Sunday, May 30, 2010

Patriotic Tart

So Memorial Day is tomorrow, and with family coming over for a barbecue, I wanted a summery dessert that would fit with the holiday somehow. Then I thought of doing a tart--strawberries and blueberries are both in season, though this works with a variety of fruits--kiwi is pretty traditional.

Crust--really whatever you like--Pate Brisee is traditional, which is an enriched (read--has an egg in it) pastry dough, but if you're in a pinch you can use store bought dough and just make it a little thicker. Press (don't stretch!!!) into a fluted tart pan, tartlet pans, or a pie pan if you don't have a tart pan. Just be sure to keep the dough height low--more like a half-inch--to keep true to tart shape. Dock the bottom (prick all over with a fork) to prevent blistering, and baked until lightly browned.

Here's mine:
Next, filling. You have a few options here--tarts should have a light layer of something moist, rich, but basic enough to go with fruit. Frangipane is one possibility, pastry cream is another, and from-a-box pudding mix (made with either half the milk or heavy cream) also suffices. I opted for pastry cream--here's my recipe, adapted from the Cordon Bleu's book on Baking (makes enough for one 9 or 10 inch tart):

2 cups of milk
6 tbl white sugar
Combine in a saucepot and bring just to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar.

Meanwhile, whisk together 1/3 cup flour, 1 egg, 2 yolks, and another 6 tbl sugar. I like to do this in a 6 cup'll see why when you try it. In a steady thin stream, pour the milk into the egg mixture SLOWLY, whisking constantly to keep things smooth. Generally useful to have an extra set of hands to keep your bowl/pyrex still, or just throw a silicone mat underneath. Pour this tempered mixture back onto the stove, and cook over medium low heat until it boils and begins to thicken. It should look like barely set pudding. Remove from the stove, and add 4 tbl. butter or margarine, and 1 tbl. vanilla extract (use the real stuff, please!). Whisk together. You should be leaving lines in the mixtures as you stir it; otherwise it's not thick enough (you can resurrect it by adding more flour and reboiling it).

Pour through a fine sieve into a shallow baking pan, and cover with clear plastic wrap. Let cool, then transfer to whatever container you choose (or use it right away; just be sure it's room temp or colder).

Spread a thin layer (no deeper than 1 cm) onto your tart shell, and then top with your fruit.

If you like (and especially if you're using bananas), you can "seal" the fruit tart and give it a nice gloss by melting apricot or peach jelly (no fruit bits) with a bit of water and brushing it onto your fruit. Makes it shiny and pretty, and prevents fruit from changing color. Enjoy!

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