Friday, June 3, 2011

Strawberry Tart

When I went grocery shopping this week I saw 2lb packages of strawberries on sale. I thought, these can't possibly be good, they're probably selling them at a discount because they're about to go bad or something. Surprisingly though, they looked really good! Then I had to figure out what the heck I was going to do with 2 lbs of strawberries! 

A visit to Confessions of a Tart and the gorgeous photos of her fresh strawberry tart gave me a pretty good idea.

The recipe starts with a Sweet Tart Dough that is frozen before you bake it so no pie weights are necessary (although I just got some at a bridal shower that I have been dying to use)

1 ½ Cup all purpose flour
½ cup confectioner's sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

1. Combine flour, sugar and salt. Scatter butter pieces over dry ingredients and combine with a pastry cutter. (Confessions of a Tart has directions for doing this with a food processor. I am not lucky enough to have one, but it works just as well by hand.) Stir egg yolk to break it up and add to the dough.  Turn dough onto a work surface and very lightly knead dough to finish incorporating dry ingredients.

2. Butter a 9 inch tart pan (I have an 11 inch, it worked really well, so either would be fine) and lightly press dough evenly into pan. 

3. Prick dough with a fork 4-5 times. Freeze for 30 minutes or preferably longer.

4. To bake crust, center a rack in your oven and preheat to 375˚. Butter the shiny side of aluminum foil and fit, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake crust for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and carefully remove foil. If the crust has puffed, press down gently with the back of a spoon. Bake for another 8 minutes without the foil until firm and golden brown.  Transfer pan to a rack and cool to room temperature. 

The next part is a Pastry Cream. I've never made a pudding or custard, except from those instant pudding packages that you really can't mess up. I'll admit that the first batch I tried of this sat, sadly liquid, in the fridge with me hoping it would magically firm up. It ended up going down the drain. I guess while waiting for your milk to almost boil is not the most opportune time to begin talking to your fiancĂ© about where you may someday move for some job that you don't even have yet. The second time when I actually stayed in the same room as the stove, the custard turned out just right. 
2 cups whole milk
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Pour milk into a heavy saucepan. Add salt, place over medium-high heat and cook until just before boiling point, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, whisk together cornstarch and sugar. Add the eggs and whisk until smooth (don't let the eggs and sugar stand for long). 

2. When milk is ready, slowly drizzle a third of the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking continuously. Pour the egg- milk mixture back into the hot milk and continue whisking until the custard is as thick as lightly whipped cream, about 2 minutes. 

3. Remove from heat and immediately pour through a sieve into a bowl. Stir in vanilla extract. Let cool 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

4. Cut butter into 1 tablespoon pieces and whisk into pastry cream 1 tablespoon at a time until smooth. 

5. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, pressing directly onto top of cream to prevent skin from forming and put into fridge to cool.

Then assemble the tart! 

Fill the tart shell with pastry cream

Hull and slice 1 lb of strawberries (more for an 11in. tart pan), reserving one perfect strawberry for the center

Arrange strawberry slices in circles on top of the pastry cream. Put the reserved whole strawberry in the middle. 

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