Feb 23, 2013

Strawberry Tart

I recently went to the afternoon tea service at Halekulani and I was so disappointed (gasp! who dares speak against Halekulani? Don't get me started on the brunch...all I have to say is run for the hills!) I was really excited about it, because it was a chance to hang out with my girlfriends and have yummy finger sandwiches and desserts. Let me tell you, most of the desserts were ehhh at best! The sandwiches were dry, and the scones were just okay! The tea was excellent though! If you are the type that can taste atmosphere, you will love Halekulani. It's pretty and relaxing, and a great place to spend an afternoon. But if you're there for the food (like i am), you would be happier elsewhere (any suggestions?). I thought for sure that they would have some type of fruit tart, but they didn't.

How can they not have fruit tarts? I love fruit tarts!! I love the contrast of fresh fruit with the creamy pastry cream all enveloped in a sugary buttery crust. Rarely do you get this when eating a fruit tart. The cream is often too gelatinous and the crust often soggy. If you're tired of these sub par fruit tarts, make this fruit tart yourself!! You'll love it!! It might look like a long recipe, but it's not hard at all!! The only thing you need to bake is the crust. I'm thinking I have to have my very own afternoon tea service at my house. Anyone want to make a reservation?

Strawberry Fruit Tart
adapted from Art and Soul of Baking

1 recipe Vanilla Shortcrust Dough (recipe follows)
1 1/2 ounces white or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 recipe Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream (recipe follows)
1 lb of strawberries
2 tbsp seedless raspberry jam
2 tsp water

1. Bake the shell: Preheat the oven to 375°F and position a rack in the bottom third. Line the chilled tart shell with heavy-duty foil, pressing the foil firmly and smoothly into the crevices of the pan. Fill the pan with pie weights. Make sure the weights reach up the sides to the rim of the pan (the center does not need to be filled quite as full). Bake the shell for 20 to 22 minutes, until the foil comes away from the dough easily (if it doesn't, bake another 5 to 6 minutes and check again). Remove the pan from the oven (hold the pan by the sides and not the bottom), close the oven door, and lift out the foil and weights from the shell; set them aside to cool. Return the pan to the oven to continue baking the shell for about 10 minutes, then remove the pan from the oven, close the oven door, and check to see if any cracks have formed. If you see a crack, very gently smear a tiny bit of reserved dough over the crack to patch it-you need only enough to seal the opening. Return the pan to the oven and bake 10 to 15 minutes longer, until the crust is a nice golden brown all over. Transfer to a rack and cool completely.

2. Moisture-proof the crust: Bring an inch of water to a boil in the bottom of the double boiler. Place the chocolate in the top of the double boiler off the heat. Then place the chocolate over the steaming water. Stir occasionally with the silicone or rubber spatula until the chocolate is melted and smooth. (Or, melt the chocolate in the microwave-safe bowl) Scrape the melted chocolate into the cooled tart shell and use the offset spatula to spread it into a thin layer across the bottom and about ½-inch up the side. Chill for 10 minutes to firm the chocolate.

3. Fill the tart: Spoon the pastry cream into the tart crust and spread into an even layer. Refrigerate while you prepare the fruit. Pour the raspberries and blackberries onto the baking sheet and pick out and discard any moldy berries or debris. These berries are usually not washed, as they absorb water quickly and turn to mush. Rinse the blueberries in the strainer under cold water and pat dry. In the medium bowl, gently mix all of the berries together. Transfer to the tart, making sure there is a nice balance of all the berries in each area of the tart.

4. Finish the tart: Heat the raspberry jam and water in the small saucepan over low heat until melted, hot, and fluid or, microwave on low in the microwave-safe bowl. Do not let it boil or it will caramelize. Brush just enough of the melted jam over the tops of the berries to glaze them a bit. You don't want to overdo it; simply touch the brush to the berries to give them a shiny look. Refrigerate the tart until ready to serve.

5. Place the tart pan on top of a large can (the 28-ounce tomato cans are good) so that the bottom balances midair as the rim falls to the counter. Use the metal spatula to transfer the tart to a serving plate, or simply leave the bottom of the tart pan under the tart for support. Slice the tart with a thin and sharp knife, cutting down in one quick motion rather than sawing. This tart is lovely all by itself, though a spoonful of raspberry sauce is a good accompaniment.

Storing: The tart holds beautifully for 2 days, but is at its prettiest the day it is made. Cover with plastic and refrigerate. After a couple of days the juices from the fruit begin to seep into the pastry cream, though the tart still tastes delicious.

Vanilla Shortcrust Dough
from Art and Soul of Baking

1 1/4 cups (6 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (4 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 to 3 teaspoons water

1. To mix the dough using a food processor: Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 5 times to blend. Add the cold butter pieces and pulse 6 to 8 times, just until the butter is the size of large peas. In the small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, vanilla, and 1 teaspoon water. Add to the butter mixture, then process just until the dough begins to form small clumps, 5 to 10 seconds. Do not let the dough form a ball. Test the dough by squeezing a handful of clumps-when you open your hand, they should hold together. If they are crumbly and fall apart, sprinkle 1 teaspoon water over the dough and pulse several times, then test again. Repeat, if necessary. To mix the dough by hand: Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the medium bowl and blend well with the whisk. Add the cold butter pieces and toss until they are lightly coated with the flour. Use the pastry blender or your fingertips to cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles bread crumbs or crushed crackers. If at any time during this process the butter softens and becomes warm, place the bowl in the freezer for 10 minutes before continuing. In the small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, vanilla, and 1 teaspoon water. Add to the dry ingredients and toss between your fingertips or with a fork 20 to 30 times to evenly distribute the moisture. The dough will still look very crumbly, but if the mixture is squeezed in your hand, it should hold together. If not, sprinkle another teaspoon of water over the top and toss to blend. Repeat, if necessary.

2. Finish the dough: Turn the dough out on a lightly floured work surface and knead gently 2 or 3 times, just to finish bringing it together. Shape it into a disk about 6 inches in diameter. If the dough is still cool to the touch, continue on to the next step. If the dough is soft and sticky, wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes before continuing.

3. To make the tart shell by rolling the dough: Make sure the dough is cool but malleable. If it has been refrigerated or frozen and is quite hard, let it sit on the counter for 10 to 12 minutes before rolling; otherwise, the dough will crack under the pressure of the rolling pin. Since it's difficult to remove this dough from the work surface without tearing it unmercifully, place the dough disk between two 14-inch pieces of waxed paper, parchment paper, or plastic wrap. Roll it into an 11-inch round, rotating it (and the paper) clockwise slightly after each roll to create an even round. Remember to roll from the center outward and to lift the rolling pin at the edge to avoid smashing the edge into the paper, which will make removing the paper difficult.

4. As you roll, the paper or plastic wrap will get wrinkled into the dough. When this happens, peel it off, smooth out the wrinkles and lay it back on the dough. Flip the dough over and repeat, if necessary, with the top piece. Continue to roll, flipping and smoothing wrinkles as necessary, until the dough is 11 inches across and between ⅛ and ¼ inch thick. If the dough is soft and sticky, transfer it to a baking sheet and chill it for 30 minutes. Peel off the top piece of paper or plastic. Leave the bottom piece attached-this will hold the dough together while you transfer it to the pan. Lift the dough by the exposed paper or plastic and flip it over and center it over the tart pan as best you can.

5. Peel off the paper or plastic. (If it sticks and won't come off, place everything on a baking sheet and chill for 30 minutes-the paper will then peel off easily.) Ease the dough across the bottom of the pan and up the sides, pressing it into the corners of the pan with your fingertips. If the dough breaks or cracks, just press it together again. Once the dough is even in the pan, fold the excess dough at the edge inward to create a double layer of dough along the wall. Press firmly with your thumbs to fuse the two layers of dough, then roll your thumb over the rim of the pan to remove any excess dough there. Save the excess dough in case a crack forms in the crust during baking. Refrigerate for 1 hour or freeze for 30 minutes before baking.

6. To make the tart shell by pressing the dough into the pan by hand: First, chill the dough for 30 minutes. Break the cold dough into small pieces roughly an inch or two in diameter and scatter them evenly over the bottom of the tart pan. Use the heel of your hand to press the pieces of dough flat, connecting them into a smooth, even layer. Press from the center of the pan outward, building up some extra dough where the bottom meets the side. Using your thumbs, press this excess up the sides of the pan to form the walls, making sure they are the same thickness as the dough on the bottom of the pan. Roll your thumb over the rim of the pan to remove any excess dough (save this for patching any cracks that might form during baking). Refrigerate for 1 hour, or freeze for 30 minutes before baking.

Vanilla bean pastry cream
from Art and Soul of Baking

1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) whole milk
1 vanilla bean (or 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract)
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) sugar
1/4 cup (1 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) cold unsalted butter

Fill the large bowl halfway with ice and water and set it aside. Pour the milk into the medium saucepan. Use the tip of a paring knife to cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Turn the knife over and use the dull side to scrape the seeds into the saucepan, then add the pod. Heat until the mixture just begins to simmer. Remove from the heat and let steep for 30 minutes. (If using vanilla extract instead of a vanilla bean, skip this step and add the extract later.)

Heat the milk to just below the boiling point and remove from the heat. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolks, and sugar until well blended and smooth. Add the flour and whisk vigorously until the mixture is very smooth. Pour about ½ cup of the hot milk into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly to temper the yolks. Slowly pour the yolk mixture back into the hot milk, whisking all the while.

Heat the mixture, whisking constantly to prevent the flour from lumping, until it reaches a boil. Continue to cook and whisk for another minute, until the pastry cream is very thick. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter (and vanilla extract, if using). Strain the pastry cream through the strainer set over a medium bowl to remove any lumps or tiny bits of egg. (Save the vanilla bean: Rinse it thoroughly, allow to dry, then use it to make vanilla sugar).

Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream, then set the bowl into the bowl of ice water. Once the pastry cream has completely cooled, use or store in the refrigerator until needed.



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