Every year, I am thrilled when I see the first strawberries at the market. They are my by far my favorite berry. In smoothies, on cakes or tarts, even in salad! If you look at my favorite french desserts, the majority are either strawberry or almond based! Yum! So you can imagine, when I found strawberries in the store last week, I knew I had to make my favorite strawberry tart!
When you study for the CAP pâtissier, the most important thing to do is to learn all of the base recipes. Why? Because then you can make anything you want and in any combination that you want! This recipe consists of two base recipes and fresh strawberries. That’s it!
The crust for this strawberry tart is made out of sweet pastry dough or ‘pâte sucrée’. The process is the same as many other tart dough. Sweet pastry dough is a bit more fragile than other tart dough, but is the perfect base for any fresh fruit based tarts! It really reminds me of eating sugar cookies!
The powdered sugar and butter will be creamed together, then you add the whisked egg. You then add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. After letting the dough rest in the fridge, it is rolled out before lining your pan.
I like to let it sit in the freezer for a bit, to help it hold it’s shape during baking. As my filling for the tart is simply pastry cream, the tart shell is blind baked, then left to cool completely until you need it.
Vanilla Pastry Cream
As you know, pastry cream or crème pâtissière is the ONE base that everyone should know. If you can make a good homemade pastry cream, you can use it for quite literally anything! However, since this strawberry tart has very few components, I’ll let you in on a little secret.
You want all of your components to shine, which in the end will create a fabulous, fresh, dessert! So here’s my tip. Use a vanilla bean. There are some times when you can get away with using vanilla extract. This is not one of them. Other than the fresh strawberries, the pastry cream is your leading star. By using a vanilla bean, you’ll be sure to have a tasty vanilla pastry cream that tastes like something else than eggs.
To make sure that my pastry cream has as much flavor as I can give it, I scrape the grains from the bean and put them in the milk that you heat up on the stove top. I also throw the left over bean in the milk. As the milk heats up, it pulls the flavors from the bean itself and those extra grains that you may have missed are also released into the milk. Just be sure to remove the bean before whisking the milk into the eggs. They’ll just get in the way!
To top the pastry cream, you can arrange the strawberries however you want. There are no rules! If you want to add some other fruit in with it, go ahead! In truth, this tart is perfect for summer as you can top it with any fresh fruit or berries that you want!
Personally, I pull out all the strawberries that I can find that are about the same size. Cut off the top, so you have a flat side to put the strawberry on, then slice down the middle. Using the larger strawberries, I overlap them on the perimeter of the tart, so then I have the smaller strawberries for the center.
As fruit oxidizes and you might not be serving the tart right away, you’ll want to use what we call a nappage neutre. You can actually make it at home if you want. It’s basically a reduced sugar syrup with gelatin in it. It also gives the strawberries a nice shine. You can also use jelly. Abricot jelly is a popular one in households in France, but if you don’t care for it, opt for any other type of jelly that would go well with the toppings you have chosen.
As this strawberry tart is generally served cold, it makes a perfect spring or summer dessert to add to your collection!
- Tart Circle or Tart Pan (22cm diameter)
Sweet Pastry Crust
- 200 g All-purpose flour, (type 45)
- 100 g Butter
- 80 g Powdered Sugar
- 40 g Egg
- 2 g Salt
- 400 g Milk
- 60 g egg yolk
- 75 g granulated sugar
- 40 g poudre à crème, or corn starch
- 1 vanilla bean, or 1 tsp of vanilla extract
- 500 g fresh strawberries
- nappage neutre, or jelly
- Cream the butter and powdered sugar together until smooth.
- Disolve the salt into the egg, then add to the butter mixture. Mix until combined. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl, so you won't have chunks of butter later on. It may looked curddled, that's okay.
- Add the flour, then mix until just combined.
- Dump out onto a clean working space. With the palm of your hand, push the mixture away from you and against the worktop. Repeat 2-3 times.
- Pull the dough back together and repeat the process 2-3 times. The goal of this is to create a smooth dough, without any hidden chunks of butter or flour lumps.
- Pull into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and let chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes
- After the dough has chilled, rolled out into a circle about two finger widths larger than your pan. Trim excess dough.
- Roll the dough up on your rolling pin and transfer to the pan. Start working the dough into the corners of the pan, then trim the excess dough from the top of the pan using a paring knife.
- Dock the dough, then cool in the freezer for 15 minutes
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Bake the tart crust for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Check on the crust about half way through baking. If you noticed that the center has domed, poke it with a fork so you have a flat bottom.
- Let cool for 30 minutes.
- Prep a shallow casserole with plastic wrap. Overlap two sheets of plastic wrap leaving excess on both ends, so you can cover the cream afterwards.
- In a sauce pan, add the milk and half of the sugar. Add the vanilla extract or vanilla grains/bean. Bring to a boil.
- In a medium sized bowl, add the egg yolk and remaining sugar. Whisk until combined and lightened in color.
- Add the crème à poudre or corn starch and whisk until combined.
- When the milk comes to a boil, take off the heat and discard the vanilla bean. Pour 1/3 of the milk on top of the egg mixture, whisking constantly. This tempers the mixture.
- Pour the egg mixture into the saucepan with the remaining milk, whisking non-stop.
- Turn the heat back on to medium and continue to stir without stopping. After a couple minutes, the cream will start to thicken. Continue to cook for an additional 3 minutes, then strain the cream into the casserole.
- Let cool for a couple minutes, then fold in the excess plastic wrap over the cream, making sure it's in contact with the cream (this will keep it from creating a crust). Transfer to the freezer for 10 minutes, then move to the fridge to continue cooling for about another 30 minutes.
- Cut the tops off of your strawberries and then in half.
- Transfer the now chilled pastry cream into a mixer bowl (or large bowl) and losen it up with a whisk. Fill the tart shell with the pastry cream.
- Top the pastry cream with the strawberries, then brush a light layer of nappage neutre or jelly on top of the berries.
- Serve and enjoy!