Fruit tarts are delightful summertime treats, with the combination of rich pastry cream, crispy tart shell, and seasonal berries, creating a wonderful taste and texture sensation in your mouth. The crust is crispy with hint of salt, the pastry cream is sweet, smooth and creamy, and the berries add a lovely tart flavor. Because making fruit tarts is such a production, I reserve making them for special occasions. With blue and red berries in season, what better time than the 4th of July to make these lovely treats!
A typical fruit tart shell is made with pâte sablée, a rich French crust that resembles a shortbread cookie in flavor and consistency. For my tarts, I use a graham cracker crust recipe, which is more crispy and golden in color. It holds up well to the pastry cream without getting soggy. It also has just enough salt to balance out the sweetness. The pastry cream recipe has Grand Mariner and orange zest to add a hint of orange flavor. Make the pastry cream and the tart shells a day in advance so you can just assemble the fruit tarts the day of serving. This recipe makes 12 mini fruit tarts, perfect for a family gathering. Enjoy!
Mini Berry Tarts
Yield: 12 mini tarts
1/3 cup of heavy cream
1 tablespoon of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups Grand Marnier pastry cream (recipe follows)
12 mini graham cracker tart shells (recipe follows)
1 cup of fresh raspberries
1 cup of fresh blueberries
Superfine sugar for sprinkling, optional
1) in a medium bowl, add the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla extract. Whisk vigorously until your mixture gets to medium peaks.
2) Fold 2/3 of the mixture into the pastry cream. Fold carefully so as not to deflate the whipped cream. Reserve the remaining portion in the refrigerator for decoration.
3) Using a small ice cream scoop (just shy of 1/8 cup), portion out the pastry cream to each of the tart shells.
4) Arrange the berries on top of the pastry cream. Sprinkle a little sugar, if using.
5) Take the remaining whipped cream out of the refrigerator. Place a star tip on a pastry bag and add the whipped cream, decorating the fruit tarts with stars. Serve immediately or place in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Graham Cracker Tart Shells
(Adapted from Claudia Fleming’s Recipe)
Yield: 12 mini tart shells
1 cup of unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup of whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/2 cup of unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/8 cup of brown sugar
1/8 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons of honey
1) In a medium bowl, add both types of flour, salt and cinnamon.
2) In a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, add the butter, both types of sugar, and the honey. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Scrape the bottom with a rubber spatula.
3) Set the mixer on low speed. Slowly add the flour mixture. Beat well until there is no visible flour.
4) Scrape the dough and transfer onto a large sheet of plastic wrap. Flatten into a disk and double wrap. Place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
5) Once the dough has chilled, remove from the refrigerator.
6) Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
7) Dust a workstation lightly with flour. Roll the dough into 1/8″ thickness. Using a round 3 1/2 inch cookie cutter, cut out 12 circles. Carefully transfer each circle to the parchment-lined baking sheet. Place the entire baking sheet into the refrigerator for 10 minutes.
8) While the dough circles are being chilled, grease 12 mini tart pans* with cooking spray. Heat the oven to 325°.
9) After 10 minutes, take out the cut dough from the refrigerator. Quickly press each of the circles into the tart shells. Using a fork, make several pricks in the dough, even on the sides.
10) Transfer the tart pans onto a baking sheet. Place the entire baking sheet into the freezer for 5 minutes.
11) Remove the tart shells from the freezer. Place them directly into the oven and bake for about 18 minutes or until golden brown.
12) Cool in the tart pans for 10 minutes. Tap the bottom of each tart pan to remove the tart shells. Cool completely on a wired rack. The tart shells can be made a day in advance and placed in an airtight container.
*Use mini tart pans with a 2″ base and the rim 3″. If you don’t have mini tart pans, you can use muffin tins. Just make sure you line the muffin tins with 2″ parchment paper circles.
Grand Marnier Pastry Cream
Yield: about 1 1/2 cups
3 large egg yolks
1/3 cups of sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons of organic cornstarch
1 cup of whole milk
1/4 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
2 teaspoons of Grand Marnier
1/2 teaspoon of orange zest, optional
1 tablespoon of unsalted butter
1) In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the egg yolks and sugar on medium speed for about five minutes. The consistency will be thick and the color will be light yellow.
2) Meanwhile, in a medium sauce pan, add the milk and the vanilla bean with seeds. Bring to a boil. Turn off the heat.
3) After five minutes, reduce the mixer speed to low and add the cornstarch. Beat until the cornstarch is no longer visible.
4) Keeping the mixer on low, add the boiled milk mixture in a slow stream. Make sure you don’t pour too quickly or the mixture will curdle.
5) Transfer the entire mixture back to the medium sauce pan. Cook on low heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir.
6) Add the Grand Marnier and orange zest and swap out the rubber spatula for a whisk. Cook for an additional 3 minutes, whisking constantly. Once the mixture boils in the center, cook for 1 more minute. The mixture should be thick like pudding.
7) Pour the mixture into a fine mesh sieve and place over a medium glass bowl. Using a rubber spatula, press down the pastry cream mixture. You should get a smooth and shiny pastry cream in the bowl. Whisk in the butter.
8) Place a plastic wrap directly on the pastry cream to avoid a skin from forming. Place in the refrigerator for 3 hours to cool. This mixture could be made a day in advance.