Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Strawberry Tart

Here's thing- I had forgotten I like to bake.  It became a chore.  I bought that cookbook and all of a sudden was dishing out $50 a week to make recipes I didn't even really want.  Then I got overwhelmed by the Baked cookbook (which is still utter magic to me).  I guess I got burnt out (which is even funnier when it's a baking joke).

Then, I was watching the Barefoot Contessa the other day (since all I seem to do in life is go to work and watch the Food Network) and Ina was making miniature strawberry tarts.  This coincided perfectly with the day I had accidentally spent my boss' money on strawberries, which would kill her.  Spending her money wasn't an accident, inadvertently trying to kill her, was.  So, I already had the strawberries and Ina said the tart was French-inspired.  If there's one thing you should know about me, it's that no matter how hard I try to deny it, I secretly want to be Parisian.  There, I said it. Besides, Ina made it look so easy.  Just whip up some pastry cream, whip up a hand made pastry dough, what could be more simple?!

Sarcasm aside, it actually was pretty simple.  Ina Garten's pastry cream recipe was way easier than any other pastry cream recipe I've made and came together perfectly.  I don't even think I used as much cornstarch as she called for (ran out).  And I made the dough without a food processor and it came together well and I am pretty sure the muscles in my right arm are aiming towards Popeye. I don't own a food processor, I really don't have room for it and usually can make do with the Magic Bullet blender and immersion blender.  Not for dough though, and come to think of it,  I didn't have room for the 6-quart enamel Dutch Oven I begged for for my birthday either, and I seem to be making that work (it's beautiful and green and makes perfect bread).  Maybe my dining table will just become storage for oversized cooking baking equipment...

Back to the dough, I thought back to the Cooks Illustrated pie dough recipe and subbed about half the liquid in the dough for vodka and then tossed it back in the fridge.  Hopefully, whatever the vodka does to the gluten in normal pie dough will have the same affect in pastry dough.

Part of my inspiration to take to the kitchen again might be the audiobook I'm listening to.  I like listening to audio books when I'm in the kitchen cause I stay entertained and don't have to worry about missing what's going on on a TV show.  I am currently listening to The Help on audio and the recording is excellent.  I know, I know, I'm about four years late to The Help party, but I was resistent.  It's a grown-up book and about white people saving black people, and I try to avoid both of those things.  I had no idea it was going to be such a good grown-up book about white people saving black people.

The whole tart came together pretty easily, though there were definitely multiple steps to the process.  My tart shell wasn't as pretty as Ina Garten's, and it did shrink a little.  I also don't think I had quite enough strawberries.  The pastry cream set up very nicely, and tastes delicious though; all-in-all I am very pleased with the result.

Here are some pictures:
baked pastry shell

baked pastry shell filled with pastry cream

baked pastry shell filled with pastry cream and topped with strawberries

baked pastry shell filled with pastry cream and topped with strawberries, glazed with
orange marmalade reduction and chopped pistachios
This is my favorite picture, it's the paper towel I dried the strawberries on.

Here's the recipe from the Food Network website.
The things I changed:
1. I made one regular large sized tart because I don't have mini tart shells. The pastry baked for about three minutes longer on the second bake
2. I subbed out about 1/8 cup water in the dough recipe for vodka
3. I used about half as much cornstarch as called for and it turned out fine
4. I subbed bourbon for cognac because I sub bourbon for everything
5. I subbed orange marmalade for apricot jam
6. I chopped the pistachios 

Strawberry Tarts

Copyright 2004, Barefoot in Paris, All Rights Reserved

Prep Time:
35 min
Inactive Prep Time:
1 hr 0 min
Cook Time:
25 min
4 tarts


  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 2 tablespoons cold shortening (recommended: Crisco)
  • 1/4 cup ice water
  • 2 cups Pastry Cream, recipe follows
  • 2 pints whole strawberries, hulled and halved
  • 1/3 cup apricot jelly
  • 3 tablespoons shelled pistachios, halved, optional


Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a small bowl and place in the freezer for 30 minutes. Put the flour mixture in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the butter and shortening and pulse about 10 times, or until the butter is in the size of peas. Add the ice water and process until the dough comes together. Dump on a well-floured board and form into a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Roll out the dough and fit into 4 (4 1/2-inch) tart pans with removable sides. Don't stretch the dough when placing it in the pans or it will shrink during baking. Cut off the excess by rolling the pin across the top of each pan. Line the tart shells with a piece of buttered aluminum foil, butter side down, and fill them with dried beans or rice. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the beans and foil, prick the bottom of the shells all over with a fork, and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes until lightly browned. Set aside to cool.
Before serving, fill the tart shells with the pastry cream. Arrange the berries decoratively on top of the cream. Melt the apricot jelly with 1 teaspoon of water and brush the top of the tarts. Sprinkle with pistachios, if using, and serve.

Pastry Cream:

5 extra-large egg yolks, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups scalded milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon Cognac
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon heavy cream
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the egg yolks and sugar on medium-high speed for 4 minutes, or until very thick. Reduce to low speed, and add the cornstarch.
With the mixer still on low, slowly pour the hot milk into the egg mixture. Pour the mixture into a mediumsaucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens, 5 to 7 minutes. Don't be alarmed when the custard comes to a boil and appears to curdle; switch to a whisk and beat vigorously. Cook, whisking constantly, for another 2 minutes; the custard will come together and become very thick, like pudding. Stir in the vanilla, Cognac, butter, and heavy cream. Pour the custard through a sieve into a bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on the custard and refrigerate until cold.
Yield: 2 cup

Garten, Ina. "Strawberry Tarts." Food Network. Food Network, 2004. Web. 10 Mar. 2012. .

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