Apparently, baking up a nice fruit tart is high-stakes drama. At least according to Fox’s ‘Masterchef’, a competition of home cooks out to prove themselves before over-the-top chef Gordon Ramsay (word in the industry is he’s actually a nice guy).
Irregardless, last night the show’s producers portrayed a tart as an intense, risky, highly sensitive baking venture. I laughed all the way to the commercial break because tarts are so simple! But, you know, you do have to pay super-duper-extra careful attention to EVERY step of the process…
Like the crust. The easiest and most traditional one is a sugar cookie dough. But if you don’t cream the butter and sugar just right before slowly beating in an egg and then the flour, you could completely upset the space-time continuum.
And for instance, if you don’t roll the dough out to exactly 1/4-inch thick and blind bake (using rice or beans) it at exactly the right temperature, you will of course ruin your life and the life of anyone within a 50 mile radius of your kitchen.
Furthermore, if you neglect to use a whisk to stir the pastry cream vigorously as it thickens, your stove and oven will explode with anger. AND, if you forget to cover the cooling pastry cream with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming your refrigerator will explode, too.
Side Note. See the other side note below on how to cheat your way to this point with store bought, pre-made ingredients! But be careful, that too is a very tricky process (ha ha).
When finishing a tart such as this strawberries ‘n’ cream version, proper folding of whipped cream into the pastry cream is essential. If your strokes aren’t exactly the same every fold, it will taste like dirt. Precise piping of this lightened cream into the tart shell is also essential, otherwise it will taste like dirt AND grass. Not sweet, smooth vanilla cream resting among a crunchy, crumbly cookie crust.
As for the fruit, if the berries are not in perfect harmony, the whole tart will simply vanish from your counter top and reappear moments later falling from above your head. So you know, have all your wits about you when you set out to make a fruit tart. It’s a high stakes situation. You wouldn’t want to risk all that sweet and tart, creamy and crunchy goodness falling on your head. Or worse, directly into your mouth.
|Strawberries ‘n’ Cream Tarts|
- Tart Shells
- 2 sticks butter, unsalted, softened (8 oz)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar (4 oz)
- Pinch salt
- 1 egg
- 2 tsp vanilla extract, optional
- 2 1/4 cups cake or all-purpose flour (12 oz)
- Pastry Cream
- 2 cups milk, whole or 2% recommended
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 Tbs butter, unsalted
- Pinch salt
- 1/3 cup cornstarch
- 3 eggs, large
- 2 Tbs vanilla extract, Bourbon or Tahitian recommended
- To Finish
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 Tbs granulated sugar
- Fresh strawberries, sliced thin or quartered
- In a large bowl with a hand mixer (or in a stand mixer with a paddle), beat butter, sugar and salt on medium-high speed until smooth and lightened in color. Over low speed add egg, then vanilla extract. Slowly add flour until dough comes together, scraping mixing bowl often. Form into a flat disc, wrap in plastic and chill at least two hours.
- Using a lightly floured surface and rolling pin, roll dough to a 1/4-inch thickness. Cut circles slightly larger than tart shell pans – this is made easy with a biscuit cutter slightly larger than the little pans. [img src= “http://edibletimes.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/IMG_5691.jpg” width=”300″ height=”200″ /]
- Gently press dough into bottom of shells and up the sides. Roll pin along the top of tart shells to remove excess overhang. Likewise, roll dough two inches larger than your full-size pan, and follow same procedure. Freeze shells for twenty minutes.
- Preheat oven to 375Â° F. Line shells with plastic wrap and fill with pie weights, dried beans or rice. Gather plastic into center. Bake shells for 10 minutes, remove pie weights using tongs, and bake five minutes more, until edges begin to brown (large tart will need more time). Cool completely before filling.
- Combine half of the sugar, salt and all but a half cup of the milk in a sauce pot. Bring just to a boil over high heat.
- While milk is coming to a boil, combine cornstarch and remaining sugar in a medium heatproof bowl, and whisk in the half cup of milk to make a slurry (thick starch-liquid mixture). Then gently stir eggs into slurry.
- Once milk reaches a boil, slowly pour around half of the hot milk into the egg mixture whisking vigorously (tempering the eggs so they don’t curdle over high heat).
- Pour tempered egg mixture back into pot with hot milk, and turn heat down to medium. Whisk constantly until pastry cream comes to a slow boil, with just a few large bubbles breaking the surface.
- Pour into a bowl and press plastic wrap over the surface. Poke a few holes in plastic wrap to vent, and cool in refrigerator.
- With a mixer (whip attachment), beat cold heavy cream with sugar until medium-stiff peaks form. Then in a large bowl fold whipped cream into pastry cream, using gentle up-and-over strokes with a spatula.
- Fill a pastry bag or plastic bag no more than halfway full with pastry cream, and cut a half-inch hole at the tip.
- Pipe a thin layer of cream into the bottom of each shell, and decorate with strawberries, or fresh fruit of your choice. Serve tarts immediately once filled. Can be stored chilled for up to 24 hours (crust will become soggy once filled).
If you’re not into scratch baking, you can absolutely use store-bought sugar cookie dough for the crust and vanilla pudding for the pastry cream.
Tart shells can be stored sealed at room temperature for three days. Pastry cream will keep chilled for up to a week.
For a professional touch, brush the fruit with a little apricot jam mixed with warm water. Your tarts will shine!