Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Tarte aux fraises (strawberry tart)

A few days ago I made my first strawberry tart. Which is surprising given strawberry tarts were my birthday cake throughout childhood, and is one of my favorite desserts to this day. I guess usually when we have good strawberries in the house, they don't stay around long enough to be made into a dessert.

But last weekend we went strawberry-picking with the girls and their teenage cousins, bringing back more strawberries than we could eat in one or two sittings. I sorted through our 3 kg of strawberries: the lovely ones I set aside for a tart, the medium-nice ones we ate with a little sugar and the bruised ones I ground up for sorbet (which was a disappointment as it developed a plastic flavor from the plastic container I left the puree in for two days in the fridge).

I was concerned the crust would get soggy, so I brushed it with strawberry glaze to insulate it and assembled the tart only minutes before serving it. The insulation proved totally unnecessary as four of us wolfed down the tart in no time.

The pastry cream was too runny. I think I didn't boil it long enough. But I still enjoyed its vanilla flavor, even though I am not a pastry cream fan, as mentioned earlier. I think home-made pastry cream is always better, and when there's real vanilla bean in it, I could eat it with a spoon!

Recipe: Tarte aux fraises (Strawberry tart)

1. Pie shell
Make a pre-baked pie shell, for instance using the recipe here. Instructions for blind baking it can be found here.

2. Crème pâtissière (pastry cream)
Source: Pierre Hermé, Secrets Gourmands

- 250g milk (1/4 liter)
- 23g corn starch
- 62g sugar (divided in two)
- 3 egg yolks
- 25g butter
- 1/2 to 1 vanilla bean

Place the corn starch and half the sugar in a saucepan with a thick bottom. Add the milk slowly while whisking. Split the vanilla bean, scrape seeds, and add bean + seeds to the milk. While whisking, bring to a boil.

In another saucepan, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining sugar, for three minutes. Pour in the milk and corn starch mixture in a thin stream, whisking continuously. Bring to a boil and remove from the fire as soon as you see the first big bubbles [I think mine could have boiled a little longer, it was too runny]. Remove the vanilla bean and immerse the saucepan in a ice cold water bath (put ice cubes and water in a big bowl).

Once the cream has cooled to 50°C, add the butter, turning quickly with a whisk. The butter should not be added when the cream is too hot (over 60°C), or the cream will be grainy and the butter will lose its fresh flavor.

You can flavor the cream with:
- Coffee [of course not for use with the strawberry tart]: add 2.5g instant coffee diluted in a teaspoon of water + 2.5g natural coffee extract
Or with 1 to 2 tablespoons of one of the following:
- Cointreau
- Grand Marnier
- Kirsch
- Old brown rhum ("agricole")

3. Strawberries
If the strawberries are clean, I wouldn't bother washing them. If they're sandy, rinse them quickly and dry them carefully.

4. Glaze
[I think you can simply make a glaze from currant jelly, boiling it with a little water. I didn't have any jelly in the house, so I had to make this glaze from scratch, which tasted very much of strawberries. This glaze keeps for up to a month in the fridge.]

Source: Pierre Hermé, Secrets Gourmands

- 250g strawberries
- 200g sugar
- 10g pectin ("Vitpris" in France) [I used instead a kind of sugar sold specifically for making jams, I assume it contains pectin. Yes I happen to have this sugar at home because I keep buying it by mistake instead of regular sugar! I was elated to find a use for it, though I still have close to a kg to get rid of...]
- 1 tspn lemon juice

Wash the strawberries, dry them, hull them, puree them with a blender [I used a Bamix immersion blender], filter through a sieve, then pour into a saucepan. Heat the puree, then add the sugar and the pectin. Bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes while removing foam carefully [I didn't]. Let it cool.

5. Assembly
Spread a thin layer of glaze on the baked crust. Let it dry for a few minutes. Then spread about 1 cm (more or less, depending on your preference) of crème pâtissière on the crust. If the strawberries are large, cut them in half. Place them decoratively [I crammed as many in as possible, not focusing too much on esthetics] in the tart shell, starting with the largest ones in the center and scaling down toward the edges. Brush with glaze using a brush. If the glaze is too thick, dilute it with a tspn or two of water. Serve as soon as possible.


linda said...

How delicious looking! Never made a strawberry tart either but your picture is tempting me :)

Elra said...

Perfect summer tarte! your kids are adorable too.
Btw, I made the crackers to day, but haven't post it yet. It's very good, husband and my son couldn't stop munching! Luckily I was able to take some photos for my posting. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

Veron said...

Your post just makes me want to get going in making strawberry tarts. Looks so appetizing , especially with such perfect strawberries!

Aran said...

beautiful tart! and those girls enjoying the strawberries... gorgeous!

Thrumze of Michigan said...

mmmm yummy , moi aussi je sais faire... Adrien a fete dignement ses 7 ans avec une tarte aux fraises
grosses bises ensoleillees de Bandol.

Anonymous said...

De ravissantes petites filles habillées en fermières, qui cueillent des fraises dans les champs, et une ravissante femme qui fait une tarte délicieuse avec lesdites fraises. La vie comme on en rêve quoi ! JED

LittoBubbo said...

Are you married to an asian woman? I am just wondering because the blue bowl that keeps appearing. I have that bowl as well =]

I am a HUGE fan of your site. I am supposed to be studying for midterms right this second, but your site has fixed me to the screen.

Astrid said...

Hi LittoBubbo! Nope, not married to an Asian woman, but to a French man! The bowls are cheap bowls from the 13th arrondissement of Paris that my mother-in-law uses to give us chocolate truffles at Christmas. Good luck on the midterms!