French Fruit Tart

I love cooking at Easter, family and friends have time to sit and enjoy lingering over a meal and I have time to cook it.  Special occasions always call for a great dessert and this is one of my favourites.  Winter is gone and with it the need for hot, comforting puddings but it’s not yet time for light summer sorbets and ices – this tart bridges the gap nicely.  It is light enough to feel fresh and spring-like but still filling enough to be comforting.

You can use any fruit which is in season, strictly speaking it’s a bit early for strawberries but the warm March has put English strawberries in the shops earlier than ever so I decided to make the most of them.  They don’t taste as good as strawberries in June but they are still much better than imported fruits.

Need a shortcut?

You can use ready made pastry or even a pre-baked pastry case.  You can also use a good quality, fresh vanilla custard and thicken it with some whipped cream.  If you need more short cuts than that you’d better just buy a tart!

The Pastry

Ingredients

90g Cold Butter chopped into small pieces

65g Caster Sugar

3 Free-range Egg Yolks

200g Plain Flour

50g White Chocolate

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas Mark 4

Rub the butter, flour and sugar together in a bowl until they resemble fine, sandy breadcrumbs then beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, until you have a ball of soft, pliable dough.  Knead briefly until smooth.  Expect a much softer pastry than short crust.  You can do all of this in a food processor if you prefer.

Wrap the pastry in cling film and put it in the fridge to chill for at least 30 minutes.

Roll out the pastry and use it to line a buttered, 10” flan tin with a removable base.  Prick with a fork then cover the base with baking parchment and fill with baking beans (dried pulses will do if you don’t have baking beans.  Re-chill.  This will stop the pastry from shrinking too much when you bake it.

Place in the oven and bake blind for 20 minutes until the edges of the pastry are golden brown.  Remove the beans and baking parchment and return to the oven for a further 5-10 minutes until the base is cooked through and golden.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin.

When completely cool brush the insides of the pastry case with a thin coating of melted white chocolate.  This helps to prevent it from going soggy when you add the filling.

Remove the tart from the flan case and place on a serving plate.

The Custard (Creme Patissiere)

Ingredients

100g Caster Sugar

4 Egg Yolks

25g Corn Flour

1 Vanilla Pod

350 ml of Whole Milk

Method

Put the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl and whisk until thick and creamy then stir in the flour.

Slice down the side of the vanilla pod and scrape out the seeds with the back of a knife.  Put the pod and the seeds into a saucepan with the milk and bring it slowly just up to the boil.

Remove the vanilla pod and pour the milk onto the egg mixture, whisking all the time.

Return the mixture to the pan over a low-medium heat and stir continuously until it comes up to a gentle boil.   It has to boil to thicken but if it boils too vigorously you will get bits of scrambled egg in your custard.  Continue to cook, stirring all the time for 2 minutes or until it has thickened.

Remove from the heat and pour into a bowl, cover the top with cling film and leave to cool.   The cling film stops a skin from forming.

If it looks a little lumpy whisk it well as it cools, if this doesn’t resolve the problem push it through a sieve to remove any lasting lumps.

The Topping

Fruits of your choice

1 tablespoon Apricot Jam, warmed.

Assembling the Tart

When you are ready to serve the tart pour the custard into the tart base.  Arrange the fruit on top and brush with the warmed apricot jam to glaze the fruit and give your tart a nice shine.

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