Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Strawberry Tartlets

Strawberries from the store have been so delicious lately, I had to make strawberry tarts. Except for the arm workout I got while whisking the pastry cream, these were easy. For visual interest, I usually also top each one with a blueberry and sliver of kiwi, but I love the pure strawberry of this version and it made for lighter work. And they were still plenty tasty.

Strawberry Tarts
Half-recipe of Martha Stewart's Pate Brisee
Pound of Strawberries, washed, dried, and hulled
Pastry Cream, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Roll out the tart dough and cut it into squares a little larger than the square tart wells, or whatever mold you plan to use. Tuck the squares of dough inside the wells, cover the entire tray with a sheet of foil, and bake 12 minutes. Remove the foil, and bake 10 more minutes. Let it cool before removing the pastry shells, and repeat with remaining dough. Allow shells to cool completely before assembling.

Strawberries last longer if you wait until you use them to wash them. Darker ones tend to be sweeter. Choose 12 small berries that won't be bigger than the tart, and slice them in half.
Spoon or pipe the pastry cream into each shell. I like to pipe it with a star tip. Top each tart with a strawberry half. For extra shine or sweetness, you can also melt a bit of seedless jam and brush it on top of the berries. That's it! Makes 24 tartlets.

Pastry Cream
From Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours
2 cups whole milk
6 large egg yolks
½ cup sugar
⅓ cup cornstarch, sifted
1½ tsp pure vanilla extract
3½ tsp unsalted butter, cut into bits at room temperature
Bring the milk to a boil in a small saucepan.
Neanwhile, in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the yolks together with the sugar and cornstarch until thick and well-blended. Still whisking, drizzle in about ¼ cup of the hot milk -- this will temper, or warm, the yolks so they won't curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remainder of the milk. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously, constantly and thoroughly (making sure to get into the edges of the pot), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.

Whisk in the vanilla extract. Let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in bits of butter, stirring until they are fully incorporated and the pastry cream is smooth and silky. Scrape the cream into a bowl. You can press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the cream to create an airtight seal and refrigerate the pastry cream until cold or, if you want to cool it quickly -- as I always do -- put the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water, and stir the pastry cream occasionally until it is thoroughly chilled, about 20 minutes.

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