Sweet! Berries are back in season and we've got the perfect way to celebrate the booming berry harvest: fresh fruit tarts. We asked John Barricelli of Sono Baking Company for his favorite recipe as he knows a few things about tarts.
Piled high with fresh blueberries, these individual fruit tarts offer a sweet, creamy custard surprise in the center. Try making these with raspberries or strawberries, or an assortment of berries. Each tartlet uses very little pastry cream, so you’ll have some left over, which can be used as a garnish and served alongside the tarts.
French Blueberry Tartlets
makes five 3-inch tartlets
½ cup sliced almonds
2 large egg yolks
¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup milk
1/8 teaspoon salt
½ vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise, or 1K teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ recipe Pâte Sucrée (page 99), chilled
¼ cup apricot jam
3 pints large, firm blueberries
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the almonds out in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 3 to 5 minutes, until lightly browned. Set aside to cool.
2. To make the pastry cream: In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, about half of the sugar, all the cornstarch, and ¼ cup of the milk.
3. In a saucepan, combine the remaining sugar, the remaining ¾ cup milk, and the salt. If using a vanilla bean, scrape the tiny black seeds into the saucepan and add the pod. Bring to a simmer. Whisking constantly, gradually pour the hot milk into the egg mixture to temper it. Set a strainer over the saucepan. Strain the custard mixture back into the saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. Boil for 10 seconds, whisking. (Make sure the custard boils for 10 seconds in the center of the pan, not just around the sides.) The mixture should thicken to a pudding-like consistency.
4. Transfer the pastry cream to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, to cool slightly. Beat in the vanilla extract, if using. With the mixer running, beat in the butter, a little at a time. Beat until cooled, about 5 more minutes. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface, and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.
5. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to about ¹⁄8 inch thick. Cut as many 5-inch rounds as possible. Re-roll the scraps and cut more rounds—you should get five rounds. Fit the rounds into 3-inch fluted tart shells; the dough should extend slightly over the tops of the molds. Prick each round of dough all over with a fork. Chill for15 minutes.
6. Set the oven rack in the middle position. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick silicone baking mat; set aside.
7. Even the edges of the chilled pastry shells by pressing the excess dough against the sharp edge of the rims of the molds with the heel of your hand to cut it level with the molds. Set the molds on the prepared baking sheet and bake, rotating the sheet about two-thirds of the way through the baking time, until the pastry is completely cooked through, lightly browned, and crisp, 15 to 18 minutes. Transfer the tart shells to a wire rack and let cool completely in the molds. Remove the tartlet shells from the molds when cool.
8. When you are ready to fill the shells, warm the apricot jam with 1 to 2 teaspoons of water in a small saucepan to thin the jam slightly (it should be fluid, but not liquid) and strain through a fine sieve into a medium bowl. Add the berries, and toss gently to coat.
9. Break the almond slices between your fingers into smaller bits and set aside separately.
10. Using a spoon or a pastry bag, spoon or pipe a mound of pastry cream (you’ll use about 2 tablespoons cream) into the center of each tartlet shell. The cream should not extend all the way to the edges of the shell. Mound the berries on top of the cream so that they completely cover the cream. Carefully press the almonds around the bottom edge of the berries, where they meet the pastry, to make a border. Refrigerate until ready to serve, or up to 24 hours.
TECHNIQUE TIP: Set one whole perfect berry in the center of each tart, and surround with berries (or halves, if strawberries), shingled slightly to entirely cover the pastry cream.
TECHNIQUE TIP: Tart shells made with Pâte Sucrée dough don’t need to be filled with pie weights during blind baking (a term used to describe baking a crust without a filling) because the dough is rich in fat with butter and eggs fully mixed into the flour, causing it to not puff up or shrink when baked. All it needs ahead of time is a good chilling in the refrigerator and some docking (a technique whereby you use the tines of a fork to gently create holes in the dough).
TECHNIQUE TIP: Fruit tarts are traditionally garnished with toasted, sliced almonds. At the bakery we also use coarsely chopped pistachios or pecans as well.