OK Folks. It’s time to get decadent. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, this one’s for you. A tart is a pastry crust with either a sweet or savory filling. It differs from a pie in that it is not as deep and does not contain a top crust. There are also miniature tarts, called tartlets. First we will make a flaky dough, what the French call pate brisee. This dough can be used for a variety of tarts, pies, and other desserts. Then we will make pastry cream, (crème patissiere), the lavishly rich cream found in éclairs, Napoleons, cream puffs, etc. After baking the crust and filling it with the cream, we will top it with fresh fruit. Then we will indulge in gastronomic ecstasy.
Six oz. all-purpose flour (Use a scale, not a measuring cup. Ounces are a measure of weight. A measuring cup measures volume. The two are not the same).
One teaspoon sugar
Pinch of salt
Pinch of baking powder
Six tablespoons, (three oz.) unsalted butter
Three tablespoons, (one and a half oz.) water
Combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Cut the butter into small pieces and then mix it into the flour by hand. Use your fingers to break up the butter pieces further and incorporate them into the flour. Mix in the water until the dough comes together. Scrape the dough out of the bowl, shape it into a cylinder, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate it for one hour.
One and a half oz., (3 tablespoons) cornstarch
One pint milk
Four oz., (half cup) sugar
Two whole eggs and three egg yolks
Two oz. unsalted butter
Two teaspoons vanilla extract
Whisk the cornstarch in a little bit of the milk. Combine the rest of the milk with the sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Whisk the eggs and egg yolks with the cornstarch. SLOWLY pour about a third of the boiled milk into the egg/cornstarch mixture, whisking constantly. Now take that mixture and slowly pour it back into the remaining milk in the saucepan whisking constantly. Turn the heat back on, don’t stop whisking, and cook until it comes to a boil and thickens. Remove from heat and whisk in butter and vanilla extract. Pour into a large stainless steel bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled. Allow the plastic wrap to actually touch the cream so a film does not form on its surface.
PREPARING THE TART CRUST
Take the dough that you’ve rested in the fridge and roll it out until it will fit a 9-inch tart pan. Place the dough in the pan, push it around the sides to eliminate any air pockets, and then roll the rolling pin along the top edge of the tart pan to remove the excess dough. Take a fork and puncture some holes in the bottom of the tart. This is known as docking and will allow steam to escape. Now you will blind bake the tart shell. This means baking it without a filling since the filling is already cooked. Cut out a round piece of parchment paper that will fit in the tart pan, including coming up the sides. Fill it with dry beans or pie weights and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until you see the edges turning golden brown. The beans and/or pie weights prevent the dough from puffing up as you bake it. Remove the paper and beans and continue baking until the bottom starts to turn golden brown. Allow the tart shell to cool before filling it.
ASSEMBLING THE TART
Take your pastry cream out of the fridge and whisk it until it becomes smooth. Fill the tart shell with the cream, spreading it out evenly, and leaving about a half inch of space at the top. Top the cream with fruit. Here’s where you can get real creative. Cover the top of the tart with blueberries, raspberries, sliced bananas, strawberries, kiwis, poached pears, baked apples, chopped nuts, you name it. You may wish to mix and match fruits. Indulge your impulses. You can serve the tart when it is completely topped or refrigerate it to re-thicken the cream. Then hedonistically lavish your palate and worry about the gym tomorrow.