March 20, 2011

Fresh fruit tart

I've never had that much luck before with making pastry for tarts. I've tried various recipes, including a chocolate tart recipe (with chocolate pastry crust) from Jamie Oliver that came out too greasy and also too puffy, despite the blind baking.

This time, however, it went all quite smoothly. I made one big tart (8") and two mini (4") tarts.
Here's what I did:

  1. Make the tart dough (pâte sucrée). I used this recipe, but with a few minor alterations:
    • Instead of 100g flour, I used 70g flour and 30g cornstarch/cornflour. I'm not sure how big of a difference it made, but I like to add a bit of cornstarch as I think it makes cookies etc slightly more tender. I might try the original recipe next time (no corn starch) for comparison purposes.
    • Almond powder = ground almonds. I used ready-ground almonds but I suppose it would be better to grind your own at home (add some sugar if doing so to avoid your almonds becoming almond butter instead of powder).
    • You should really make this ahead but due to lack of time, I didn't leave the dough overnight to develop. Instead I let it chill 1.5 hours in the fridge before rolling out into the tart tins, then let it rest another 30 minutes in the fridge before baking.
    • My major discovery/revelation was that you don't need to mess about with beans, rice or pie weights to blind-bake your tart case. I just followed the suggestion of pricking the dough with the tines of a fork multiple times (both on the sides and bottom). This technique is called docking, and the little holes created by the fork allow the steam to escape and stop the dough from rising too much. I think the end result was not as perfectly presentable as using beans or pie weights, but the convenience factor won me over.
  2. Make your filling. I used a pastry cream/crème patissière recipe by Martha Stewart. The taste was good but the consistency/texture was a little too liquid/custardy for my liking. I might try a recipe with more cornstarch/flour next time to make a more solid filling.
  3. Melt some chocolate to line the bottom of the tart. Dark chocolate is traditional, but I didn't have any so I melted some milk choc buttons in a metal bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. I then spread the melted chocolate into the tart case (which was already blind-baked and cooled to room temp.), then spread it around with a spatula to cover the entire base of the tart. Let stand until the chocolate has cooled and hardened. This serves two purposes: A) it's yummy chocolate! and B) the chocolate layer keeps the wet filling from making the tart case soggy and helps prevent any possible leaks from the little holes made by the docking process.

  4. Once your filling is chilled enough, you are now ready to assemble your fruit tart.
    • Pour the pasty cream onto your tart slowly - you don't want to add too much and risk a spill/overflow! Remember that your fruit will sink slightly and displace some of the filling, so don't fill it up too much, about 1/2 to 2/3 of the way up the crust is about right.
    • Add whatever mix of fruit you like. I made two kinds: strawberry-blueberry and mango-banana.
    • Just before serving, dust with icing/confectioner's sugar or cocoa using a fine sieve.
  5. As you can see, the tarts I made don't look beautifully perfect - the crust is a bit straggly and uneven, but the taste and texture got a thumbs up from everyone at work. The only thing I would focus on next time would be to improve the pastry cream which was a little too liquid.

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