When I was asked to bring fruit to a little gathering of Sunday school ladies, I don’t know if this is what she had in mind. But I’d been itching to make a proper dessert for a while, so this is what I brought. Beats the pants off of a fruit salad, I’d say.
Making pastry cream is one of those “miracle in the kitchen” moments when you smile and marvel at what can become of eggs, milk, sugar and heat! One minute on the stove you’re whisking, being careful not to stir too quickly to avoid spilling the thin mixture, then it’s suddenly a thickened pot of deliciousness! Pastry cream is easy, as long as you can devote a little bit of undivided attention to it. If you don’t whisk, whisk, whisk while its cooking you’ll end up with lumps, which are not what you want in a pastry cream. You also have to let it cool for at least 2 hours in the fridge. If you have time and patience, you can make pastry cream.
Recipes for the tart crust and pastry cream came from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook. I had no problems with the pastry cream. The crust was another story entirely. After preparing the dough, I wrapped it in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge. At this point I already had my doubts. It was so crumbly and dry. After chilling overnight (which the recipe says is fine) it was so dry that it was impossible to roll out. And I mean impossible. It crumbled. All over the place. I ended up just pressing it into the tart pan. I blind baked it, worrying the entire time that I’d have to do it over again. But it came out of the oven looking fine. I figured that since it was going to be filled with pastry cream and topped with fruit, a less than stellar crust was OK. It turned out to be a bit difficult to slice, and it did crumble easily, but it tasted great. But I am in search of the perfect tart dough now.
You can use any fruit you like. I used blueberries, raspberries and kiwi. I also bought strawberries, but didn’t end up having room for them. So I made baby food with them…something that was not a big hit. But that’s a story for another blog.
I glazed the top of the finished tart with apricot jam that I’d heated and thinned with a little water to give it a nice sheen. It doesn’t interfere with the taste at all.
Tart Dough and Pastry Cream From Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook
NOTE: The instructions below would work in an ideal baking world. I had to press my crumbling dough into the tart pan, much like a graham cracker crust. If you cannot roll this dough, the pressing method works fine, but does not yield a tender crust. I might be inclined to tell you to simply use your favorite pie dough recipe in place of this one. Sorry, Martha.
- 6 tablespoons butter, room temp
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons heavy cream
- In the bowl of an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, combine butter and powdered sugar on low speed until combined, about 2 minutes.
- Add egg yolks and mix until incorporated. Add 3/4 cup flour and mix on low speed until just incorporated. Add remaining 3/4 cup flour, salt and cream, and mix until flour is no longer visible, about 1 minute.
- Turn dough onto plastic wrap and shape into a flattened disk. Wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
- When ready to make your tart shell, preheat oven to 375°F, remove dough from the fridge, roll out to 1/4 inch thick and at least 2 inches wider in diameter than your tart pan (so 13 inches for an 11 inch pan, 11 inches for a 9 inch pan).
- Drape dough over pan, press into the pan, remove excess by rolling a rolling pin over the top edge to trim dough.
- Blind Bake: Prick dough lightly with a fork in several places. Lay a piece of parchment over the dough, fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 20 minutes, remove parchment and weights, bake for another 5-10 until slightly browned. Let cool.
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped
- pinch of salt
- 4 egg yolks
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons butter, cut into cubes
- In a medium saucepan, combine milk, 1/4 cup sugar, vanilla bean and seeds, and salt. Cook over medium heat until mixture just comes to a simmer.
- In a medium bowl, whisk eggs yolks, cornstarch, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Whisking constantly, slowly pour about 1/2 cup hot milk mixture into the egg mixture. Continue adding milk mixture, a little at a time, to the egg mixture, whisking constantly, until it has all been incorporated.
- Pour mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens, about 2 minutes. Remove and discard vanilla bean.
- Transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer with paddle attachment. Add the butter and beat on medium speed until the butter melts and the mixture cools slightly, about 5 minutes.
- Pour pastry cream into a bowl and press plastic wrap directly onto the surface (so it doesn’t form a skin). Refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.
- Just before using, whisk until smooth.
- 1 baked tart shell
- 1 batch pastry cream
- Assorted fruits, rinsed and dried (a heaping cup each blueberries, raspberries and 3 kiwi fruits sliced with skin removed)
- 1/4 cup apricot jam, warmed with 1-2 tablespoons water
- Brush jam over crust, just to coat, to keep it from becoming soggy. Let dry for 20 minutes.
- Spread pastry cream in shell and smooth the top, fill almost to the top edge of the shell.
- Arrange fruit on top of pastry cream and then brush top of the fruit with more jam. Chill until ready to serve.