With strawberry season still going strong, I’ve had time to fit in another strawberry dessert – this time a French Strawberry Tart. With its crisp pâte sucrée pastry shell, dreamy creamy crème pâtissière and tart fresh strawberry slices doused in a strawberry jam and brandy glaze, it’s everything you want a dessert to be.
It’s pretty easy to make too, though each component does take a bit of time. That said, you can make the pastry cream and the pastry shell the day before serving, which leaves just the assembly part on the day. You can also, if you’re time-poor, shortcut the process. Firstly, you can use store-bought sweet shortcrust pastry and, secondly, you can decorate the tart with whole strawberries, as shown here (if you go with whole strawberries though, make sure they’re all roughly the same size and shape); finally, you can leave the strawberries unglazed – simply dust them with icing sugar before serving.
I borrowed from two sources for this recipe – Delicious Magazine.co.uk for the crème pâtissière, which I adapted slightly, and The Spruce Eats for the pastry. While I used a 10 inch tart pan, I felt a 9 inch pan would have been better, as I’d have preferred a bit more filling in the pastry shell.
That said, I was pretty stoked with how this turned out, as was my discerning foodie family. It looked fancy and tasted sublime. ‘Nuff said! Enjoy!
FRENCH STRAWBERRY TART
For the pastry:
- 5.9 oz all-purpose flour
- 1.7 oz granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3.8 oz unsalted butter, cold and diced
- 1 egg yolk
- 1-2 tbsp iced water
For the pastry cream:
- 11.8 fl oz whole milk
- 1 vanilla pod, split lengthways and seeds extracted (or half teaspoon vanilla paste)
- 4 large free-range egg yolks
- 3.5 oz golden caster sugar (superfine), or use granulated sugar
- 3 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch)
- 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
- Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- 17.6 oz strawberries, rinsed and dried
- 2 tbsp strawberry jam
- 1 tbsp brandy or water
For the pastry:
- In a food processor, pulse the flour, sugar, and salt to combine.
- Add the diced butter and pulse a few times until the mixture resembles a coarse meal with bits of butter no larger than peas.
- Add the egg yolk and blend a couple of times on pulse mode in the processor until evenly incorporated and the mixture resembles a fine meal.
- Add the iced water until the mixture is just moistened and the dough holds when pinched.
- Dump the mixture onto the counter and gather it together with your hands. Knead it gently just to bring it together into a ball, then flatten into a smooth disc. Wrap with plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or overnight if you prefer. NB: The dough may also be frozen for up to 2 months.
- Remove the chilled dough from the fridge, and allow to rest at room temperature for anywhere up to half an hour (depending on room temperature) until workable.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to fit in a 9 inch tart pan. Lift and turn the dough as you work, keeping the work surface dusted with flour to prevent sticking.
- Lay the dough in the tart pan and press it firmly against the sides and bottom – you can use extra scraps of dough to patch up any cracks (just work it into the dough with your fingers). Allow the dough to sit above the sides of the pan – you’ll trim it once it’s cooked.
- Cover and chill the dough in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before filling and baking.
- To pre-bake the empty tart shell, firstly place the tart pan on a baking tray with sides (this makes it easier to handle as it goes in and out of the oven). Prick the base of the dough all over with a fork. Cover with baking paper, fill with baking beans (or weights) and bake at 190C (375F) for 15 minutes.
- Remove the baking beans and paper, and continue baking until lightly golden (don’t burn the edges!) – this will take about another 10 minutes.
- Remove from oven and, while still hot, gently trim the edge with a sharp paring knife. Place on wire rack to cool until needed.
For the pastry cream:
- Put the milk and vanilla pod and seeds in a large heavy based pan, bring just up to the boil, then turn off the heat.
- In a large bowl, beat the yolks and sugar until pale and thick, then beat in the flours and lemon zest.
- Strain the warm milk slowly into the egg mixture, whisking continuously to avoid cooking the egg. Pour the mixture back in and gently bring to the boil (the mixture should boil for at least 30 seconds to a minute to cook out the flours), stirring constantly until it has thickened. Take the pan off the heat, cover the surface of the pastry cream with baking paper and leave to cool. NB: If you want to reduce cooling time, place the pastry cream in a shallow heatproof dish and place in the fridge.
- Hull the washed and dried strawberries and slice them about 1/4 inch thick (I didn’t use the outer edges, just the inside slices). Place them on a kitchen towel with another piece placed over top to absorb extra moisture.
- Remove the pastry cream from the refrigerator, whisk until smooth and spread into an even layer in the cooled crust.
- Starting from the outside and working your way to the center of the tart, evenly place the strawberries, pointed ends angling slightly up, in a circular pattern, overlapping each new circle of berries as you go.
- Heat up the jam and brandy (or water) in a small saucepan until boiling. Take off heat, let it cool for a few minutes, then brush the strawberries lightly using a pastry brush.
- Put the tart back into the fridge for a couple of hours to chill. When ready to serve, gently remove the tart from the tart pan and place on a serving platter. You’ll need a sharp knife to cut through the strawberries without making a mess! NB: This tart should be eaten on the day it’s assembled.