Summer, in full swing! Hot, humid days followed by warm nights. Cool mornings, perfect for drinking hot coffee outside before things heat up (or an iced coffee inside a stuffy apartment or office). I love the energy of summer! All the sounds, colors, smells, and produce. Strawberries, to make Strawberry Tart (Tart aux Fraises), are a favorite of mine. The flower aren’t bad either. I am a total lover of prairie flowers – purple cone flowers are another summer favorite!
When I was younger, there was a rock retaining wall near my mom’s greenhouse that had wild strawberries growing among the other flora and fauna we’d find here – namely lady bugs. Like, actual lady bugs – not the orange wannabe ones. Pink lady bugs crawling around, hanging out in the shade, amongst some wild strawberries. The berries were always hidden and small, making them seem so much more special. Finding one was like…the best! Such a good memory. I wish I had some of those small berries for a tart aux fraises!
Make time for the small stuff…you get to do this life once!
Strawberry picking is still one of my favorite summer activities. The berries are usually ready for picking around my birthday, so I couldn’t ask for a better present each year. Enter: a summery, beautiful tart. It is a classic French dessert. But, you could easily top with any fruit you want – peaches, raspberries, plums, blackberries, blueberries. I’ve always wanted to make the classic Strawberry Tart (Tart aux Fraises), so here she is! I will most certainly be making one again.
Plan a little ahead for easy, breezy strawberry tart (or any tart!) making.
Break up the recipes to make the tart aux fraises: make the pate sucree a few days ahead (the recipe below makes enough for two 9-inch tarts – so you’ll have extra….you can even freeze the dough!), and same with the pastry cream. You can blind-bake the tart shell up to 1 day in advance, making it even more convenient. These are two key recipes for preparing French-style tarts, so practicing these are really helpful. Once the components are prepared, simply fill the fully baked shell with the pastry cream, top with berries (the best you can find – freshly picked ones would be amazing here), and optionally glaze with jam (I used the traditional apricot jam). Yes – it does look quite glossy but I really like it. Denis thought it looked like a cheap bakery tart with the glaze – so you decide! He didn’t complain about the taste and neither did I. Perfect to share with friends at a summer gathering, or just savor for the week – the shell keeps quite fresh for a few days.
Tart aux Fraises (Strawberry Tart)
- Small & Medium Bowls
- Kitchen Aid Mixer with Paddle Attachment
- Rubber Spatula
- Shallow container with lid (to quickly cool and store pastry cream)
- Measuring Cups & Spoons
- Sifter or fine mesh strainer
- Paring Knife
- Pastry Brush
- Small pan or microwavable bowl
- Small off-set spatula or butter knife
- Rolling Pin
- 9" Tart Pan or Tart Ring
- Half Sheet Pan & Parchment Paper
- 6 (168g) oz butter room temperature
- 1/4 (1.4g) tsp fine sea salt
- 1 (112g) cup powdered sugar
- 1/3 (39g) heaped cup almond flour optional – can use additional all-purpose flour in place of almond flour
- 1 (63g) large egg
- 2 7/8 (325g) cup all-purpose flour
- 1 (250g) cup half & half, whole milk or 2% milk
- 2 (25g) TB butter room temperature
- 2 1/2 (32g) TB granulated sugar first portion
- 1 (10g) TB corn starch
- 1 (10g) TB all-purpose or cake flour
- 2 1/2 (32g) TB granulated sugar second portion
- 4 (60g) egg yolks
- 1-3 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
- 1-2 tsp citrus zest (optional)
Strawberries & Assembly
- 2 quarts fresh strawberries
- 2-4 TB apricot jam or marmelade
Prepare Pate Sucree & Blind Bake (at least 1 day before assembling tart)
- Measure the butter and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer. Fit mixer with paddle attachment.
- Sift then measure the powdered sugar, almond flour and all purpose flour into separate bowls and set aside.
- Crack the egg, and mix with a fork to combine the yolk and white. Measure out 63g. Add a tsp or two more of water to get to 63g if necessary – eggs vary in size.
- Mix the butter on LOW speed to incorporate the salt. Take care to mix on low so as to not incorporate air into the butter, as this will cause cracks and bubbling of your crust. Stop the mixer, scrape down the paddle and bowl sides and bottom.
- Add the powdered sugar, and mix again for a minute on low. Scrape the bowl and paddle. Add the almond flour, mix again for a minute on low, and scrape the bowl and paddle.
- With the mixer on low, add the egg gradually. Mix for a moment to incorporate, then stop and scrape everything down again. Add ⅓ of the flour and mix on low. Add the remaining flour, and mix just until everything is combined.
- Finish mixing and scraping the bowl by hand with the spatula, making sure all the flour is incorporated.
- Scrape out the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Cover the dough, then use your hands too quickly and gently form into a disc shape that is ½” to 1” thick. Wrap thoroughly, and place in the fridge for at least 8 hours. Dough may be frozen for a few months, if tightly wrapped and placed into a freezer-safe ziplock back or other container with minimal headspace to prevent moisture loss (freezer burn).
- To roll, allow refrigerated dough to come to room temperature for 5-10 minutes (taking care if your kitchen is hot – the dough will become hard to manage). Whack the wrapped disc of dough a few times across both sides to help loosen up the structure. If you notice a lot of cracking, let the dough sit for a moment before proceeding
- Lightly dust a surface large enough to roll with flour. Unwrap the dough, and place on the floured area.
- Using a firm motion, starting from the center of the dough disc, roll directly away from you. Gently pick up the dough, just enough to slide and move it, and rotate it ¼ turn. Repeat this process, adding more flour as needed to the counter and the rolling pin to prevent sticking, until you reach ¼” thickness. Be sure to apply smooth and even pressure. Take care to not lift up or press down more at the edge of the dough – that will result in edges that are too thick or too thin.
- If you are new to rolling out doughs, I suggest to roll out the dough on a piece of parchment OR a silpat (silicone mat). You can then transfer your dough to the fridge at any time if the dough starts to heat up too much, and stick. This is better than adding more flour. Allow the dough to rest for 5 minutes in the fridge, then transfer the parchment sheet or silpat with the dough back onto the counter, and return to the rolling and turning process.
- To transfer into the tart ring, gently roll-up the dough onto the rolling pin, and lay into the tart ring. This can be tricky to center – but you can gently move the dough once it is draped in the ring – and patch if tearing occurs.
- Gently hold the edge of the dough with one hand, and with the other gently fit the dough into the corner of the tart ring. Work your way around the pan, allowing the excess to hang over the edge of the ring. If rips or tears happen, patch them up with the excess dough.
- Using your fingers, gently press off against the side of the pan the extra dough. Go around the pan one time to make sure the sides of the dough are flush to the tart ring edge, and into the corner of the tart ring. I like to use a measuring cup edge to gently press into the edges to make sure they are flush to the pan. Poke the pastry bottom and sides with a fork (docking) to help steam escape as the tart shell bakes.
- Transfer the pastry shell onto a baking sheet, and into the fridge for at least 2 hours and up to overnight, uncovered.
- Blind Bake: line the refrigerated tart with aluminum foil or parchment paper, making sure to fit the foil or paper flush onto the dough. Fill with dried beans or rice. Bake in the middle rack of the oven at 325F for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, gently remove the foil/paper with weights, and return to the oven to finish baking for another 15 minutes. The shell should be golden brown, and should be firm to the touch. Depending on your oven you may need to subtract or add time – watching towards the end of baking until you know your timing is not a bad idea! Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before filling.
- The tart will pull away from the sides of the pan as it cools, enabling you to remove it from the ring. If you are using a false-bottom tart pan, you can leave the bottom on during serving, if desired. To remove the ring from the bottom, carefully lift the tart pan (holding the sides of the ring) and place on a can or small bowl, and allow the ring to drop from the tart shell sides (I find that you can do this before or after filling – it is slightly less precarious before filling!). Once cooled, you can wrap to help maintain freshness or leave on the cooling rack if your kitchen is not humid.
Prepare the Pastry Cream (Up to 2 days ahead of tart assembly)
- In a medium saucepan, combine the milk (reserving ¼ cup of it), butter, 2 ½ TB (32g) sugar. Stir with a whisk, heating over medium. Take care to not scorch the bottom.
- In a medium bowl, mix the cornstarch, flour and 2 ½ TB (32g) sugar (this helps prevent lumps and disperses the starches). Add the remaining ¼ cup milk and the egg yolks. When the milk mixture comes to a gentle boil, take off the heat, and ladle in about ½ of the mixture to the egg yolk mixture, mixing to prevent the yolks from curdling.
- Add the warmed egg yolk mixture back to the saucepan, and place over medium heat. Whisk constantly, getting the whisk into the edges of the pan. Once the custard begins to thicken, quickly remove from the heat, and continue to mix vigorously until the custard is thick and homogenous.
- Return to the medium heat, bring back to a boil. Once at a boil, cook for 1 minute to remove the starchy flavors from the flour and cornstarch. After 1 minute, Immediately remove from the heat, and quickly scrape the cooked custard using the rubber spatula into a shallow bowl or container**
- Place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard, to prevent a skin from forming. Place in the freezer for 15 minutes to quickly stop the cooking and rapidly cool the custard. The bottom of the container or pan that holds the custard should be cool to the touch – telling you that the pastry cream is cooled.
- Remove the custard from the freezer, and refrigerate until read to use. When that time comes, you will want to mix the custard to loosen in slightly. Now is the best time to add other flavorings like vanilla extract, booze or citrus zest, tasting as you go so you do not over-flavor. Take caution to not add too much liquid flavorings, as it will thin the custard too much – preventing it from setting.
Cut Strawberries & Assemble Tart
- Wash and dry the strawberries (this can be done a day before assembly). It is helpful to sort them by size. Cut strawberries in half.
- Remove pastry cream from the fridge and mix to loosen. Spread the pastry cream in the fully cooked pastry shell, making an even layer.
- Gently heat the apricot jam in a small pan on the stove or microwave for 5-10 seconds. This is simply to loosen it up a bit. If your jam has a lot of fruit chunks, you can strain it to make it completely smooth.
- Arrange the largest strawberry halves (they will be triangle shaped halves) around the perimeter of the tart. Repeat, using smaller strawberries as you go, slightly overlapping.
- Glaze the strawberries with the warmed jam. Can be served right away, or store in the fridge for a few hours prior to serving. Any leftover tart can be stored, covered, in the fridge for up to 2 days.