the first day of summer, or summer solstice as some call it, usually means hot weather and in that respect, we have had plenty. since it is so hot, i decided to make a fruit tart rather than heat the house up by using the oven to bake a pie. right now, markets are brimming with fresh berries of all types. for some reason, summer holidays mean truckloads of berries at almost affordable prices. why is that? in the summers of my childhood, picnics in honor of summer holidays always meant popsicles and watermelon slices-berries were for special occasions. on my last trek through the grocery store, i stocked up on strawberries and raspberries and luckily, enough survived to decorate the tart!
first step is to make a classic pastry cream. while it cools down in the fridge, you can make the tart shell. milk is heated with a vanilla bean and some sugar until it just begins to boil.
cornstarch is mixed with some milk to dissolve it and then the eggs are whisked in. classically referred to as a liason, this combination will thicken the custard filling.
while the milk heats/steeps, set a heat proof bowl, a mesh strainer and a spatula nearby to strain the custard.
once the milk reaches a slow boil, whisk a portion of the hot milk into the liason and then return the remaining milk in the pot to the heat. while whisking the boiling milk, the liason is carefully added. and whisked continually until it boils and thickens.
whisk the custard filling continually until it boils and thickens. be sure to let it boil for a full minute to cook out the starch.
once finished, pour the custard into the strainer and use the spatula to force it through the mesh into the bowl.
the reason for the strainer, all the little rubbery bits and the vanilla bean need to be removed or you will not have a creamy filling for your tart.
the simplest dough in the world!!! flour, powdered sugar and butter are pulsed in a food processor until they resemble a coarse meal. an egg yolk is added and the dough is pulsed until it comes together.
this buttery dough is so easy to work with that you can immediately press it into your tart pan-no chilling is necessary.
make sure it is evenly spread out-thin spots could cause the shell to crumble later on.
my favorite baking trick-line the shell with a large coffee filter (bribe a barista for some if you can or just use several home sized ones) and use beans or marbles as weights to prebake the crust. why a coffee filter? simple, they are designed to hold lots of weight-think about wet coffee grounds in a filter, they do not rip easily. parchment paper crumbles when it is baked, foil can cause breakage when removed from the tart and waxed paper is waxed and who wants that in the tart?
a perfect tart shell ready to be filled and decorated.
my next big secret; melt 2-3 ounces of white chocolate (or dark if you prefer) and carefully coat the bottom and the sides of the tart shell with it. this will help prevent the crust from becoming soggy. allow it to set by freezing it for 5-10 minutes then fill with the custard and decorate with the fruit.
slice the strawberries and arrange them around the edge of the tart. save the small end pieces that you cannot use and place them in the center of the tart before adding the raspberries. it’s a shame to waste the end pieces and no one will know they are there! if you must, you can seal the tart using a prepared tart glaze. in the summer months, supermarkets by me sell small tubs of fruit glaze in the produce section but stick to the peach one and dilute it-the strawberry one has too much added color. personally, i like mine naked!