Tuesday, May 11, 2010

TWD: Quick Classic Berry Tart

Cristine of Cooking with Cristine picked Quick Classic Berry Tart. This sweet buttery tart crust filled with a vanilla pastry cream and topped with fresh fruit is the ideal spring or summer dessert.
Since I was having guests for dinner last week we made mini tarts to serve for dessert. This was the perfect dessert to have for company because both the pastry cream and the tart shells were made a day ahead. At the last minute all we had to do was assemble the tarts. We are lucky enough to live close to a small farmer's market and were able to get some delicious farm fresh berries and when we were putting everything together, we chose not to glaze the tarts since the berries were so ripe and sweet.
Because the tarts were small and the crust thick, we made small mounds of the pastry cream, which provided the right balance of crispy crust to creamy filling. We topped each of  them with a single type of berry since they were mini tarts, but on a larger tart a mix of several berries would also be good.
I had a few tart shells and pastry cream left over so I mixed the pastry cream with some caramel sauce I had made earlier and made a few banana caramel tarts. These were good, but we all liked the combination of the simple vanilla cream with the sweet, fresh berries the best. This is a great recipe for experimenting with seasonal fruits and new flavor combinations and I know we will be trying it again with whatever we can get at our farmer's market this summer.

Quick Classic Berry Tart
 Baking: From My Home To Yours
Makes 6 to 8 servings

Storing: Eat the tart as soon after it is constructed as possible, certainly on the day it is made. If you must keep it for a few hours, store it in the refrigerator, making sure to keep it away from any foods with strong odors
 About 1 1/2 cups Pastry Cream, cooled or chilled (Recipe Below)
1 9" tart shell made with Sweet Tart Dough 
2 pints fresh raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, or strawberries, or an assortment of berries 
1/3 cup red currant jelly mixed with 1 tsp of water, for glazing
Smooth the pastry cream by giving it a couple of strong turns with a whisk. Spoon enough pastry cream into the tart crust to come almost to the rim, then even the surface with a rubber spatula. Carefully lay the berries on the cream, arranging them in any pattern that pleases you. If you are using strawberries, either halve them from top to bottom or slice them, depending on the size of the berries and your whim.
Bring the jelly and the water to a boil in a microwave oven or on the stovetop. Working with a pastry brush or a pastry feather, dab each berry with a spot of jelly. Or, if you like, you can glaze the entire surface of the tart, including the bit of pastry cream that peeks through the berries.
Pastry Cream
Makes about 2 cups

2 cups whole milk
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 TBSP unsalted butter, cut into bits at room temperature
Bring the milk to a boil in a small saucepan.
Meanwhile, in a medium heavy bottomed saucepan, whisk the yolks together with the sugar and cornstarch until thick and well blended. Still whisking, drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk- this will temper, or warm, the yolks so they won't curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remainder of the milk. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously, constantly and thoroughly (making sure to get into the edges of the pot), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.
Whisk in the vanilla extract. Let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in the bits of butter, stirring until they are fully incorporated and the pastry cream is smooth and silky. Scrape the cream into a bowl. You can press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the cream to create an airtight seal and refrigerate the pastry cream until cold, or, if you want to cool it quickly - as I always do- put the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water, and stir the pastry cream occasionally until it is thoroughly chilled, about 20 minutes.The pastry cream can be kept tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Sweet Tart Dough
Makes 1 -  9" Crust

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick plus 1 TBSP (9 TBSP) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk 

Put the flour, confectioners sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in - you should have some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses - about 10 seconds each- until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change- heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.

 Butter a 9" fluted tart pan with a removable bottom ( or for  mini tart,s mini tart pans or muffin cups) Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, using all but one little piece of dough, which you should save in the refrigerator to patch any cracks after the crust is baked. Don't be too heavy-handed - press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

 Preheat the oven to 375. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. (Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights.) Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minute s(mini tarts bake for about 15 minutes). Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon.

Bake for another 8 minutes (adjust your time for minis) or so, or until it is firm and golden brown. (I dislike lightly baked crusts, so I often keep the crust in the oven just a little longer. If you do that, just make sure to keep a close eye on the crust's progress- it can go from golden to way too dark in a flash.) Transfer the tart pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature before filling.
Thank you Cristine for a classic, and versatile recipe.  If you want to see what the other TWD bakers made check our blogroll.