(Photo Credit: Small Kitchen College)
During the school year, I catch myself dreaming up various excuses to retreat from College Hill to the cutest little pastry shop in Providence, just a trolley ride away. The bakery is called Pastiche and they make the most amazing fruit tarts I have ever seen and tasted. Ever since tasting their fruit tart, I've been wanting to recreate it to share at a party (or on a Valentine's date!). Fruit tarts make a dazzling dessert that pleases everyone with its natural vibrant colors (nothing artificial here!) and perfect balance of flavors. Plus, you can trick dieters into thinking that they are eating something healthy. The beautiful fruit perfectly complements the creamy vanilla-infused pastry cream and flaky, buttery crust.
Based on my meticulous research, I've deduced a few tricks to making stunning fruit tarts:
1. Pick at least 3 colors of fruit. If you are not limited by the variety of fruit you can get your hands on, I strongly recommend getting at least 7 different types. I used strawberries, persimmon, mango, raspberries, blueberries, kiwi, and blackberries for the fruit tart pictured above.
2. Glaze the top with a clear jelly. This really gives the tart some shine and sparkle! Just a thin, even layer will suffice; too much jelly makes it look unappetizingly gloopy.
3. Timing is important. The pastry cream can be made up to 48 hours in advance, but don't fill the prebaked tart shell until 30 minutes or less before serving before serving. Once filled, the tart should be topped with fruit, glazed, and served within about 30 minutes (for best results).
4. Slice the fruit very very thin. About 1/8 inch is good; however, this can be very time consuming. If you don't have time, fret not! Another method is to use blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries, which you can simply arrange on the tart as they are. For a special touch, peel and slice a kiwi or two -- the green will help make the colors pop.
For the pate brisée:
3 cups + 2 tbs (455g) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 cup + 5 tbs (300g) chilled butter, cut into small cubes
For the pastry cream:
1 1/2 cup whole milk + 1/2 cup crème fraiche (can substitute 2 cups half and half)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
pinch table salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla bean powder
5 large egg yolks, chalazae removed
3 tablespoons cornstarch
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (cold), cut into 4 pieces
For the fruit and glaze:
assorted fruit, sliced 1/8 inch thin (raspberries, strawberries, mangoes, kiwi, blueberries, blackberries, persimmon)
1/2 cup pineapple mango jelly (can use apple or apricot jelly)
To make the pate brisée: Place the flour and salt in a big bowl. Add the butter. Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour until you obtain a mixture resembling coarse sand. Pour 2/3 cup ice cold water over the crumbly mixture. Stir and toss with the help of a knife until the dough starts to come together. Continue mixing (very gently) until you obtain a ball of dough which is not completely smooth.
On a floured surface, divide pastry in two, shape into a 1 inch thick disk and wrap in plastic film. Put in the fridge and let rest for about 2 hours or overnight. Roll out one of the disks on a lightly floured surface to 1/8 inch thickness and from the center toward the edge in all directions, without forgetting to lift and rotate the pastry a quarter turn every now and then. Once your pastry is a circle 1 1/2 inches larger than the tart pan, carefully transfer it to the buttered pan (folding in half, if necessary). Ease it into the bottom and sides of the pan and pressing into place. Trim the edge with a knife. Prick the bottom of the pastry with a fork, line with baking paper and fill with pie weights or dry beans. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Bake blind until the surface of the dough looks dry and has no opaque areas left, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and remove the paper as well as the weights/beans, then return the shell to the oven for an extra 2-5 minutes (if the center starts to rise, gently pierce with a knife. Let cool completely on a wire rack before filling.
For the pastry cream: Heat the whole milk and crème fraiche or half-and-half, 6 tablespoons sugar, salt and vanilla bean powder in medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat until simmering, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar.
Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks in a medium bowl until they are thoroughly combined. Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar until the sugar has begun to dissolve and the mixture is creamy, about 15 seconds. Whisk in the cornstarch until combined and the mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 30 seconds.
When the milk mixture reaches a full simmer, gradually whisk the simmering milk into the yolk mixture to temper. Return the mixture to the saucepan, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula to make sure every bit makes it into the saucepan. Return the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly (this is important, don't stop stirring!), until 3 or 4 bubbles burst on surface and the mixture is thickened and glossy, about 30 seconds to one minute.
Off the heat, whisk in the butter. Transfer the mixture to medium bowl, press plastic wrap directly on the surface, and refrigerate until the pastry cream is cold and set, at least 3 hours or up to 48 hours.
To assemble and glaze the tart: When the tart shell is completely cool, spread cold pastry cream over the bottom, using an offset spatula or large spoon. At this point, you can press plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream and refrigerate the filled shell for up to 30 minutes. Arrange the fruit on top of pastry cream from outside to inside. Bring the jelly to a boil in a microwave safe cup in the microwave. When boiling and completely melted, apply the jelly to the tart by dabbing and flicking it onto the fruit with a pastry brush; add 1 teaspoon water and return the jelly to a boil if it becomes too thick to drizzle. (The tart can be refrigerated, uncovered, up to 30 minutes.)
—Connie Wu for Small Kitchen College