Phew! I was finally able to put this tart together using berries that seemed to explode with sudden heat. Working with nature is so unpredictable. Waiting for much needed sun, and then now, trying to catch up with watering and picking all the berries that otherwise would be wasted.
If you blog about homemade creations, you know it is not always glorious, and that flawless-looking food doesn’t appear effortlessly. There are lots of trials and failures, and also some anger and frustration, with pots and dough flying about the kitchen (perhaps?) behind the scenes. Although I haven’t let myself go that far yet, I might actually have more posts if I wrote about those stories instead!
This post presents a good example of occasional kitchen chaos. The tart shell making really stressed me out, especially since it wasn’t easy to put the dough together given the heat that has finally arrived. I know it is hard for some people, including me, to accept that the best way to conquer the shell-making task is to try not to be perfect. I was calm the first time, but found myself really frustrated after the second round. Yes, I ended up with two shells just trying to make one picture-perfect shell!
Is your dough torn and sticky? Don’t worry about it! This dough is so forgiving, you can just handle it like Play-doh. Patch as necessary and try to work as quickly as possible. For the best result, choose the coolest time of day to make your tart shells.
On a related note, I managed to pick all my black currants, and submerged them in vodka to make crème de cassis for the first time. I will follow up on this one later this year.
I find it easier to prepare the dough at night and store it overnight to let it completely solidify, especially in summer months, as the dough tends to get sticky in the heat. And then, I prepare the pastry cream at the same time as the dough making so that I can assemble the tart next day with a little more ease.
Makes a 9 ½ inch tart ring
½ cup salted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
½ egg, lightly beaten
¼ cup almond meal
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour, sifted
2 cups whole milk
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
6 large egg yolks
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch sifted
1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
½ cup whipping cream
1 cup raspberries
1 cup blueberries
1 cup gooseberries
A dozen or so red currant tassels
Place the butter in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until creamy. Add sugar, and continue to pulse until fluffy. Scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the egg and pulse until incorporated. Then, add the flour and pulse until the dough just comes together.
Form into a disk and wrap with a piece of plastic or place in a Ziploc bag; store in a refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
Make the pastry cream. Place the milk and vanilla bean (pulp and pod) in a medium sized saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove the pan, cover and let steep for 10 minutes to infuse the flavour of the vanilla.
Fill a large bowl with ice cubes, and set aside a small bowl that can hold the finished cream and be placed in this ice bath. Set a sieve aside.
Whisk the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together in a medium-sized bowl. Whisking all the while, slowly drizzle a quarter of the hot milk into the yolk mixture. Continue to whisk while adding the rest of the milk to the tempered yolks in a steady stream. Remove and discard the pod.
Place the yolk mixture back into the pan and, while whisking, bring to a boil over high heat. Continue to whisk vigorously for a couple of minutes; you will start to feel the resistance from the yolk mixture. Remove from the heat and press the cream through the sieve into the reserved small bowl. Add some cold water to the ice bath and set the bowl inside. Stir continuously until the cream is no longer hot. Add the butter and whipping cream, stir to incorporate and continue until completely cool. Refrigerate until assembling time.
Prepare the dough. Butter the tart ring, dust some flour and place on a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Keep it refrigerated.
Flour the working surface and roll the dough with a rolling pin to a size large enough to cover the ring. If it is difficult to manage, roll the dough in between two sheets of parchment paper, being careful not to make creases. Transfer the dough by rolling it around the pin and unrolling onto the ring. Gently fit the dough into the bottom and up the sides with your fingers. Run the pin across the top of the pan to remove the excess dough. If there are tears or a part is too thin, just relax; you can patch with the excess dough. Use the tines of a fork to make small holes all over the bottom of the tart shell. Keep refrigerated for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Place a piece of parchment paper inside the tart shell, and fill with dried beans. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, then remove the parchment and beans, and bake for another 5 minutes or until golden. Transfer the shell to a rack to cool.
Rinse all the fruit and pat dry. Figs can be sliced or wedged. Place the shell on a cake stand or large platter, and fill evenly with the pastry cream. Arrange the figs, raspberries, blueberries and gooseberries on top. Finish by laying the red currant tassels over top. Refrigerate until serving time.
Tart is best served the day it is made.