What do you do when summer is here and you have a bounty of fresh summer fruit? Make a lovely fresh fruit tart! And plus, fruit is healthy for you, so getting it in dessert form is fine right? 😉 On a recent trip to Costco, my mom bought a huge box of plump, red organic strawberries and I literally went to heaven when I popped one of those babies in my mouth. However, having a pound of these berries means that they needed to be consumed-fast. The best way? Freezing or baking or eating by the handful. I chose to take a few of those delicious fresh berries and make a beautiful fruit tart along with some huge, plump golden kiwis that we had lying around.
A fruit tart has three main components: the crust (Pâte sucrée), the cream filling (Crème pâtissière), and the fresh fruits. Each component involves different steps and levels of care to produce a splendid end product. I personally find that a light crust and sweetly flavored cream filling should play supporting roles for the beautiful fruit to shine through. That’s why each part needs to be considered as how it will factor into the whole tart instead of as individuals.
Crusts usually vary by personal preference– I’ve seen flaky pie crusts, shortbread crusts, graham cracker cookie crusts, and pastry crusts. For this recipe, I use a Pâte sucrée dough, which is French for sweet pastry dough. It’s not as flaky as a normal pie but still light and crisp with a bit of a tender, crumbly texture. It tastes like a shortbread and traditional pie crust hybrid. You can use this recipe for all sorts of pies and tarts– lemon, chocolate, even cream pies!
What I love about this dough is that it doesn’t HAVE to be rolled out since they’re easy to patch together. You could just as easily press the dough into the tart pan if you’re feeling lazy, like me. Plus, the butter doesn’t need to be cut in cold and you don’t need to haul out your food processor. It’s best to chill the dough after forming to allow the butter and flour to meld and to make the dough easier to work with. You can leave the dough in the fridge for at least 2 hours and up to 2 days if you’d like. Like this all doughs, avoid over-mixing it in the mixer and stop when it forms a ball and doesn’t stick to the sides anymore or the crust will be tough from the gluten development. Also, freeze the tart shell before baking to avoid any shrinkage of the crust. If you have pie weights, uncooked rice, or dry beans, you can also use those to line the pie. I also recommend pricking the bottom of the tart with a fork to avoid having the shell puff up while baking. Bake the crust until golden brown and firm to the touch. If you find it browning too quickly, cover it with a piece of foil until it’s baked.
The pastry cream (aka Crème Pâtissière) is a rich and creamy custard that is used in a variety of desserts and pastries such as Boston Cream Pie, eclairs, and mille fuelle (Napoleons). It’s a very basic recipe for custard while lightly flavored with vanilla. It’s a bit like pudding, but a bit firmer to the touch. Usually, it’s made from milk, eggs, sugar, and a thickener of either cornstarch or flour. For those who want a lighter cream, whipped cream is folded into the custard as well.
The key to making a custard is knowing how to handle heat. First, the milk must be gently heated to avoid burning. The egg mixture must also be poured in slowly while the milk is constantly stirred to avoid cooking the egg yolks and making scrambled eggs instead of custard. I was quite liberal with my vanilla addition since I love the smell of vanilla. I also folded in a teaspoon of lemon zest after adding in the vanilla for a fresh citrus taste. When cooking, you don’t want to cook it for longer than 3 minutes after you add in the eggs or else the mixture will become too thick and gelatinous. After you transfer the custard out of the pot, make sure you tightly seal it and store it in the fridge right away so that none of that icky skin forms on the top of your beautiful pastry cream. If it happens that the cream is too thick for your liking, add a dash of milk or fold in some whipped cream.
The ease of this Creme Pat recipe makes me wonder why I don’t make it more often, but then I realize that my waistline is the number one protester! I love how easy it is to flavor this cream. Next time I might opt for a heavier dash of lemon zest or some ground coffee powder for an extra kick. In the meantime, this lightly sweetened recipe is a definite keeper.
The final component in the fruit tart is, of course, the fresh fruit! Wash your fruit carefully and, when possible, stick to organic, in-season fruits. Currently in the summer, the best fruits for fruit tarts are berries (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries), stone fruit (plums, peaches, nectarines, apricots), mangoes, grapes, figs, passion fruit, and cherries. I use a vinegar-water mix for all my berries and liberally scrub the peels for other fruits. Dry your fruits thoroughly and make sure none of them are spoiled or rotten or it will be a downer in your showstopping presentation! Slice or dice the fruit any way your prefer. I like thin slices of fruit layered on top of one another, and kiwis and strawberries are perfect for that. Let your artistic inner-self loose and decorate the tart how you see fit.
Many people opt to brush the bottom of the baked tart shell with a jam-water mix to act as a sealant. This prevent the pastry cream from making the crust soggy over time. If you don’t have jam on hand, you can leave this step out since I find that this tart shell stands up quite well to the pastry cream and (at least in our household), this tart won’t last long enough in the fridge to get soggy! You can also brush the top of your assembled tart with that same jam-water mix to act not only as a sealant, but to make the fruit appear shinier. It’s all in the aesthetics, right?
Now that summer is here and all these beautiful fresh fruits are popping up, it’s time to get to baking! This Fresh Fruit Tart recipe is just waiting to be tested out and consumed by you hungry folks. Eat your daily serving of fresh fruit while also enjoying a light afternoon sweet treat? That’s a winner for me!
Note*** This version of the recipe is solely mine. When re-posting, please cite me and my website.
Copyright june 2016 ©
Fresh Fruit Tart
A fresh fruit tart heaped with juicy strawberries and kiwi on top of a light, sweet pastry cream
>>> Yields 1 9″ tart
-Prep: 40 min
-Bake: 15 min
Pastry Crust (Pâte sucrée):
- 1 1/2 C AP flour
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/2 C unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/4 C white sugar
- 1 large egg, beaten
Pastry Cream (Crème Pâtissière):
- 2 C whole milk
- 1/4 C white sugar
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 large egg
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 1/3 C white sugar
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tsp any flavored jam mixed with 1 1/2 tsp water
- Fresh fruit, slices or cut
1) Beat the butter in a mixer until softened for 2 minutes. Add in sugar and beat until light and fluffy for about 4-5 minutes.
2) Add in the beaten egg and mix until combined.
3) Add the flour and salt into the egg mixture and mix until it forms a clean ball that doesn’t stick to the side of the bowl.
4) Flatten the dough into a disk and wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 days. Remove from the fridge and let stand until pliable.
5) Grease a 9-inch tart or pie tin and roll the pastry out into a large circle and drape into the pan. Press down on the bottom and sides into the pan. Crimp the edges with your fingers. Alternatively, take pieces of the pastry dough and press it into the tin parts at a time and make an even layer with your fingers. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 15-20 minutes to prevent shrinking while baking.
6) Preheat the oven to 400 F. Lightly prick the bottom of the crust with a fork and bake for 5 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 F and bake for another 15 minutes until the crust is firm to the touch and golden brown.
7) Remove the crust from the oven and let completely cool.
1) In a saucepan, gently heat the milk and 1/4 C of sugar to medium. Make sure the milk doesn’t burn and constantly stir the milk to prevent a skin from forming on the saucepan.
2) In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, egg, 1/3 C sugar, cornstarch, and salt until smooth.
3) Slowly add in the egg mix when the milk begins to bubble and stir constantly. Let the mix boil and thicken while continuing to stir for another 2 minutes and then turn off the heat.
4) Stir in the butter and then vanilla until well-combined.
5) Pour the cream into a heat-proof bowl and cover with plastic wrap tightly to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate to chill completely before use.
1) To assemble, first brush the mix of jam and water onto the pastry crust and let dry to prevent a soggy bottom.
2) Pour the chilled pastry cream into the pastry crust and use a spatula to evenly spread it across the crust.
3) Arrange the cut and sliced fruits on top of the pastry cream.
4) Optional: Brush the jam and water mix over the fruits for a shiny finish.
5) Store in the fridge tightly covered in plastic wrap before eating. Slice and eat chilled. The tart can be kept in the fridge for 3-5 days covered.