Thursday, 3 June 2010

A Strawberry Tart for a Summer's Day!

With the temperature in the lates 20s, today actually felt like Summer and I wanted to keep that feeling as long as I could.

Strawberries scream summer. When I was a kid in Ireland, people would sell Wexford strawberries on the roadsides from their cars and this was often a Summer treat coming back from granny's house on a Sunday afternoon. To this day nothing tastes as good to me as a Wexford strawberry. Unfortunately the Wexford farmers don't make it to this side of the channel but the French Gariguette comes a close second.

You don't really want to be making pastry on a hot Summer's day, well at least you don't want to have to be rolling out as warm pastry is hard to work with. Luckily I had some sweet shortcrust pastry in the freezer, I tend to make it in batches and freeze it, handy to have to a make a dessert for a last minute dinner. You do need to let it defrost before using it however.

The tart I made has a creme patisserie filling, this has on occasion gone wrong for me, either I have burned the creme or it has gone lumpy. In case this happens you, or if you do not want to go the hassle of making the creme patisserie, an alternative is to use mascarpone cheese
sweetened with some icing sugar.

To make the tart you need:

base: shortcrust pastry (homemade or store bought)

creme patissiere: 1/2 l of milk (try to avoid UHT), 125g caster sugar, 5 egg yolks, 50g sifted flour, contents of 1 vanilla pod

To decorate: 500g (2 large punnets) of Wexford or gariguette strawberries

To make base: grease the tart tin (with removable base) with butter. Form pastry into oblong cylinderic shape and cut into rounds (a tip picked up from a Jamie Oliver book, another method is to grate the pastry into the tin and then press it to shape of tin). Starting from the center of the tin place the rounds of pastry in the tin, overlapping so there is no gaps, and then work up the sides of the tin. Leave some pastry overhanging as it will shrink when it cooks. Prick the bottom of pastry base with a fork several times and then bake blind* for 15 minutes in an oven preheated to 150°, then place back in the oven for a futher 10 minutes. When you take the tart shell out of the oven egg wash the base immediately. This will prevent the base from going soggy later.

To make creme patissiere: Boil together the milk and contents of the vanilla pod. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until the mixture is foamy, then add the sifted flour. The gradually pour in the milk while stirring. Pour mixture back into the milk saucepan and bring to boil for 2 minutes while stirring continuously. It is important to ensure that the mixture is cooked. Let cool.

Prepare the strawberries: wash and hull the strawberries and cut in half.

To assemble the tart: pour in chilled creme patissiere and then place strawberries pointy side up. Put in fridge to chill for at least one hour.

*Bake blind: cover pastry base with a piece of greaseproof paper and then fill pastry shell with either special cooking beans or with any dried beans that you have (chickpeas, kidney beans etc) the idea is to weigh down the pastry.

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