I made these exquisite, delectable little jewels using fresh summer fruits – blueberries, raspberries, grapes and Mt. Rainier cherries. They really are edible works of art and as lovely to look at as to eat. This recipe is from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, so has a few steps to it.
French desert tarts are open faced and stand supported only by their pastry shells. They should be beautiful to look at, especially the fruit tarts.
Pâte Sablée (Sugar Crust)
Sugar crusts are particularly good with fresh fruit tarts. They are more delicate than sweet short paste shells because of their eggs and additional sugar. The more sugar you mix in, the more difficult it is to roll and mold the pastry because it is sticky and breaks more easily; the larger proportion of sugar, however, makes a delicious crust, actually a cookie dough.
For 18 3″ tart shells
- 2 cups/280 grams sifted all purpose (plain) flour
- 3-4 Tb/42 – 56 grams granulated (caster) sugar
- 5 Tb/75 grams chilled unsalted butter
- 2 Tb/30 grams chilled vegetable shortening
- 1 egg beaten with 1 Tb water
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Sift the flour into a one cup measure and level it off with a knife. Place the flour, sugar, butter and vegetable shortening into a bowl. Rub the fat and dry ingredients together rapidly with the tips of your fingers until the fat is broken into bits the size of small oatmeal flakes. Blend in the egg and vanilla and knead the dough rapidly into a ball.
Place on a pastry board and with the heel of your hand, not the palm, rapidly press the pastry by two-spoonful bits down on the board and away from you in a firn, quick smear of about 6 inches. This constitutes the final blending of fat and flour, or fraisage.
Form again into a ball, wrap and refrigerate for several hours until firm.
To make the pastry shells, preheat the oven to 400° F/205° C and roll the dough out to 1/8 inch thick. Place circles of dough into the tart molds. Line with aluminum foil and fill them with beans or pastry weights.
Bake for 8 or 9 minutes until the pastry is set. Remove the foil and weights, prick the bottom of the pastry with a fork to prevent it from rising. Return to the oven for about 5 minutes more. When the shell are very lightly browned remove them from the oven. Unmold and slip onto a rack. The circulation of air will prevent them from getting soggy.
The shells will keep for about a week in an airtight container.
Crème Pâtissière (Custard Filling)
This custard is made of yolks, sugar and milk and contains flour so it may be brought to the boil and is quite thick. The proportions vary according to the use of the filling; the following recipe is designed for a base for fruit tarts.
Yields about 2 1/2 cups
- 1 cup/200 grams granulated (caster) sugar
- 5 egg yolks
- 2/3 cup/90 grams sifted all-purpose (plain) flour
- 2 cups/500 ml boiling milk
- 1 tablespoon/15 grams butter
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
In a saucepan, gradually beat the sugar into the egg yolks using a whisk or an electric mixer, and continue beating for 2 to 3 minutes until the mixture is pale yellow and forms the ribbon. This prepares the egg yolks so that they can be heated without turning granular. The mixture will thicken enough so that when a bit is lifted with the whisk, it will fall backinto the bowl forming a slowly dissolving ribbon on the surface of the mixture. Do not beat beyond this point or the egg yolks will become granular.
Beat in the flour, then gradually pour on the boiling milk in a thin stream of droplets. Set the saucepan over moderately high heat. Stir with a whisk, reaching all over the bottom of the pan. As the sauce comes to a boil, it will get lumpy, but will smooth out as you beat it.
When the boil is reached, beat over moderately low heat for 2 to 3 minutes to cook the flour. Be careful that the custard does not scorch in the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and stir in the butter and vanilla essence.
At this point, if you are not using it immediately, cover the surface with cling film (Saran wrap). Crème pâtissière will keep for a week under refrigeration or can be frozen.
Gelée de Abricot (Apricot Glaze)
This glaze can be used to paint over the top of a tart to give brilliance and glitter.
- 1/2 cup/160 grams apricot jam
- 2 Tb/30 grams granulated (caster) sugar
Force the jam through a sieve into a small saucepan. Stir in the sugar and cook over moderately high heat for 2 to 3 minutes until thick enough to coat a spoon with a light film and the last drops are sticky as they fall from the spoon. This will keep almost indefinitely.
Gather all of the components together. These tarts are at their best on the day that they are constructed. Since everything will keep for about a week, I make a few at a time.
Fill a shell with custard . . . . .
Choose from your fruit palette . . . . . .
Then brush on the apricot glaze . . . . .
Bon appétit bien sur!