A Strawberry Tart to Simulate Summer

“Well, think of it this way….at least the kids don’t have spring fever. They’re still willing to go to school.” my dear friend Jayne said to me as a way to put a positive spin on our weather situation. She had a point. The kids don’t have spring fever because we haven’t had a spring. At this point I believe we’ve surpassed the famous 40 days and 40 nights. Here we are at the beginning of June and this is what I woke up to yesterday morning…..

(Do you see how blurry that tree is in the foreground? That’s because the wind was blowing it around so hard my camera was unable to get it in focus. Gads…)

I hung up the phone and told myself no more whining. Nevermind that I haven’t even planted my vegetable garden yet. Too soggy. Nevermind that I actually had to use an umbrella yesterday. Unheard of by northwest natives except in extreme weather circumstances. Nevermind that my grass is at least 6 inches tall because I haven’t been able to mow it due to the fact that it is currently a lake bed and I don’t even know if my push mower works on grass that tall. “Sigh.” Even if the weather isn’t telling of it, the fact that strawberries, blueberries and sweet, scrumptious cantaloupe are showing up in the markets tells me that somewhere…the sun is shining. So, I tried to wrap my arms around that thought. I took my butter out of the fridge. My flour and vanilla out of the pantry. And went to work creating the quintessential summer dessert….a strawberry tart. I was grateful to have a reason to focus on that cheery little concoction.

At 5 o’clock I changed out of my daily uniform of black athletic wear and red baseball hat and took the time to actually run a brush through my hair. I slapped on my black wrap dress (yes, yes, THE black wrap dress.) Pulled on some boots. (No amount of positive thinking could overcome the fact that the weather outside was definitely not indicative of strappy sandals.) Kissed my sweetie good-bye and headed off for an evening with the girls.

And sometimes, that’s all we need, isn’t it? A little change of scenery. A little change of thoughts. The company of friends. A chance to mingle with the girls. A glass of white wine. Some delectable finger food. A good chick flick. And, of course, a round of desserts…decadent chocolate souffles, heavenly cheesecake, a summery strawberry tart. All topped off with a flute of champagne and good conversation. I drove home feeling quite…effervescent. (And no, it wasn’t from the bubbles.)

This morning when I woke up….the sun was out. She’s gone now….but she was there…if only for a few minutes. And her appearance, although ever so brief…helped.

 

Strawberry Tart
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Course: Dessert
Author:
Serves: One Lovely Tart
This is NOT a 30 minute dessert. You MUST READ all of the directions before you start. You also need to have your egg yolks separated out before you begin. This is going to take time. I usually make my dough and pastry cream a day in advance.
Ingredients
For the Pâte Sucrée (The Crust)
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ⅔ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup chilled unsalted butter, diced
  • 1 egg yolk, room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons milk
For the Crème Pâtissière (The Pastry Cream)
  • 2 cups milk
  • ½ cup sugar, divided
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 4 egg yolks, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2-3 cups fresh strawberries, washed, dried, and thickly sliced lengthwise
  • Optional: mint leaves for garnish
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, or bowl of food processor, whisk/pulse together your flour, sugar, and salt. Cut in or pulse in your butter pieces until the dough resembles cornmeal, with a few pea-sized pieces of butter. Add in your egg yolk plus your milk, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough starts to come together. The dough should be soft and pliable, but not sticky.
  2. Pour the whole concoction out onto a lightly floured surface and divide in half. Dust the top of one half with a bit of flour to prevent your hands from sticking to it. Channel your inner preschooler and press the dough into your tart pan. Push and press it around until it covers the bottom and is halfway up the sides. Dust with more flour as neceessary. Use a fork to prick some holes on the bottom. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour or up to two days. Can also be frozen for a few months. Save the second half of the dough for a tart later in summer. A peach/blackberry tart, perhaps?
  3. (Alternatively, you can shape your dough into two disks. Refrigerate for an hour or up to two days. Then roll out on a lightly floured surface and place in two tart pans; this dough is quite stubborn to work with, so I find it easiest to avoid the rolling out part.)
  4. When ready to bake your crust, preheat oven to 400 ºF. Take the dough out of the fridge, pop in the oven, turn the heat down to 375 degrees, and bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and cool completely on a wire rack.
  5. While your dough is chilling and/or baking, move on to your pastry cream. In a saucepan, heat your milk and ¼ cup sugar over medium heat until it starts to bubble along the edges. Whisk occasionally to prevent burning.
  6. While your milk is heating, whisk together dry ingredients: ¼ cup sugar, flour, and cornstarch. Add your egg yolks and whisk together to make a yellow paste.
  7. When your milk is ready, pour a bit of milk into the egg paste, whisking constantly. Do NOT pour your eggs into the hot milk or they will scramble. Continue to whisk and slowly pour the milk into the egg mixture. Once the two have been fully incorporated, pour the entire concoction back into the saucepan. Continue whisking over medium heat for 2 minutes. The cream will start to thicken and resemble vanilla pudding. Do not fret if you end up with a few small scrambled bits in your cream. You can always strain those out with a fine sieve.
  8. Once the cream has thickened, remove from heat. Mix in your vanilla extract. Pour the fragrant cream into a decent-sized bowl. Take a large piece of plastic wrap and press down on the top of the cream. By doing this, you are trying to prevent the air from reaching the top and forming a skin. Toss your créme in the fridge to cool completely.
  9. To assemble your Tarte aux Fraises (fancy French for strawberry tart), evenly spread a generous amount of your cooled cream into your prepared tart crust. (Eat the leftovers at midnight with a spooon.) Take your strawberry slices and make a spiral design on top. Garnish with a few mint leaves here and there, if you'd like. Set your masterpiece on a cake stand, cut into pizza slices and serve. Enjoy!

Comments

  1. Kristen says:

    Those photos are beautiful. Absolutely stunning!
    I'm glad you were able to get out and get the change of scenery and that the sun shone for you, even if only for a minute. I hope your summer comes soon for you!