I was a picky eater as a kid, but I always knew my Ferrero Rochers from my Kit Kats. As any kid, I was happy with pedestrian treats, but I had a taste for the finer things in dessert life, too. My twelve year old cousin Polina, she knows a thing or two about food. While I have yet to get her to try something other than a cucumber roll at a sushi restaurant, she doesn’t take a lot of convincing when it comes to French pastry.
It’s rare that I get to spend a lot of time with her–after all, she does live in Russia–so I’ve been enjoying the opportunity to show her around San Francisco, and swim in my parents’ pool on the weekends. And one of the things that I have enjoyed the most was being able to fulfill a birthday food request. When I asked her what kind of cake she wanted to ring in 12 in California with, she didn’t mess around–she requested a fresh fruit tart. The kind that looks like it should be sitting behind a glass screen at a patisserie.
We may live thousands of miles apart, but I’ve decided that tarts must run in our blood. My tart of choice has always been apple–I’ll take it in a crumbly pate sable crust, or atop flaky phyllo pastry. It’s summertime, though, and as strawberries are fading out of ‘peak season,’ I thought it best to make a colorful strawberry tart dotted with seasonally-fresh blueberries. The tart shell is a classic and can be filled with a range of creams and fruit toppings, but is particularly amenable to light pastry cream and berries.
I will not lie: the first time I made this tart, I did not own an electric blender with a whisk attachment. Naturally, I got a little overzealous in the whisking and thankfully had my aunt (a fantastic baker and pickler) to help out by thinning out the cream with a bit of milk. There is quite a bit of cornstarch in the recipe for the cream, so be careful to watch as you’re whisking to keep things smooth.
As my aunt and cousin prepare to return to Moscow in a few days, I thought that it was only appropriate to post a little reminder of the time they spent here and wish them safe travels and many happy returns.
Fresh Strawberry-Blueberry Tart
adapted from a recipe in Chocolate and Zucchini
For the Pate Sable
1/3 cup of sugar
1 cup and a tablespoon of flour
1/4 teaspoon of sea salt
7 tablespoons of cold butter, diced into small cubes
2 tablespoons of milk, chilled
For the filling
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 tablespoons of sugar
2 tablespoons of cornstarch
1/2 cup of milk
about 2 cups of fresh strawberries, sliced in half or in quarters, depending on the size
a few handfuls of fresh blueberries
1. To make the shell: In a food processor, combine the dry ingredients and pulse briefly to mix.
2. Next, add the butter, pulsing until the mixture is the texture of coarse cornmeal.
3. Add the milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing until the dough just starts to come together. Test the dough by grabbing a clump and squeezing it to see if it holds.
4. Pour the dough into a buttered tart pan, pressing it down with your fingers and the back of spoon. Make the dough somewhat even, with the edges rising all around (about 1.5 inches around).
5. Cover the pan and refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes, up to one day.
6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the tart shell for 12-14 minutes, watching it closely, until it is a light golden brown. Cool.
7. Make the pastry cream filling by whisking together the egg, vanilla and sugar. Whisk in the cornstarch.
8. Bring the milk to a slow simmer over medium heat in a small pot. Once the milk is simmering, but not boiling, pour the milk into the egg/vanilla/sugar/cornstarch mix, whisking to blend. Be mindful not to over whisk as it will curdle the cream–this is easily fixed by adding more milk at the end, but will create little clumps in the cream.
9. Pour the liquid back into the pot (over low heat), whisking until the cream is thickened. Again, be careful not to over whisk.
10. Pour the cream into your tart shell, smoothing it out with a spoon and let it cool for about 45 minutes to an hour.
11. Once the pastry cream has set, arrange the fruit–starting the circle around the outside rim. Serve at room temperature.
Musical Pairings: Mickey 3D – Tu Vas Pas Mourir De Rire + Strawberry-Blueberry Tart
Kasey’s strawberry-blueberry tart is a fun and uplifting dessert. It is sweet, creamy, and it tastes so good you’ll want to bob your head in happiness with every bite. So I wanted to find an equally upbeat Musical Pairing to go with this recipe. At first glance, Mickey 3D‘s 2003 album Tu Vas Pas Mourir De Rire doesn’t seem like the perfect album to pair with this recipe. For example, the lyrics (to the degree that I understand them based upon reading poor translations) are not particularly upbeat. In fact, they are actually more thoughtful and considerate than they are happy. And even the album’s title, Tu Vas Pas Mourir De Rire, which translates to “You Won’t Die Laughing”, isn’t exactly gleeful. Nonetheless, I find singer/songwriter Mickaël Furnon’s bouncy melodies and bouyant guitar playing to be enough to put me in a great mood. And besides, who said you can’t be complex and fun all at the same time? After all, Wes Anderson has made his career as a director by simultaneously achieving both. And since Tu Vas Pas Mourir De Rire and this recipe are also fun and relatively complex – this really is a great Musical Pairing. Head over to the Musical Pairings home to read the rest of the review. –Matthew