Saturday, July 3, 2010

Strawberry/Blueberry Tart

We were looking for inventive ways to use the mountains of strawberries that we had picked when my husband decided to make a French strawberry tart. He made me the little heart shaped one with strawberries on top for our 9th wedding anniversary. It was so good that I decided to make a larger version myself for dessert for my parents' visit this past weekend. Unfortunately, we had already eaten through the vast majority of our fresh strawberries, so I made one with blueberries instead. The recipe might look a bit complicated, but is actually quite simple to make (in other words, I even managed to make it!).

You would normally use a shortbread-type crust for this type of tart in France, but we decided to use the simple crust from the Chocolate Pie posted on March 2/10 instead, as it is tasty and really quick and easy to make.
125g of softened butter
additional butter for pie pan
pinch of salt
115g icing sugar
2g of powdered vanilla
1 egg
4 egg yolks
300g of flour

1. To prepare the pastry, put the butter and salt in a food processor and pulse until it becomes creamy. Incorporate the icing sugar, vanilla, eggs and flour and mix together by pulsing until the pastry forms a ball. Place in a Ziploc bag in the fridge for 2 hours. Be sure not to overmix the pastry.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. Use a bit of additional butter to prepare a 24 cm pie pan. Roll the pastry to fit the pie pan. Pierce the pastry with a fork and bake for 15 minutes.

The recipe for the crème pâtissière comes from the Larousse des Desserts, which we picked up alongside the Larousse du Chocolat before my husband moved to Canada from France. Again, because this is a French cookbook, recipes are given in grams rather than in cups. But you it is well worth buying an inexpensive food scale, if only to be able to make this recipe and the Chocolate Pie posted earlier!! You'll also need a food thermometer, but you can also get one that's not too expensive.

We used the vanilla beans that we had bought direct from the producers in Tahiti. Though vanilla beans are expensive here, I would recommend buying some instead of using vanilla extract for this recipe, as it makes a big difference in the flavour. Also, don't substitute a lower-fat milk for the 2%, as that's what makes the cream so creamy.

Crème pâtissière:
1 1/2 vanilla beans
30 g cornstarch
80 g sugar
350 mL 2% milk
4 egg yolks
35 g butter at room temperature (we used light butter)

1. In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks for 3 minutes with half of the sugar.

2. Split the vanilla beans lengthwise with a knife and scrape out the grains. Mix together the cornstarch and the rest of the sugar in a pot. Pour in the milk, mixing continually with a whisk. Add the vanilla beans and the grains and bring to a light boil, while constantly stirring with a whisk.

3. Pour a bit of the milk mixture into the egg yolks and mix.

4. Pour the egg mixture into the pot with the milk mixture and cook, stirring the whole time. As soon as the mixture reaches a light boil, remove the pot from the heat. Remove the vanilla beans.

5. Pour the cream into a bowl and place the bowl inside a second bowl, filled with ice cubes (I just placed the first bowl into a bowl of cold water).

6. When the cream reaches a temperature of 50 degrees Celsius, incorporate the butter, by whisking the mixture rapidly.

It is very important to continue whisking the mixture the entire time, otherwise, you will end up with lumps in your cream.

The cookbook says that it is preferable to make the cream the day that you are using it, as it begins to lose its flavour after 12 hours. However, we ate some 3 days after my husband had first made it and it seemed fine to me.

To assemble the tart, you spread the crème pâtissière on the bottom of the pie shell and then cover the top with berries. Voilà. I wouldn't put the fruit on further in advance than you have to though.

Variation: you can make chocolate crème pâtissière by mixing in 250 g of dark grated chocolate when you remove the cream from the heat in step 4. It should be stirred in 1/3 at a time. I was thinking that a tart with chocolate crème pâtissière might be nice with strawberries on top one day... hmm... the next time people visit???

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