Thursday, September 4, 2008

Tartes Aux Fruits - Fruit Tarts

I've been baking for as long as I can remember. This passion started since I was a child. I remember my first experience in the kitchen, I made an apple sauce and was so excited! and my first cake experience was a DISASTER. I was 8 or 9 years old, made the cake batter who was a "normal, liquidish type of cake batter" (I bet the cake could have been a successful one !!!) but I thought to myself "how can a mess like this turn into a cake" So guess what I did?? I threw the batter in the bathroom and warned my younger brother who was watching my adventurous catastrophe "If you tell mom, your sister will turn into the evil sister"......euh that's a tactic I used to trick him with, poor kid!
So, you can imagine how passionate I've always been (and always will) about baking. What you cannot imagine is that I don't eat a lot of sweets, unbelievable but true! I love to create, decorate, temper, assemble, beat, fold, any term you can imagine in the pastry world, but when it comes to consuming, I am very picky and have limited and specific preferences and the first thing that comes on top of my list is fruit tarts. My list may include also: tiramisu, fraisier, clafoutis....well I should write down a list but let's just keep this for another post :)

Fruit Tarts

I make my fruit tarts with either a Pâte Brisée or a Pâte Sucrée (sweet dough) , it really depends on the filling and the type of fruit used. A fruit tart should have a balance in sweetness between its three major components : the crust, the cream and the kind of fruits used. I also lighten my pastry cream by adding some whipped cream which, not only gives it a more airy texture, but also enriches its flavor. Yes, everything is better with cream.................and butter!

Recipe for one 9-in tart or four individual 4-in tarts

Pâte Brisée (crust)

250 g all purpose flour
125 g cold unsalted butter
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 to 3 tablespoons cold water

To make the dough, use either a food processor, a mixer or a bowl and the best tools : your hands! Combine all the ingredients except the water. Work the mixture until crumbly. Add the water one tablespoon at a time until you form a dough. It is very important not to over work the dough otherwise your crust will shrink in the oven and you will not have that light, flaky kind of crust. wrap the dough and chill for at least 30 mn. This step can be prepared up to 2 days in advance. Just wrap the dough well and keep it in the fridge.

Pastry Cream

1 cup whole milk (don't use low fat versions please)
2 egg yolks
40 g granulated sugar
30 g corn starch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Heat the milk in a pan over medium heat. Meanwhile, combine the egg yolks, sugar and corn starch and mix until well combined. Gradually, add the hot milk. Put the mixture back in the pan and cook, stirring continuously (not the time to answer the phone, yeah yeah I know baking requires a lot of sacrifice) until it thickens. Off heat, stir in the vanilla. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap and let cool at room temperature then into the fridge for up to 2 days.
When ready to use, whip the cream and fold it into the COLD pastry cream.

Preparing the tart shells

Preheat the oven to 375. Remove the dough from the fridge and if it got too hard, let it sit for about 15 minutes. Flour your work surface and roll out the dough to about 1/4 in thickness. I like my crust pretty thin.
Arrange the dough on the mold (s) of your choice. Pick the entire surface of the dough with a fork and layer a piece of foil on top of it. Fill the foiled pan with beans. This will help the crust keep its nice shape.
Cook the crust for 10 minutes then remove the foil (and the beans!) and continue baking until lightly brown. Cool completely before filling.

Tart Assembly

Fill each tart with the cream and your choice of fruits. In this particular one, I used : strawberries, figs, pineapple and mango. Use any type of glaze to make the tarts look shiny: fruit glaze, apricot jam...etc. This is optional though.


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