Classic Fruit Tarts – Rich vanilla pastry cream is filled into a buttery mini tart shell and covered with fresh fruit
We are almost three weeks out from the launch of my first cookbook Pastry for Beginners. Ahhh! I can’t believe that you’ll soon be able to see everything I’ve been working so hard on in the last year.
To get you excited about its release, I wanted to share a sample of the sort of recipes you can expect in the book. But how am I to decide which recipe to share??
I decided to share a recipe that is (1) perfect to serve during the holidays and (2) absolutely gorgeous to look at. And with that, I present to you my Classic Fruit Tarts!
What is a fruit tart?
When I first heard of a fruit tart, I thought it would be a tart with fruit in it. However, that’s not quite what it is. It’s actually a tart with a vanilla pastry cream and fruit just on top, all in a tart shell. It’s popular in all kinds of bakeries, especially French ones, but the origin of them isn’t quite clear.
The best pastry cream EVER
Pastry cream is a lot like custard but a little thicker. It’s made with egg yolks, milk, and cornstarch to get it thick. But if not seasoned well, pastry cream can be pretty bland. Many of the fruit tarts that I’ve had in the past were so tasteless and boring that it made me avoid fruit tarts for fear of being disappointed.
Therefore, when making my own pastry cream, I was determined to make it loaded with flavor. To do this, I added just the right amount of salt, vanilla extract, and a splash of a special ingredient to send it over the edge – brandy. You don’t even taste the alcohol in the final product, but the all the flavor from the brandy is certainly there.
Blind-baking the shell
Fruit tarts are not baked when filled – the pastry cream is already cooked so it’s added to a baked tart shell, topped with fruit, and then, voila! It’s finished! But before we can add the pastry cream, you must have a fully-baked tart shell. How do we do that without a filling? We blind-bake it.
Blind-baking means that the tart shell is baking without a filling. To ensure that the crust doesn’t rise and puff up when baking, you must add weights to the bottom of the crust for the first 20 minutes of baking. Then, the weights are removed to let the crust get nice and brown as it finishes baking.
Tips & Tricks
- Because this is a no-bake tart, you really need to make sure the tart shell is completely baked. You’ll know it’s ready when the edges begin to turn golden brown.
- When blind-baking the crust, don’t forget to add the foil before adding in the weights. Otherwise, the weights might bake into the crust and you’ll have a tough time taking them out.
- You can arrange the fruit any way you want. I give you precise instructions on how to recreate my design but feel free to go your own way, if you want to.
- When making the pastry cream, you must whisk it constantly. The mixture will get lumpy if you let it sit.
Don’t forget to pick up you copy of Pastry for Beginners to learn more about the basics about pastry and get more killer recipes, just like this one!
Classic Fruit Tarts
For the tart dough:
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1½ sticks unsalted butter cold
- ⅓ cup vegetable shortening cold
- ½ cup cold water
For the pastry cream:
- 1½ cups whole milk
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 5 large egg yolks
- ¾ cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon brandy
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
For the fruit topping:
- 16 mandarin orange segments
- 3 kiwi fruits peeled, halved, and sliced
- 4 large strawberries hulled and sliced
- ⅓ cup blueberries
- ⅓ cup apple jelly
- 1 teaspoon water
For the dough:
- Add flour, sugar, and salt to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to combine. Cut the cold butter into cubes. Add to the flour mixture along with the vegetable shortening. Turn processor on and let run for 5 seconds. Then, drizzle in cold water. Keep processing until mixture begins to clump.
- Pour dough mixture onto a clean surface. Using your hands, pull the dough together into one ball. Cut ball in half and form two discs of the same size and shape. Cover each disk in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours.
Make the pastry cream:
- In a medium saucepan, heat the milk and salt over medium heat until just before boiling. Remove from heat. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture is pale yellow, about 1 minute. Add the cornstarch and whisk together. Slowly pour the scalded milk into the egg yolk mixture while whisking.
- Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and heat over medium. Whisk constantly until the mixture thickens to a pudding, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat and continue to whisk for 2 minutes to cool it down. Whisk the vanilla extract, brandy, and butter into the pudding until the butter has melted. Cover the pastry cream with plastic wrap so that the plastic touches the top of it to prevent a film from forming on top. Refrigerate until the mixture has completely cooled, about 2 hours
Make the tarts:
- Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and allow it to soften on counter for 15 minutes so it will be easier to roll. Dust a clean surface and rolling pin with flour. Unwrap the dough and cut each disk in half. Place one half on the floured surface and begin rolling into a large circle, about ½-inch thick and 6 inches in diameter.
- Place the rolled dough into a 4½-inch tart dish with a removable bottom. Don’t stretch the dough. If the dough is stretched, it will shrink while baking. Fold over the excess dough and push it into the flutes of the tart dish to create thick edges. Cut off the excess dough that hangs over the top. Repeat the process with the other dough halves. Place the shells into the freezer for 10 minutes to chill before baking. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Remove the shells from the freezer. Cut 4 (5-by-5-inch) squares of foil and place on top of the unbaked shells. Place pie weights or dried beans on top of the foil to weigh it down and prevent the pie crusts from rising while baking. Bake for 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove from the oven and discard the foil (weights or beans can be reserved for a future use). Gently prick the bottom of the dough with a fork. Bake for another 18 minutes until the bottom begins to turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool completely (at least 30 minutes) before filling.
- Once the pastry cream has chilled and the shells have cooled, distribute the pastry cream evenly among the 4 shells. Using the back of a spoon, spread the filling into the tart shell, creating a smooth, flat layer.
Make the topping:
- Using a knife, gently make a cross indentation in the pastry cream in the center to separate it into 4 quadrants. In the left half of the tart, stack 4 mandarin orange segments vertically from the top of the tart to the bottom. In the top right quadrant, arrange 2 kiwi slices decoratively. In the bottom right quadrant, stack 1 tablespoon of blueberries. Finally, fan 1 sliced strawberry in the center of the tart. Repeat with the other 3 tarts.
- Put the jelly and water in a small bowl. Microwave for 15 seconds and stir. Gently and lightly brush some jelly mixture onto the fruit to seal it. This will prevent it from drying out and add a beautiful sheen. Discard any leftover jelly mixture.
- Serve tarts immediately. Refrigerate leftovers for 1 day. Tarts are best eaten on the same day.
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