I have been wanting to make a simple fruit tart like this for as long as I can remember. It should be pretty simple, right? A pie shell, pastry cream, and a bunch of berries. Yep, sounds like it. But somehow, I never got around to making it. Finally with the abundance of summer berries in season, I decided to give this a try. I have made pie shells before, so I didn’t have any problems with it, and I also didn’t want anything on top of the berries, which makes it even simpler. If you choose, you can sprinkle some powdered sugar or add some thinned and warmed apricot jam to make glaze. The only thing new that I had to try was making pastry cream.
My first attempt of making a pastry cream was a downer I was really bummed! The custard mixture never thickened; it was pretty much like a runny pudding, and it never set even after being refrigerated for 2 days. I thought that refrigeration would change the texture… and nope, I was wrong. I refused to give up, so I redid the recipe. I took the chance of trying the same recipe, and I’m glad that I did.
I read through some reviews on the internet; and had so many conflicting directions about thickening the custard. Many said that the starch mixture had to be cooked to boil, or the starch would not activate, however, it is also a delicate mixture meaning that it can not over heat! The recipe said that it should start to thicken around 2 to 4 minutes, but mine really thickened around 5 to 6 minutes. And there was this very short window where you have to quickly remove it from the heat or the starch will lose its ability to thicken. The biggest lesson I learned was that I missed the window at which the mixture was thickening because I was stirring the mixture vigorously.
So I watched the clock closer the second time around, and stirred frequently (but not madly), and the cream thickened beautifully before it got removed from the heat! Nothing tasted better like a victory… or a tart with perfectly thickened vanilla pastry cream, topped with fresh berries
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s New Pie and Tarts
For the pate sucree
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup ice water
2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
For the vanilla pastry cream
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 cups whole milk
1 tbsp vanilla extract
For the tart
1/2 recipe of the pate sucree
1 recipe of the vanilla pastry cream
4 pints of blueberries/blackberries, or other fruits of your choices (sliced strawberries, kiwis)
For the pate sucree
Combine flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse to combine. Add butter, and process just until the mixture resembles a coarse meal, about 10 seconds.
With machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream through feed tube. Drizzle in egg yolks, and process just until the dough holds together without being wet or sticky; about 30 seconds. Test dough at this point by squeezing a small amount together. If it is crumbly, add a bit more water.
Divide dough in half. Pat into discs, and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill at least one hour.
For the pastry cream
In a large bowl, beat egg yolks until smooth. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch. Gradually add milk and vanilla mixture in a slow, steady stream and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly (not vigorously), until mixture comes to a full boil and is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 2 to 4 minutes (mine took probably closer to 5-6 minutes). Remove from heat.
Using a rubber spatula, press mixture through a sieve into a heatproof bowl. Discard solid. Cover surface directly with plastic wrap, and cool to room temperature in refrigerator, until well chilled, at least 2 hrs or up till 2 days. Whisk to soften slightly just before using.
For the tart
Make the crust: preheat oven to 350 degree. Roll one disc of dough onto a lightly floured surface into about 1/8-inch thickness. Slowly fit dough into a 10-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Pierce bottom of shell all over with fork, and bake until crust begins to color, approximately 12-14 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
Assemble the tart:
Slowly fill the empty tart shell with vanilla pastry cream. Cover the surface with berries or other fruits or your choice.
Yield: 6-8 servings