French Fruit Tart — A Classic

French Fruit Tart — A ClassicCamp de Cuisine
I’ve written about my daughter and her summer kitchen shenanigans a few times over the past weeks. And, you might be happy to know that things are still going full steam (just ask my dishwasher). Right now, she seems to be in a French pastry phase. While I fully support her curiosity and creativity, I am wondering when she’ll get to the one bowl or less phase….

Though she hasn’t quite reached that Julie & Julia work her way through an entire cookbook level of obsession, she’s pretty close. For Fourth of July, she made Pâte à Choux for red, white and blue cream puffs with raspberry cream and blue sprinkles. That same week, she tackled French Macarons and they turned out way better than any of my attempts. The macarons actually had feet—and anyone who’s watched any of the baking championships knows how important feet are. Thankfully, my sons are her taste testers or there would be no way for my husband or me to fit into our pants.

This week, my kitchen (and the dishwasher) is getting a much-needed break as my teenaged chef de cuisine is attending a summer pastry camp. (Where was this when I was 12?) Yesterday they made a classic French Fruit Tart and I actually learned something new. If you spread a thin layer of semi-sweet or white chocolate on the bottom of the tart shell and then put the pastry cream in, the tart will not get soggy. (My mind is blown.)

These tarts are so versatile and fairly easy to make that you will find it easy to whip one together for any of your summer get-togethers. To make it even easier, I will substitute a good quality vanilla pudding mix like Dr. Oetkers or even Bird’s custard mix instead of making the pastry cream. Feel free to use any combination of ripe summer fruits to finish.

French Fruit Tart — A Classic
Adapted from Sur la Table
Yields 6 to 8 servings.

Finish the top with the ripest, most luscious seasonal fruit you can find. Summer berries are an obvious choice, but also try slices of nectarines, plums, poached pears, mango, or kiwi, depending upon the season.

For the Shortcrust Dough
1-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 to 3 teaspoons water

For the Pastry Cream
1-1/2 cups whole milk
1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
6 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter

For the Tart
1-1/2 ounces white or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1-1/2 pints of mixed berries or fruit of your choice

Make the Pastry Cream
Fill the large bowl halfway with ice and water and set it aside. Pour the milk into the medium saucepan.

Heat the milk to just below the boiling point and remove from the heat. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolks, and sugar until well blended and smooth. Add the flour and whisk vigorously until the mixture is very smooth. Pour about 1/2 cup of the hot milk into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly to temper the yolks. Slowly pour the yolk mixture back into the hot milk, whisking all the while.

Heat the mixture, whisking constantly to prevent the flour from lumping, until it reaches a boil. Continue to cook and whisk for another minute, until the pastry cream is very thick. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter and vanilla extract. Strain the pastry cream through the strainer set over a medium bowl to remove any lumps or tiny bits of egg.

Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream, then set the bowl into the bowl of ice water. Once the pastry cream has completely cooled, use or store in the refrigerator until needed.

Make the Shortcrust Dough
Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 5 times to blend.

Add the cold butter pieces and pulse 6 to 8 times, just until the butter is the size of large peas.

In the small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, vanilla, and 1 teaspoon water. Add to the butter mixture, then process just until the dough begins to form small clumps (about 5 to 10 seconds). Do not let the dough form a ball.

Test the dough by squeezing a handful of clumps-when you open your hand, they should hold together. If they are crumbly and fall apart, sprinkle 1 teaspoon water over the dough and pulse several times, then test again. Repeat, if necessary.

Turn the dough out on a lightly floured work surface and knead gently 2 or 3 times to finish bringing it together. Shape it into a disk about 6 inches in diameter. If the dough is still cool to the touch, continue on to the next step. If the dough is soft and sticky, wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes before continuing.

Peel off the paper or plastic. Ease the dough across the bottom of a 9 or 9-1/2 inch tart pan and up the sides, pressing it into the corners of the pan with your fingertips. If the dough breaks or cracks, just press it together again. Once the dough is even in the pan, fold the excess dough at the edge inward to create a double layer of dough along the wall. Press firmly with your thumbs to fuse the two layers of dough, then roll your thumb over the rim of the pan to remove any excess dough there. Save the excess dough in case of a crack forming in the crust during baking. Refrigerate for 1 hour or freeze for 30 minutes before baking.

Important note!
When handling the tart pan, always hold onto the sides and not the bottom. If you hold just the bottom, the sides can loosen and burn your arm!

Bake the shell
Preheat the oven to 375°F and position a rack in the bottom third. Line the chilled tart shell with heavy-duty foil, pressing the foil firmly and smoothly into the crevices of the pan. Fill the pan with pie weights or dried beans all the way to the sides.

Bake the shell until the foil comes away from the dough easily (about 20 to 22 minutes). If the foil doesn’t come away easily, return to oven and bake another 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, close the oven door, and lift out the foil and weights from the shell.

Return the pan to the oven to continue baking the shell for about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, close the oven door, and check to see if any cracks have formed. If you see a crack, very gently smear a tiny bit of reserved dough over the crack to patch it-you need only enough to seal the opening. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the crust is a nice golden brown all over (about 10 to 15 minutes longer). Transfer to a rack and cool completely.

Moisture-proof the crust with chocolate
Bring an inch of water to a boil in the bottom of the double boiler. Place the chocolate in the top of the double boiler off the heat. Then place the chocolate over the steaming water. Stir occasionally with the silicone or rubber spatula until the chocolate is melted and smooth. (Or, you can melt the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl.) Scrape the melted chocolate into the cooled tart shell and use the offset spatula to spread it into a thin layer across the bottom and about 1/2-inch up the side. Chill for 10 minutes to firm the chocolate.

Fill the tart
Spoon the Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream into the tart crust and spread into an even layer. Refrigerate while you prepare the fruit. Pour the raspberries and blackberries onto the baking sheet and pick out and discard any moldy berries or debris. These berries are usually not washed, as they absorb water quickly and turn to mush. Rinse the blueberries in the strainer under cold water and pat dry. In the medium bowl, gently mix all of the berries together. Transfer to the tart, making sure there is a nice balance of all the berries in each area of the tart.

Finish the tart
Heat the raspberry jam and water in the small saucepan over low heat until melted, hot, and fluid. Do not let it boil or it will caramelize. Brush just enough of the melted jam over the tops of the berries to glaze them a bit. You don’t want to overdo it; simply touch the brush to the berries to give them a shiny look. Refrigerate the tart until ready to serve.

Serve the tart
Place the tart pan on top of a large can or jar so that the bottom balances midair as the rim falls to the counter. Use the metal spatula to transfer the tart to a serving plate, or simply leave the bottom of the tart pan under the tart for support.

Slice the tart with a thin and sharp knife, cutting down in one quick motion rather than sawing.

Storing the tart
The tart holds beautifully for 2 days but is at its prettiest the day it is made. Cover with plastic and refrigerate. After a couple of days, the juices from the fruit begin to seep into the pastry cream, though the tart still tastes delicious.

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