May 5, 2016

The Perfect Seasonal Dessert: Strawberry Tart {3-Step Recipe}


Despite its elegant presentation, the tarte aux fraises is considered a "basic" French pâtisserie. In fact, this was one of the first recipes taught in my Cordon Bleu pâtisserie diploma course in Paris. Yet sometimes the simplest of preparations are the very best. This is especially true of strawberry tart if made in season when the fruit is at peak ripeness. In France during May and June, beautiful berry tarts are displayed in the windows of pâtisserie boutiques, often enticing passersby to enter the shop. 

During my two-year stay in France, I never met ayone French who didn't love tarte aux fraises.  What's not to love? Strawberry tart is delicious, refreshing and not too sweet, plus the buttery crust and creamy filling adds to the irresistibility. Strawberry tart also happens to be my favorite dessert. I enjoy making it at home in the SF Bay Area, using local berries grown in Watsonville, a small rural community near the sunny beach town of Santa Cruz.



To make this tart from scratch, you need to master two fundamental pâtisserie techniques: pâte sucrée (sweet pastry crust) and crème pâtisserie (pastry cream). Once you learn how to make these two elements, you can build upon them to create many other wonderful desserts such as baked fruit tarts and fresh fruit charlottes.


Step 1: Make the Pâte Sucrée (Pastry Crust)
Recipe adapted from Le Cordon Bleu Cookbook


Ingredients:
1 2/3 cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter (8 tablespoons/1 stick) 
1/4 cup of sugar
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Directions:
1. Using your fingertips, rub the butter and flour together, then the sugar.
2. Blend in the egg and vanilla extract, using your hands. Knead until the dough is smooth.
3. Press the dough into a ball and chill for at least one hour.
4. Roll out the dough to 1/4" thick and place in on the tart pan.
5. "Blind bake" (bake the pie crust by itself) with ceramic weights on top of parchment paper. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 to 20 minutes (depends on your oven) or until the crust is golden brown.

Step 2: Prepare the Crème Pâtissière (Pastry Cream)
Recipe from "Paris Sweets" by Dorie Greenspan

This recipe is a variation of crème pâtissière that is similar to a crème mousseline, a pastry cream enriched with whipped butter. 

Ingredients:
2 cups of whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 - 4 tablespoons of cornstarch
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons of unsalted butter (cut in small pieces)

Directions:
1. Heat the milk with the vanilla bean and salt. Bring to just under a boil.
2. Whisk together the cornstarch, sugar and eggs.
3. Ladle 1/3 of hot milk into the egg mixture and whisk well, then pour into the hot milk.
4. Continue whisking the milk over medium heat until the boiling point. You should see bubbles form (that indicates that the egg is cooked). 
5. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes. 
6. Add the butter and whisk until it's smooth.
7. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.


Step 3: Assemble the Tart

1. Spread the chilled pastry cream on the tart shell.



2. Slice the strawberries either lengthwise or widthwise. Either way will work as long as all the berries are sliced in a consistent manner.
Strawberries sliced lengthwise (I prefer this way!)
Photo credit: Cooking Light


3. Working from the outside, place the strawberries on top of the pastry cream in tightly packed concentric circles until finally covering the entire tart.


Enjoy while very fresh! Bon Appetit!
Copyright © 2015, Lisa Alexander. All rights reserved.

2 comments:

Liz Gladstone said...

I have always wanted to bake a pie - and I love buying all of the strawberries at the market. However, I am intimidated to bake pies and I can't eat the strawberries fast enough before they expire. This solves both at the same time!! I am going to try this next time I go to the market.

Miss Patisserie said...

Hi Liz, you would not believe how easy it is to create this strawberry tart. I'm going to teach a class on June 28th. You should join us! Here's more info: www.miss-patisserie-sf.com/p/classes_10.html