Fresh Fruit Tart

I learned a million and one things while working at Payard Patisserie in New York City. It was a classic French kitchen filled with classically trained French pastry chefs. I picked up kitchen French full of slang and swears, I learned how to chablonner un biscuit joconde (which means to cover a thin cake with chocolate), I became a pro at rolling the heads of dozens of brioches a tete at four in the morning. I also learned tricks on how to extend the life of fresh fruit for several days when making a fruit tart. Every morning I would build stunning tarts with vivid berries and fresh currants and sliced apricots and then I would paint the fruit meticulously with a clear gelatin coating called nappage. The nappage kept the fruit looking fresh for a few days, which meant the tart could sit for several days and still be presentable. When I put fresh fruit tarts on the menu at Flour, I took a different approach. I wanted just the fruit--no nappage. This meant the tarts would only last a day. The fruit had to be perfectly ripe and fresh and able to stand on its own. It's a fleeting treat for sure but your reward is a delicate, crispy, sweet shell filled with fresh vanilla cream and piled high with the juiciest, ripest fruit, ready to eat out of hand.
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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 6 hr
  • Active: 2 hr
  • Yield: One 8-inch tart (6 to 8 servings)
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Ingredients

1 recipe Pate Sucree, recipe follows

1/2 recipe/1 cup (340 grams) Pastry Cream, recipe follows

1/2 cup (120 grams) heavy cream

4 or 5 fresh medium strawberries

1 ripe kiwi, or 4 or 5 large green seedless grapes

1 ripe Champagne mango

1 cup (110 grams) fresh blackberries

1 cup (125 grams) fresh raspberries

1 cup (125 grams) fresh blueberries

Pate Sucree

1/2 cup (1 stick or 115 grams) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature

1/4 cup (50 grams) sugar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup/140 grams all-purpose flour

Pastry Cream

1 2/3 cups (400 grams) whole milk

3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar

3 tablespoons (25 grams) cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

6 large egg yolks (about 120 grams), at room temperature

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Make the Pate Sucree. Make the Pastry Cream and set it aside.
  2. Remove the pate sucree from the refrigerator, unwrap it, and knead it slightly to make it malleable if it feels stiff. Using a rolling pin, press the dough to flatten it into a disk about 1/2 inch thick. Generously flick flour over the work surface and the dough. Make sure the surface you are rolling on is well floured so that the dough does not stick to it; likewise, make sure the disk itself is floured well enough to keep the rolling pin from sticking to it. Carefully roll out the disk into a circle about 10 inches in diameter. Roll from the center of the disk outward and gently rotate the disk 90 degrees (a quarter-turn) after each roll to ensure that the disk gets stretched out evenly into a nice circle. Use a bench scraper to help move the dough by scraping underneath the dough and moving it around. Don't worry if the dough breaks a bit, especially toward the edges. You can easily patch these tears up once you've lined the tart pan.
  3. Once the dough circle is about 10 inches in diameter, dock it by poking it all over with a fork or a pastry docker (see Cook's Note). Roll it gently around the rolling pin, then unfurl it over an 8-inch tart pan. Press the dough into the tart pan, taking care to press into the corners. Trim the edge of the shell even with the top of the tart pan. Use any scraps or odd pieces to patch up any tears or missing bits. Make sure the entire tart pan is completely covered with dough, and press one last time all the way around to ensure that any holes have been patched up.
  4. Refrigerate the tart shell for at least 30 minutes to let the dough rest; the gluten needs a little time to relax so it doesn't shrink in the oven. (At this point you can wrap the tart shell well in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze it for up to 2 weeks.)
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and place a rack in the center of the oven. Place the tart shell on a baking sheet and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the baking sheet midway through the baking time, until it is golden brown all around. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack. (At this point the tart shell can be stored, well wrapped, at room temperature for up to 1 week.)
  6. In a medium bowl, whip the heavy cream until it holds a peak and is thick and soft. Fold the pastry cream into the whipped cream until thoroughly combined.
  7. Gently pop the tart shell out of the pan. Place the tart shell on a serving plate. (Hint: The tart shell has a tendency to slide around a bit, so anchor it to the plate by putting a small spoonful of the pastry cream mixture directly on the plate before placing the tart shell on it.) Fill the tart shell with the pastry cream mixture and spread it evenly with a spatula.
  8. Stem and quarter the strawberries and place them on top of the cream with one cut side down, spaced randomly but evenly. Peel the kiwi and slice it in half lengthwise. Slice each half into 1/2 -inch-thick half-moons. (If using green grapes instead of kiwis, slice the grapes in half.) Place the kiwi slices in the cream against the cut side of the strawberries. Peel the mango and cut it into thin slices about 1 x 1 inch. Place the mango in the cream next to the kiwi. Slice the blackberries in half if they are large and place them in the cream in random places. Fill the empty spots on the tart with raspberries, blueberries, and any extra mango. The goal is to cover the whole tart with fruit and not have any cream visible. The tart must be eaten the same day it is assembled or it will get soggy. If not serving the tart immediately, store it in the refrigerator; serve within 6 hours.

Pate Sucree

  1. 1 large egg yolk (about 20 grams), at room temperature
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, and salt together for 2 to 3 minutes, until pale and light. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and the paddle with a rubber spatula. Add the flour and paddle on low speed for about 30 seconds, until the flour is entirely incorporated. The mixture will look like wet sand. Add the egg yolk and mix until the dough comes together, about 30 seconds. Remove the dough from the bowl, press it into a disk, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and let it rest in the refrigerator for about 1 hour before using. The dough can be tightly wrapped in plastic and stored in the freezer for up to 2 weeks, or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. If frozen, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight before using.

Pastry Cream

Yield: about 2 cups (675 grams)
  1. In a medium saucepan, heat the milk on medium-high heat until just before it comes to a boil, when bubbles start to form around the edge of the pan. In a small bowl, thoroughly mix together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. (Mixing the cornstarch into the sugar will prevent it from clumping when you add it to the egg yolks.) Whisk the egg yolks in a medium heatproof bowl until blended. Slowly whisk in the sugar-cornstarch mixture until completely incorporated. Remove the milk from the heat and slowly add it to the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly, to temper the eggs.
  2. When the milk is all whisked into the egg yolk mixture, return everything to the saucepan and heat it over medium heat. Whisk continuously and vigorously for about 1 minute. At first the mixture will be very frothy and liquid; as it cooks more, it will slowly start to thicken until the frothy bubbles disappear, the mixture starts to steam, and the whole thing become more viscous. After 1 minute, stop whisking every few seconds to see if the mixture has come to a boil. If not, keep whisking vigorously. As soon as you do see it boiling, whisk vigorously for about 10 seconds, then immediately pour the pastry cream through a sieve into an airtight container. Stir in the vanilla. Cover with plastic wrap pressed directly against the surface of the pastry cream (to prevent a skin from forming) and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, until cold, before using. The pastry cream can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Cook’s Note

When baking pie and tart shells, you are often instructed to dock (poke holes into) the dough before baking. You can get a fancy docker that looks like a lint roller with spikes, or you can just use a fork. Docking the shell allows air to escape when you bake it. Tart and pie dough have a fair amount of liquid in them from the butter, eggs, and any other liquid you've mixed in. When the dough goes into the oven, the liquids turn to steam with the heat. This steam can cause big bubbles to form in the shell unless you give it a way to escape. Hence you dock pastry shells. If you are filling the tart with a liquid filling after you blind bake it, take care not to dock too aggressively. A few holes here and there will be enough to release the steam but not so much that the liquid filling leaks out.

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