appetit, my friends!    

Gorgeous Strawberry Tart
Adapted from:   Zoe Bakes

Tart Shell:
1  3/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup confectioners sugar
1 large egg beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1  3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons ground almonds 

To make the crust:  
This makes a very soft/sticky dough, which makes it more difficult to work with. It is well worth the little bit of extra effort. 

Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg and make sure it is well blended. Add the salt and vanilla, mix until incorporated. Add the flour and almond meal, mix together until there are no more dry patches of flour.

Divide the dough into two equal disks and wrap well in plastic. Refrigerate for at least an hour. If you are only making one tart then freeze the other packet of dough for the next time you want a treat in a hurry.

Take one disk of dough out of the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes. This will soften the dough just enough so that it won’t crack when you are rolling it out.

Roll it out (preferably on a silpat or other silicon baking sheet) until it is about 1/16″ thick and the right size to fit into a 9-inch tart pan.

If the dough is very sticky and will not easily peel off of the silpat, throw the silpat and dough right into the freezer for about 5 minutes.

When you remove the silpat/dough from the freezer you should be able to peel the dough easily.

 Place the silpat/dough over the tart pan and gently peel the silpat away.

If the dough is frozen, give it a minute to become supple, then you will need to push the dough down into the pan, it might crack a bit, but don’t worry!  You can just press it back together.

Using a knife or metal spatula trim off the excess dough from the pan.

Preheat your oven to 350° and place the tart pan in the freezer while you wait for the oven to heat up.  Once the oven is up to temperature, take the tart shell out of the freezer and line with foil.  Fill the foil with beans and/or pie weights.

Bake the shell for 25 minutes with the pie weights. Lift the foil/weights out of the shell and continue baking until the tart shell is golden brown, about 10 more minutes.

Cool the shell on a cooling rack while you prepare the fillings for the tart. 

Pastry cream:
1 cup milk (doesn’t seem to matter what kind)
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (cold)
Pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 large egg yolks
Zest from 1/4 orange
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon crème fraîche (optional)

To Make the Pastry Cream:
Bring the milk, 1/8 cup of the sugar, butter, salt and vanilla bean to a gentle boil in a medium saucepan.

Remove from heat.

Whisk together the cornstarch and the remaining 1/8 cup of sugar. Add the egg yolks to the cornstarch and mix into a smooth paste.

Slowly, and in small amounts, whisk a little of the hot milk into a the egg mixture. This is called tempering the eggs, which you need to do to get them to the same temperature of the hot milk in the pan, so they won’t curdle.

Once the egg mixture is warm to the touch, pour it back into the milk in the pan.

Return the custard to the stove and bring to a boil, whisking continuously for 2 to 3 minutes. The pastry cream will thicken almost immediately but it is important to cook out the starch so that it isn’t grainy and so your pastry cream won’t separate. (separating pastry cream is when the liquid releases from the cream, easily prevented by cooking for 2-3 minutes!)  

When the pastry cream is done it will be smooth and glossy.  

Cover with plastic wrap pressed directly on the surface of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Set the container in the freezer for 15 minutes (this cools down the eggs quickly) and then refrigerate for up to a few days.
Stir the chilled pastry cream to make it spreadable and add the zest, nutmeg and crème fraîche. Fill the prepared tart shell with the pastry cream. 

Strawberry filling 
3 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
scant 1/2 cup orange juice 
1/4 - 1/2 cup sugar (depending on how sweet your berries are)
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch, mixed with 2 tablespoons water.
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
pinch of salt 

Prepare the strawberry filling:
In a medium sauce pan, bring 1/2 cup of the strawberries, the juice and sugar to a boil.  While vigorously whisking add the cornstarch slurry to the pot. Add the vanilla, orange zest and salt.

Continue to cook and whisk until the mixture is very thick and glossy, about 2 minutes.

Remove from heat.  Quickly fold in the rest of the fresh strawberries.  Quickly add the berries to the tart shell, on top of the pastry cream. Spread them into an even layer.  Chill until set, about an hour.

Serve as is or with a dollop of crème fraîche.

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