July 11, 2010

Strawberry Tarts

Baking is so much more than a hobby for me; it's my "force", my creative outlet and at times a much needed stress reliever.  So when I can help someone else find the joy in baking  that's icing on the cake.  

Spent the 4th of July weekend in Boston and Cape Cod visiting my dear friend J.  She and I go way back; we became fast friends when we discovered our host families lived within a block of each other in Dijon.   Nevermind that I ended up moving out after two weeks to live someplace else, at least our friendship endured the relocation!

One of J.'s requests when I came was to help her with some of my recipes.  First on the list were the cherry blossom sugar cookies I made a few months ago.  Easy enough.  I  showed her some  decorating tips and tricks and her cookies came out great.  As an encore I introduced her to  the  wonder of homemade fruit tarts.   She was already of fan from when we were students in France so she was excited to learn how to make them herself.

I showed her how to make my favorite crust recipe, the Sweet Caillat crust, along with a simple pastry cream.  Topped off with fresh summer fruits and you've got  yourself a real crowd pleaser. They were a hit with J.'s family and friends and I know she'll be making them often. 

By the time I flew back home I was even more inspired to find new variations on this delectable  treat.  A recent post from one of my favorite blogs, Cannelle et Vanille, featured an apricot tart made with a lemon shortbread crust.   To entice me even more the crust was gluten-free and didn't require rolling.  Who could ask for anything more?  

This crust is fantastic and so easy to make.  I dare say that I think I actually prefer it over the Caillat crust because it is so flaky and crispy.  Try it for yourself!

Lemon Shortbread Crust (from Cannelle et Vanille)

Makes a 10" tart or 8 individual tarts

225 grams butter
110 grams powdered sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp vanilla
170 grams superfine brown rice flour
110 grams cornstarch
30 grams tapioca starch (also called tapioca flour)
pinch of salt

Cream the butter and powdered sugar together. Add the zest and vanilla extract. Add the dry ingredients and mix until combined.

Press the dough into tart molds. Refrigerate the dough for about 30 minutes. 

Blind bake the tarts by lining the mold with a piece of parchment paper and filling with pie weights or dry beans. 

Bake at 375F for about 30 minutes until golden brown.  Leave the baked crust in the mold but remove the parchment paper and weights immediately.  Be careful when you do this as the crust is extremely delicate when hot.  

Let the crusts cool completely before unmolding. 

For fruit tarts: Fill baked crusts with pastry cream and arrange fresh fruit on top.  Glaze the fruit with melted apple or currant jelly.

Pastry Cream

Makes enough to fill a 10" tart. 

2 cups half and half (or whole milk)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
pinch of salt
5 large egg yolks
4 Tbs cornstarch
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 Tbs cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

Heat half-and-half, 6 tablespoons sugar, and salt in medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat until simmering, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar.

Whisk egg yolks in medium bowl until thoroughly combined. Whisk in remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and whisk until sugar has begun to dissolve and mixture is creamy, about 15 seconds. Whisk in cornstarch until combined and mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 30 seconds.

When half-and-half mixture reaches full simmer, gradually whisk simmering half-and-half into yolk mixture to temper. Return mixture to saucepan, scraping bowl with rubber spatula.  Return to simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until 3 or 4 bubbles burst on surface and mixture is thickened and glossy, about 30 seconds. Off heat, whisk in butter and vanilla. 

Pour mixture through a fine mesh strainer set over a medium bowl.  Using a rubber spatula, pass the pastry cream thru the strainer.  Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream, and refrigerate until cold and set, at least 3 hours or up to 48 hours.


  1. Dianna8/16/2010

    The lemon shortbread crust sounds delicious but where would you find the brown rice flour? Could you just substitute a wheat pastry flour?

  2. I found the brown rice flour at a health food store. You can also find it online. If you don't want to make the crust gluten-free, just replace the rice flour, cornstarch and tapioca starch with all-purpose flour.


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