Monday, April 7, 2008

Frutiest Fruit Tart

Spring is here! Yes, the morning mists are still cold and depressing, and the thermometer barely makes it past 60, but I can tell you absolutely and unequivocally that "it" has finally come, with all its unmistakable sounds and smells and the unrestrained joy of music. The bare branches of the tree outside of my window were covered with tender green buds one day, and the next, there was a virtual explosion of a thousand different shades of color so bright, your eyes hurt to look at it -- it seems like spring came overnight this year. I pity you, those unlucky cities where Spring is still flirting capriciously with good weather. In my city, the flirtation has developed into a full fledged romance, an affair of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall proportions that sweeps every old vestige of winter away like old cobwebs. In short, goodbye, my November guest. Take your clinging silver mist and retire for another year in dignified silence. This is a time for new tastes, new colors, new life.

To celebrate spring, I made my very first ever fruit tart. Now, you must know that fruit tarts are my all time favorite dessert. Especially wee little ones, that I just think are so cute and adorable, with the not-low-fat-fantabulous pastry cream, the crumbly sweet crust and the taste overdose of fresh fruit. And I live within minutes of a French bakery that makes ooh la la fruit tarts. So it is no surprise that I've been too intimidated to make my own. It's like a date with your favorite movie star -- if it goes badly, your fantasy will be ruined forever (Christian Bale, call me. I'll take my chances with the ruined fantasy). However, I am not one to shrink from my fears, and the arrival of my Dorie Greenspan cookbook gave me hitherto unknown courage and a foolhardy optimism in my abilities. I love Dorie, and not only because she shares a last name with Alan Greenspan.

You may remember that last time I made pâte sucrée, it shrank on me like ... well, I'll let you pick your own analogy, but I'm sure you can imagine what I'm thinking. This time, I decided to entirely put my fate in Dorie's capable hands, and wow, let me tell you guys, it was a revelation. I followed the instructions to the T, using the "press in" method, and my crust DID NOT SHRINK. Yeah. Maybe it's the spring air that gave it staying power? Maybe it's my magic touch? (I suspect it's the freezing it for 1/2 hr, but please be kind and let me imagine the best). I also made her pastry cream and really, there is only one way to describe it, and the word is decadent. Juicy, crisp strawberries straight from the market, bananas salvaged from the refrigerator and tart blueberries finished off my creation. I gotta say, I was pretty proud of myself, and when we cut the tart, I was even prouder for it was amazing, although I think the credit goes all to Dorie's fantastic recipes. Hello and welcome to my bookshelf! I'll stop gushing now. Seriously, though - make the tart. It tastes like Spring is finally here, and that's the best I can say about any dessert.

I didn't futz with the recipes this time (I was too much in awe), but these have been reproduced a number of times on the web, and Dorie Greenspan likes people making her recipes, so I don't feel bad re-printing them here. Really, if you think about it, it's a service to humanity, because fruit tarts just make people happy. Don't let the length of the recipe fool you, it's really quick and easy. I made the pastry cream the night before (a breeze) and let it chill overnight.

1 fully baked sweet tart crust (recipe below)
2 cups (approx.) pastry cream (recipe below)
8-10 oz strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 banana
6 oz blueberries

Bake the crust and let it cool to room temperature. Make the pastry cream and chill it (preferably the night before), and then spread chilled pastry cream inside the tart shell. Arrange fruit on top. Yeah, it's that easy.

Dorie Greenspan's Sweet Tart Crust
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons; 4 1/2 ounces) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

1. Put the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in—you should have pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses—about 10 seconds each—until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change—heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing. Chill the dough, wrapped in plastic wrap, for about 2 hours before rolling.*

2. To roll the dough: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Roll out chilled dough on floured sheet of parchment paper to 12-inch round, lifting and turning dough occasionally to free from paper. Using paper as aid, turn dough into 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom; peel off paper. Seal any cracks in dough. Trim overhang to 1/2 inch. Fold overhang in, making double-thick sides. Pierce crust all over with fork.

3. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.

4. To fully bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil (or use nonstick foil) and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. (Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights.) Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes.

5. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon (or prick it with the tip of a small knife). Bake the crust about 10 minutes longer, or until it is firm and golden brown, brown being the important word: a pale crust doesn’t have a lot of flavor. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature.

Storing: The dough can be wrapped and kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 2 months. While the fully baked crust can be packed airtight and frozen for up to 2 months, the flavor will be fresher bake it directly from the freezer, already rolled out–just add about 5 minutes to the baking time.

* Alternate press-in technique: If you want to use the press-in method, you can work with the dough as soon as it’s processed. Just press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Don’t be too heavy-handed–press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but don’t press so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture.

Dorie Greenspan's Pastry Cream
2 cups whole milk
6 large egg yolks (I'm going to use a few less next time to cut some calories)
1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits at room temperature

Bring the milk to a boil in a small saucepan.

Meanwhile, in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the egg yolks together with the sugar and cornstarch until thick and well blended. Still whisking, drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk– this will temper, or warm, the yolks so they won’t curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remainder of the milk. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously, constantly and thoroughly (making sure to get the edges of the pot), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.

Whisk in the vanilla extract. Let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in the bits of butter, stirring until they are full incorporated and the pastry cream is smooth and silky. Scrape the cream into a bowl. You can press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the cream to create an airtight seal and refrigerate the pastry cream until cold or, if you want to cool it quickly–as I always do–put the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water, and stir the pastry cream occasionally until it is thoroughly chilled, about 20 minutes.


Gretchen Noelle said...

Beautiful fruity fruit tart! Gorgeous!

Veron said...

I am so excited about spring too and the fruits that it brings. Your tart is absolutely lovely!

Heather B said...

oh Irene that is so lovely! I love Dorie's pastry cream and Sweet Tart Dough. Very tasty. Great pairing with the delicious fruit looks amazing! yum!

Anonymous said...

The colors look so beautiful and fresh together! I just want to reach through the screen with a fork. :)

Cannelle Et Vanille said...

Gorgeous, gorgeous fruit tart. The photos are so bright and crisp and colorful... perfect for Spring!

Jessy and her dog Winnie said...

Very pretty pictures! Fresh fruit is the best!

My Sweet & Saucy said...

Your fruit tart looks stunning!

Ann (MobayDP) said...

That tart looks so yummy! Bananas are so scarce here in Jamaica right now as the plants have not yet recovered from the results of Hurricane Dean last year.

But we have so many other fruits available so I shall try my hand at a fruit tart this weekend!

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