I think this might be the most perfect fresh fruit tart recipe ever. Have a contender? I’m open to the challenge.
I don’t post recipes on Whipped that I believe are mediocre. They are usually my standby recipes or first time recipes that I am certain I’ll make again. Now and then, I share something that I think is perfect. It doesn’t happen often and I don’t use the word perfect lightly. I was once accused of hyperbole when I declared that my cinnamon rolls were the “ultimate cinnamon roll.” The truth is, I am overly engaged with food and if something I make has the texture, color, aroma and flavor that I find ideal, I get very, very excited.
This fresh fruit tart riles me up so much that just looking at the photo as I type this post quickens my pulse. I can take no credit for its deliciousness, only for having mastered the techniques of its creation. The recipe for both the sweet tart dough and the vanilla pastry cream are found in the back of the book Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme.
Many years ago when I first started working at Vosges Haut-Chocolat, I had the great fortune of traveling to the Aspen Food & Wine festival with the owner, Katrina Markoff. We were young and her exotic chocolate company was just a few years old. We upgraded our rental car to a convertible and made the ride from Denver to Aspen, stopping at a roadside beef jerky stand along the way.
That trip was memorable in many ways. I became acquainted with the gracious Swanson family (of this vineyard), I hiked in the mountains, I served luxury chocolate to an engaged audience and I mingled with celebrity chefs. I suppose that time in my life was integral in confirming my love of the culinary world and solidifying my career choices.
I returned from that adventure with an autographed copy of the Pierre Hermes book. The Parisian has been called the Picasso of Pastry and if you master a few of his recipes, you will understand why.
How funny… until I typed this post, I had not realized that my memories of that trip and my strong emotions were so intertwined with the love of this tart! Don’t let my epiphany stop you from trying this amazing dessert. I promise that even without the connection, you will find it simply delectable. Vanilla beans, whole milk and six egg yolks have a way of making things unforgettable.
Pierre Herme’s Vanilla Pastry Cream
Fills one 9 or 10 inch tart
2 cups whole milk
1 most, plump vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
6 large eggs yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
3 1/2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1. In a small saucepan, bring milk and vanilla bean (pulp and pod) to a boil over medium heat. Cover the pan and turn off heat and let rest to infuse vanilla for 10 minutes.
2. Fill a large bowl with ice cubes and water. Set aside smaller bowl that can hold the finished cream and be placed in the ice bath. Set aside fine mesh strainer with it.
3. Whisk the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan. Remove vanilla bean pod from hot milk. Slowly drizzle some milk into yolks, whisking continuously. Still whisking, pour in all the liquid in a steady stream. Place the pan over medium heat and whisking vigorously without stopping, bring mixture to a boil. Keep at boil while whisking for 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and scrape pastry cream into the small bowl in put it in the ice bath.
4. Stir the pastry cream continuously as it cools to keep it smooth. When it is about 140 degrees (very warm to the touch but not extremely hot) stir in butter in 3 or 4 additions. Return to ice bath and leave until cooled. Use immediately or cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge for up to 2 days.
Pierre Herme’s Sweet Tart Dough
Makes 3 tarts
2 1/2 sticks (285g) unsalted butter (at room temperature)
1 1/2 cups (150g) confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup lightly packed (100g / 3 ¼ oz) finely ground almond powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, lightly beaten, at room temperature
3 1/2 cups (490g / 17¼ oz) all-purpose flour, sifted
1. Place the butter in the bowl of a mixer with paddle attachment and beat until creamy, scraping down the edges as needed.
2. Add the sugar almond powder, salt, vanilla and eggs and still working on low speed, beat to blend the ingredients, scraping sides as needed. (dough may look curdled, that is okay)
3. With the machine on low, add the flour in three parts and mix until the dough mixture starts to get together. Do not over mix – stop when the dough comes together in a soft ball, just a matter of seconds.
4. Remove the sweet pastry dough and divide into thirds, shape each third into a ball and flatten it slightly and then wrap in plastic wrap. If using the dough immediately, let it settle in the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight. To freeze, put the wrapped disks in freezer bag and use within a month. (When starting from the frozen pastry disks, thaw about 45 minutes before the dough is ready for rolling out.)
5. To roll and bake the tart, butter a 9 or 10 inch tart pan.
6. Lightly flour a surface and a rolling pin, then roll out the pastry disk, working it in each direction to ease the shape into a circular shape between 1/16 and 1/8 inch thick. Carefully lay the rolled dough over the tart dish. With your fingers, gently ease the dough into the corners and up the sides. If the shell cracks, use scraps to patch.
7. Use the rolling pin or knife to cut off excess edges. Prick the surface all over with a fork. Line the shell with parchment or foil and fill with dried beans or rice.
8. Bake the crust at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes until it is lightly colored. Remove the parchment or foil and beans and bake an additional 2-3 minutes to firm up the bottom.
9. Cook tart on a rack.
TO ASSEMBLE THE TART
1. Pour the pastry cream into the cooked tart shell.
2. Top with sliced fruit of your choice.
3. If you want to glaze the fruit, combine 1/2 c. fruit juice (pineapple, peach, etc.), 1/4 c. sugar
and 2 tbsp. cornstarch in saucepan, stirring until smooth. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. It should be clear. Remove from heat; cool until lukewarm. Spoon over fresh fruit on top of the tart.