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"A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch." - James Beard


Sunday, June 29, 2014

Tart of the Month: Strawberry Tarts

June's tart of the month is strawberry, of course.  Just like the Queen of Hearts would serve on a summer's day. Strawberry season here in Ontario is generally mid-June to mid-July.  These beautiful, local strawberries are so different from the imported strawberries we get at other times of the year.  They smell so sweet and taste amazing.  

Once again I'm using store-bought pastry because I happened to have one last pie crust in the freezer.  But I did make pastry cream for the first time for these tarts.  Pastry cream is a thick cooked custard that can also be used to fill éclairs.  If you make your own pastry, the pastry cream recipe will fill at least 4 tarts.  My store-bought pie crust only made three tart shells, so I had pastry cream left over, which I used to make a quick berry trifle later in the week.   

Here's what you need for these delicious seasonal tarts:

1 pint fresh strawberries
1 frozen pie crust (or your favourite pastry recipe)
1 tablespoon apricot jam (optional)

For the pastry cream:
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons cold butter, diced into small pieces

Heat the milk, 1/4 cup sugar, vanilla and salt in a saucepan until simmering.  

In a stand mixture (or by hand) whisk together egg yolks, cornstarch and remaining 1/4 cup sugar.  

Slowly pour in hot milk mixture 1/2 cup at a time.

Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook, whisking, over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes until thickened.

Scrape the custard back into the mixer and, using the paddle attachment on medium speed, mix in the cold butter until incorporated and the custard cools down, about 5 minutes.  

Cover the custard with plastic wrap, pressing it onto the surface, and refrigerate about 2 hours until cooled.

Roll out the pastry and press it into tart shells with removable bottoms.  Prick the pastry with a fork to keep it from bubbling up.  

Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes until lightly browned.  Let cool and remove from tart tins.  

Remove the pastry cream from the fridge and stir until smooth.  Fill the tart shells with cream.  

Layer sliced strawberries over the pastry cream.  I recommend overlapping them and using many more than I've used here.  

For a glossy finish, melt a tablespoon of apricot jam in the microwave for about a minute.  

Brush the melted jam over the tarts and serve immediately.  Fresh, creamy and delicious!  A great way to fancy-up fresh local berries.  

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