Wimbledon is cancelled this year so there is sure to be a bargain sale of strawberries in the next couple of weeks. Whilst I love them picked straight from the garden on a warm afternoon, I also like to dress them up in this beautiful french style strawberry tart.
You often see these tarts in patisseries, and some are better then others. For me what makes the perfect tart is firstly the freshness and quality of the fruit. Second the creme pâtissière that sits underneath them has to be fresh and rich. Too many places resort to buying in bulk ready made options which cut cost but also flavour.
Finally and this is perhaps the most important, the pastry has to be light and crisp. To achieve this the tart has to have been filled within a few hours. Any longer and it will start to soften the pastry. It is still perfectly edible and rest assured if there are leftovers the day after being made, I will be eating them. That said if you want to make this tart for a special occasion I would get all the components ready and assemble an hour or so before serving.
For this recipe you will need some metal tart rings. I like to make some small ones and a medium sized one as shown in the picture. I use a food processor to make all my pastry because I have warm hands (and a cold heart apparently). Warmth is the enemy of pastry so make sure all your ingredients are super cold.
You will also ideally need a hand blender to get a good creme pâtissière. If you don’t have one, a whisk and a lot of elbow grease will suffice.
225g plain flour
165g butter, cubed and put in the freezer for 10 mins
2 tbsp caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
80g very cold water
250g full cream milk
250g single cream
120g caster sugar
172g egg yolk (9 eggs)
100g unsalted butter, room temperature
1 vanilla pod, seeds scrapped out
70g caster sugar
8g NH pectin
Some shops may also sell a ready to use tart glaze. If you can find these they are also great, just follow the instructions on the packet.
To finish the tart
600g fresh strawberries
Strawberry jam (the highest fruit content you can find, homemade of course is better!)
In a food processor or a large bowl, mix the flour sugar and salt. Throw in the butter and pulse the mixer for around 6 seconds until there are small lumps of butter throughout the flour. If doing this by hand, rub the butter in to the flour quickly and evenly.
Next add the water gradually whilst pulsing the mixer gently or mixing with your hands. You want to add enough water such that the pastry comes together when you squeeze it between your fingers, see the video below.
Once you can bring the pastry together in to a ball, it is done.. just wrap it in clingfilm and place in the fridge for at least an hour to rest.
After an hour, roll out your pastry on a well floured surface until it is just a couple of mm thick, the thinner the better. Line your tart rings and then blind bake them by placing baking paper and some baking beans (or coins or rice) inside the tart. Ensure your oven is at 180C before you start to bake the pastry and that the pastry is still cold. Ideally place the lined tart in the fridge for 10 mins before you bake it.
Bake for 15 minutes with the baking beans in place then remove the tart from the oven, take the baking beans out and return the tart to the oven for a further 5 minutes or so until it is lightly golden brown all over. Allow to cool then keep in an airtight container until you need to fill it.
Place the vanilla seeds and pod, milk, cream and 1/2 the sugar in to a non-stick saucepan. Place the pan on a gentle heat and slowly bring it to the boil.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl whisk the egg yolks with the remaining sugar for a minute or so and then mix the flour in thoroughly.
When the milk mixture has come to the boil, remove from the heat and take out the vanilla pod. Pour just a little of the milk in to the egg yolk whilst stirring quickly with a whisk. Gradually add more whilst continuing to stir until all milk and cream is mixed in to the eggs.
Return the mixture to the pan and place back on the heat. You now want to stir continually until it becomes thick. This will happen quickly, when it does take it off the heat and continue to stir. You may have some lumps at this stage, fear not, these are just flour not scrambled eggs. Take your hand blender or whisk and beat until the creme is smooth.
Allow this to cool to about 50C before adding all of the butter whilst blending with your hand blender. You want to emulsify the butter in to the creme. You should end up with a thick silky creme pâtissière as shown below. Place the creme in to a piping bag fitted with a number 10 nozzle and refrigerate until needed
In a saucepan, bring half of the sugar and the water to a boil. Meanwhile in a bowl, whisk the other half of the sugar with the pectin. Once the syrup is boiling, sprinkle sugar and pectin mixture into the syrup, whisking constantly until dissolved. Continue to boil and stir for a couple of minutes to activate the gelling qualities of the pectin. Transfer to a microwable bowl and refrigerate until needed.
When you are ready to glaze your tart. Microwave the gel until it is liquid again, maybe add some water if it is too thick. you want to be able to paint a thin layer on top of the strawberries with a pastry brush. It will set quickly when it comes in to contact with the fruit.
Assembling your tart
Take your strawberries and cut lengthways down the middle. Try to arrange them on your board roughly by size.
In to your pastry case spread a couple of tablespoons of strawberry jam over the base.
Next pipe your creme pâtissière over the jam in a spiral starting at the outside and working in.
Arrange your strawberries on the tart in a flower petal style. Start with the biggest strawberries on the outside, overlapping the pastry slightly. Use smaller strawberries as you get towards the centre.
Finally warm your glaze and lightly brush over the fruit. The glaze should set in around a minute.