I've been dying to make a beautiful fruit tart ever since we got a new two-story Whole Foods in Chicago this past fall. For those who don't live in Chicago, let me tell you - you haven't lived until you've spent some quality time in this Whole Foods. From the minute you glide down the escalator into what is the most beautiful, bountiful produce section you've ever seen - having a glass of wine in the wine bar - to spending over 30 minutes sampling soups and cheeses - its easy to forget you're even in a grocery store.
My favorite thing about this Whole Foods though is the amazingly beautiful pastry cases where the fruit tarts usually steal the show. Before I ventured out and tried making my own - I wanted to try one of these guys that I've been eying from Whole Foods.
Well my friends, I have to say when I finally did - I was disappointed. It wasn't that the crust wasn't perfect, that the cream wasn't rich and that the fruit wasn't fresh - no it was the mysteriously clear, gel-like substance holding the fruit on top of this beautiful tart together that put me off. I have no idea what this stuff was, I assume its some type of common adhesive used in the pastry world, but really Whole Foods? Doesn't your name alone imply the absence of mysteriously clear gel-like substances on your food? Even if it helps your tarts look more beautiful?
Shortly after this gag-inducing experience, I saw Kelsey post a Fresh Fruit Tart recipe from her engagement dinner (Congratulations Kelsey!). Its an Ina Garten recipe and contained no mysterious gels so I ran right out and bought myself a tart pan!
The timing worked out perfectly because my Dad was in Chicago for a few days for work. I was so excited to have a Sunday dinner with him, Joe and my brother. That's one of the things I miss most about living away from my parents so I really wanted to make it a special dinner. We had flank steak, spinach salad and orzo pasta for dinner, followed by this for dessert.
The tart came out perfectly from the crust to the cream, to the fruit that was just placed on rather than held together. I was quite proud of myself, this being my first tart experience and plan on making many more!
And I can't close the post without mentioning that I had nothing to do with the fruit placement, that was all my brother (well, I may have a rearranged a few berries at the end, but for the most part he did it all by himself).
Fresh Fruit Tart
(Source: Apple A Day, from Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook)
For the tart shell:
3/4 c. unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 c. granulated sugar (I used vanilla sugar)
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
For the pastry cream (makes enough for two nine or ten-inch tarts):
6 extra-large egg yolks at room temperature
3/4 c. granulated sugar (I used vanilla sugar)
3 TBSP cornstarch
2 c. whole milk
2 TBSP unsalted butter
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 TBSP heavy cream (I used half and half)
1 TBSP Cognac or brandy
For the topping, you may use any fresh fruit you like.
To make the tart shell, mixer the butter and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until they are just combined. Add the vanilla extract.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add to the butter mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together.
Generously dust your working surface with flour and turn the dough out onto the surface. Using a rolling pin also dusted with flour, shape your dough into a circle large enough to cover a 10-inch round tart pan. Press the dough into the tart pan and trim the edges so they are even. Chill the dough in the pan until firm.
When ready to bake the shell, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. Butter or spray one side of a piece of foil and place it, buttered side down, on the tart shell. Fill with dry beans, rice, and pie weights and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and beans and prick the tart shell several times with a fork. Bake again for 18-25 minutes, or until lightly browned. Allow to cool to room temperature.
To make the pastry cream, beat the egg yolks and sugar on medium-high speed for about three minutes in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. The mixture should become light yellow and fall back into the bowl in a ribbon. On low speed, beat in the cornstarch.
Bring the milk to a bowl in a large saucepan and, with the mixer on low, slowly pour it into the egg mixture. Once all of the milk is incorporated, return the mixture to the saucepan.
Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon, until the mixture is thick, about ten minutes. (Don't worry if the mixture looks clumpy for a couple of minutes. If you're whisking or stirring consistently, it will relax.) Bring to a boil and cook on low heat two to three minutes more. Taste to be sure the cornstarch is cooked.
Remove from the heat, mix in the vanilla, butter, cream, and Cognac or brandy, and strain into a bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on the custard and refrigerate until cold.
To assemble the tart, spread the chilled pastry cream even over the interior surface of the cooled tart shell. Arrange the fruit to your liking. Ina recommends assembling the tart no more than a few hours before serving, as a baked shell or finished tart should not be refrigerated.