I don’t know if anyone else is keeping track, but I apologize for not posting for five days. I try to post at least a few times a week, but of course this is mediated by how many blog-worthy recipes I manage to create.
I recently ordered several tart pans and I’ve been testing different tart recipes every day since. Tart crust, or pâte sablée, has given me a bit of trouble, but I discovered a method that works for me.
The mistakes that I made at first were following recipes from bad sources, rolling the dough too thin, not freezing the dough long enough before baking, and then baking with fillings inside so I couldn’t tell when the bottom was done. If you haven’t made tarts before, I recommend using a liberal amount of flour when you roll out the dough to prevent it sticking to the parchment or rolling pin. The worst is when you get the dough into the pan but the parchment won’t peel off; a hearty application of flour ahead of time can fix this.
Since baking tarts is new to me, this tart uses classic flavors. It has a simple vanilla crème pâtissière base, some slivered almonds, and an arrangement of fresh fruit on top. However, despite its simplicity, it’s tricky to make and absolutely gorgeous when finished.
Crème pâtissière is the same filling you’ll find in cream puffs, eclairs, mille feuille, and almost any other cream-filled pastry. It’s thick, decadent, and tastes like gourmet vanilla pudding. I’m constantly tempted to forego whatever recipe I’m making it for and just eat it with a spoon – it’s that good. It’s essentially a custard, with an egg, milk, and sugar base. Some recipes call for wheat flour as a thickener, but I prefer to use cornstarch because I find it achieves a thicker cream that’s less likely to split. Plus, if you’re baking for someone gluten-free, you can swap out the pâte sablée crust for a nut-based crust and proceed with the recipe as normal.
Feel free to change up the toppings if you’d like. Any fresh fruit would be great, so pick whatever you like and/or whatever is in season.
Vanilla Tart with Fresh Berries
Tart Shell (Pate Sablée)
- 1 ½ cup (185 g) all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
- ⅔ cup (85 g) powdered sugar
- 50 g cornstarch
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- 10 tbsp (130 g) unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 large egg
- 2 cups milk
- ¼ cup + ⅓ cup granulated sugar divided
- 1 whole egg
- 2 egg yolks
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- A dash of vanilla extract
- Strawberries sliced, plus two whole
- Slivered almonds
- Whisk together all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Cut the butter into chunks and incorporate it into the dry ingredients with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the egg and mix with a wooden spoon until the dough is smooth and homogenous. Don’t overmix.
- Pat the dough into a ball, flatten into a thick disk, and wrap in reusable kitchen wrap or plastic wrap. Chill for 30 minutes or until cold but pliable.
- Butter a 10 ¼” round tart pan (with a removable bottom, if possible). Lay a sheet of parchment paper over a work surface, then flour the parchment and a rolling pin. Roll out the chilled dough until about ⅛” thick and larger than the tart pan.
- Lift up the dough, still on the parchment paper, and invert carefully over the tart pan. Press it gently into the bottom and crevices of the pan, then carefully peel away the parchment. Use your fingers (floured) to do any damage control, patching and smoothing as needed.
- Roll the rolling pin over the top of the pan to create a clean edge, then peel away the excess. It’s okay if there’s some extra dough – see notes below for suggestions on what to do with it.
- Put the prepared tart shell in the freezer for at least 15 minutes to firm up. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350º F.
- When the crust is frozen, cover it with a large piece of parchment and weigh it down with pie weights, dried beans, or uncooked rice. This prevents the crust from rising in the oven.
- Bake for 50-60 min, checking every so often to make sure the edges aren’t overcooking. When the center is firm, remove from oven.
- Stir together the milk and ¼ cup of the sugar in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Meanwhile, in a separate heatproof bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolks, cornstarch, and the rest of the sugar (⅓ cup).
- When the milk mixture simmers, remove from heat and pour half into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so the eggs don’t scramble. Pour this mixture back into the rest of the milk and whisk constantly over medium heat until it thickens.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and vanilla until the butter is melted. Transfer to a cold bowl and let sit at room temperature until the cream is no longer warm to the touch.
Assembling the Tart
- When the crust and creme patissiere have cooled to room temperature, spread the creme patissiere in the shell, stopping slightly below the top of the shell. Smooth flat with a spatula or the back of a spoon.
- Arrange the strawberries and blueberries in concentric circles. Sprinkle the almonds in the middle and arrange two whole strawberries on top.