I miss walking. One week ago, while on a fabulous outdoors activity-filled vacation in Oregon, I was playing tennis and fractured my fibula
just above my left ankle. Not the way I imagined my vacation (oh yes…it happened at the start of it) or the rest of my summer to go. We came home the next day, and it’s been X-rays, ice, a heavy boot contraption and rest ever since. It was like Christmas when my little walking “scooter” arrived in the mail…
Because all I wanted to do was get back in the kitchen and cook! But not just any cooking, I needed comfort, I needed TO BAKE!
And even though it was a Monday, which I normally start with one or two Anchor meals and a good workout, I gave myself a well deserved pass and made this gorgeous and absolutely delicious tart.
I was craving something with a crunchy, buttery crust and filled with refreshing flavors of summer that would transport me to a happy place somewhere in the outdoors with two functioning ankles. And it did just that!
The crust was proclaimed by Chris to be the flakiest and tastiest he’s ever had and the pastry cream barely made it into the tart!
The cooking process may look complicated, but it’s actually not. Unlike most desserts, you can calmly make each component separately and then bring it all together when you’re ready to serve.
Just start with the crust. Then, while the dough is in the fridge, make the pastry cream and leave that to chill for a bit while you finish the crust. And as the crust bakes (and makes your house smell heavenly), wash and chop up the fruit and melt the apricot jelly. Tip: to get the perfect crust, it helps to have the flour and butter be as cold as possible. So that’s it! If you’ve never made a fancy tart before, now’s the time to try! Plus, if you scroll down to my Instructions with photos, I detail each step of the recipe thoroughly, making it even easier. Get it right a few times and you’ll be a tart expert before you know it.
And…if you’re still intimidated to make this beautiful tart, just remember: I made it and photographed it while hopping on one foot 😉
I would love to see how your Blueberry Strawberry Tart with Toasted Almonds turns out! Just use #BlueGalley on Instagram.
Is it a Tart or a Pie?
Visually, I can always tell a tart from a pie because of the pan they are cooked in. The pie pan is usually smaller in diameter (about 9 inches) but deeper, while the tart pan’s diameter ranges between 10 and 12 inches and its depth is usually shorter by about a half an inch.
There also other factors that differentiate the two. Both use more or less the same ingredients: flour, salt, cold water, sugar (sometimes), shortening and/or butter. It’s mainly the ratio of the last two to the rest of the ingredients that makes the biggest difference. Pies use more shortening or lard, while a tart crust gets almost all of its fat from butter. This proportionality difference creates a softer and thinner crust for pies, which makes it difficult to remove from the pan that it was baked in prior to serving. While the higher amount of butter in the tart creates a firmer and sturdier crust which can be easily unmolded, resulting in a more sophisticated presentation. The term pie is also associated with a crust layer covering the filling as well, while tarts are never covered. And there’s also a difference in the filling between the two: pies can withstand a more runny consistency, while the freestanding tart needs a firmer, more custard-like filling, otherwise it would crumble. This is usually achieved by adding more eggs or other binders.
I sure am glad that there are differences and that they both exist! There’s a time and place for each, and the time is usually now and the place is in my belly! The hardest part is deciding which to make.
- 1 pint strawberries
- 1 pint blueberries
- 1/4 cup apricot jelly
- 1 tsp water
- 2 tbs sliced almonds
- a few leaves of fresh mint sliced thinly (optional, see note)
- 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
- 2.5 tbs cold shortening
- 6 tbs cold unsalted butter
- 3 tbs sugar
- 1/2 tsp rounded kosher salt
- 4 to 5 tbs ice cold water
- 1.5 cups whole milk
- 5 large egg yolks, room temperature
- 1 tbs butter
- 1 tbs heavy cream
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3 tbs cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp cognac (not more than 1 tsp)
1} Set eggs out to bring to room temperature. Place the 1.5 cups of milk into a medium saucepan and heat until scalded (see note), watch closely and don’t burn!
Mix the flour, salt and sugar in a small container, mix slightly with fork and place in the freezer. I use a measuring cup which fits easily in freezer and conveniently measures the flour. Dice the butter and also throw it in the freezer…trust me, it will make your crust perfect and flaky!
Chill both while you make the pastry cream:
2} Separate the egg yolks (save the whites for a healthy egg white omelette!) and place into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the 3/4 cup sugar and beat on medium for 5 minutes, stopping to scrape down the bowl with a spatula a couple of times.
While the eggs are mixing, place the vanilla extract, Cognac, butter and heavy cream into a small bowl and set aside. Reduce the speed of the mixer to low and add the cornstarch while continuing to mix. With mixer still on low, carefully add the scalded milk and mix another 20 seconds or so. Turn off the mixer and pour mixture into the pan you used to scald the milk.
3} Turn the heat to low and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often with the spatula or a wooden spoon. make sure to scrape the bottom often. When the mixture starts to curdle, switch to a whisk and continue to stir, a bit faster this time. You want to smooth out the curds.
Now add the already prepared vanilla, Cognac, butter and cream. Stir with whisk over low heat for a minute and then remove from heat.
This step makes the pastry cream smoother, but it’s not an absolute necessity: pour the custard into a fine mesh sieve set over a bowl and use a spatula to push it through. If skipping, just place pastry cream directly into bowl.
Cover it with plastic so that it sits directly on top of the cream and place the bowl into the fridge.
Back to the crust
4} Place the flour mixture, the cold butter and cold shortening into a food processor. Using a steel blade, pulse a few times (10 to 15) until mixture is grainy and the largest butter chunks resemble the size of green peas. Add the 1/4 cup ice water and pulse a few more times. Place a small amount of dough in your hand, if it clumps together easily then it is ready. If it doesn’t, then add another tbs water and pulse again. When ready, place the dough onto a lightly floured surface and bring it together into a ball using your hands. Don’t over work it! It’s ok if there’s bits of butter in it…it will make the crust more flaky when they melt. Flatten the ball slightly into a disk, wrap in plastic and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least a half hour.
Preheat oven to 400
5} Roll out the dough, and using the rolling pin, transfer it to a 9 inch removable bottom tart pan. Press in the sides and cut off any excess if needed. I like a thick crust rim, so I add any excess to areas where it looks thinner. Don’t want to waste any delicious crust nibbles!
Butter the bottom of a pice of foil, place butter side down into the tart and fill with pie weights if you have them, or some raw rice or beans. Bake the crust for 10 minutes. Remove the foil with the weights and prick the bottom of the crust all over with a fork. Lower the heat to 375 and bake the crust another 15 or 20 minutes, until nice and golden. If browning too fast, lower temperature to 350.
Remove the crust and let it cool. Make sure you really let it cool (setting on a rack helps) before you add the pastry cream or it will melt.
6} While the tart is baking, wash the blueberries and strawberries. It’s best to use a damp paper towel to wipe the strawberries because they absorb water very easily and will make the tart soggy.
Use the cool straw method I describe here to easily hull the strawberries and slice them in half.
7} Heat the apricot jelly with the water over low heat until melted, stirring with a small whisk. Remove from heat.Toast the almonds in a 350 oven for 5 to 7 minutes just until fragrant…don’t burn!
Finally time to put it all together!
8} Add the pastry cream to the tart and use a spatula to smooth it out evenly. Then decorate the tart with the berries with a fun pattern or just throw them on there…you can’t go wrong!
Lightly brush the melted apricot on the berries and sprinkle on the toasted almond slices. They’re delicious and add a fantastic crunch!
Optional: sprinkle the sliced mint on top.
Serve immediately or refrigerate.
Instructions with Photos
Just click on a photo to view the slideshow!
Time to put this Gorgeous Blueberry Strawberry Tart together!
Adapted from Ina Garten