Sunday, May 24, 2009

Fresh Strawberry Tart

It's strawberry time. I remember making a version of this tart many years ago (long before Ben was born) out of my copy of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It was beautiful, and it made me, a beginning cook at the time, feel very accomplished. 

Fresh Strawberry Tart (Tarte aux Fraises)
1 fully baked 9-inch (24-cm) tart shell made from Sweet Tart Dough (below)
Pastry cream (below)
3 to 4 cups fresh strawberries, hulled

Just before serving, spread the chilled pastry cream in the fully-baked tart shell. Top with halved or sliced strawberries. You may glaze this with a strawberry glaze if you wish, but it is lovely without. 
Sweet Tart Dough
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar (powdered sugar)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Mix flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Cut in the butter until it resembles coarse oatmeal. Add the lightly stirred egg yolk and mix with a fork until the dough holds together. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead slightly with a light hand. 
Press into a buttered tart pan. Freeze the pan for 30 minutes before baking. Bake at 375 for 25 minutes or until slightly browned. 
Pastry Cream (from Smitten Kitchen)
1 1/4 cups (300 grams) whole milk
1/2 moist, plump vanilla bean, split and scraped or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
3 tablespoons (30 grams) cornstarch
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1. Bring the milk and vanilla bean (pulp and pod) 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. 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.
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 pastry 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. 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.

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