Saturday, September 1, 2012

Fruit Tart

With summer winding down but with many fresh fruits still available, today I'm making a summer fruit tart.  The fruit tart is not difficult but it does have a number of steps and is not quick to prepare.  So consider this recipe when you have some extra time and want a dessert that looks impressive and tastes fresh and cool on a hot summer night.

The dessert has three basic parts and you will prepare each separately and assemble at the end.  They are 1) the crust, 2) the pastry cream and 3) the glazed fruits and berries.

The Crust Options
For a fruit tart you want a sweet pastry crust and you can consider both a traditional sweet pastry crust as well as a Graham cracker crust.  The latter, perhaps more simple to make, doesn't travel as well as the tradtional pastry crust.  So only use the Graham cracker crust if you are not transporting the pie outside of your home. The Graham cracker crust is pictured throughout this entry.   For the Graham cracker crust use the recipe on the box of crumbs (typically 1 1/2 cups finely ground graham cracker crumbs,  1/3 cup white sugar, 6 tablespoons butter, melted and combined.)

Traditional Pasty Crust
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cul unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten

In a separate bowl, whisk the flour with the salt.  Place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until softened.  Add sugar and beat until fluffy, 2-3 minutes.  Gradually add the bgeaten egg, until incorporated.  Add the flour mixture all at once and mix just until it forms a ball.  Remove from bowl and flatten the pastry into a disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refigerate for 30 minutes or just until firm (or about 10-15 minutes in your freezer.)

Lightly spray your tart pan with removable bottom with a non-stick vegetable/flour baking spray or lightly butter and flour by hand.  Unwrap and place into the prepared tart pan and evenly pat down the pastry onto the bottom and up the sides of the tart pan.  Work to ensure that the bottom corner, where the side meets the bottom of the pan, is not too thick.  Again cover and then place in the freezer for 15 minutes.  Preheat oven to 400F. 

Lightly prick the bottom of the pastry crust with a fork and place it on a cookie sheet.  Place the sheet/tart crust into the center rack of the preheated oven and bake for 5 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 350F and bake for an additional 15 minutes, until golden brown and dry.  Remove from oven to wire rack and let cool.  (This crust can be made a day ahead of use.)

Pastry Cream
 1/4 cup  sugar
  pinch  salt
  2 tablespoons  flour
  2 tablespoons  cornstarch
  1 1/3 cups  milk
  3 large  egg yolks
  1 teaspoon  vanilla extract
  1 tablespoon  butter
  1 teaspoon  Grand Marnier -- optional

Mix sugar, flour, cornstarch and salt in a heavy saucepan.  Add milk and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened.  Lower heat, cover and cook 3 minutes longer, stirring occasionally ensuring the mixture does not stick or scorch.

While mixture is cooking, place egg yolks in a mixer bowl and attach wire whisk.  Turn to moderately high (speed 8 in KitchenAid mixers) and beat yolks for one minute.  Slowly add small amount of the hot milk mixture to yolks with mixer running.  Turn off mixer and add warmed yolks to pan and cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes or until the mixture is thick and beginning to bubble.  Remove from heat and add butter and vanilla and optional liqueur and stir. 

Remove mixture to a cool bowl and place plastic wrap on the surface of the mixture, which will prevent a crust from forming.  Cool to room temperature or refrigerate until ready for use.

Fruit Topping
In all you will need about 3 cups of fruit (raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, kiwi, plums, pineapple, etc.)  Use what looks fresh and try to provide a mix of colors.  Cut larger pieces into bit-sized slices or chunks just prior to assembly.

Pour the pastry cream into the tart shell and spread evenly.  Arrange the fruit and berries on top of the cream.  I like to use the blueberries to fill in the gaps, and I prefer to pile the raspberries in the center which gives the tart some height.

To add shine to the fruit and to keep it moist and fresh, the fruit will be covered in an apricot glaze.  To prepare, purchase 1/2 cup apricot jam or preserves.  Heat in a small saucepan over medium heat with one tablespoon of water until melted, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and strain through a fine sieve to remove any chunks of fruit.  While still slightly warm and thin, using a brush paint the fruit on the tart.  Refrigerate until ready for serving.

To serve, place your hand under the tart and push up on the removable tart bottom, while the sides of the tart ring fall down your arm.  Leave the metal bottom in place for serving if you used a Graham cracker crust, which is more delicate.  If you used the Pastry Crust then you may slide the tart off of the metal plate and onto your serve dish.

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