A strawberry tart - or any other fruit tart - with a crème pâtissière filling is not only a French classic but it is such a scrumptious cake. It is a tart - I usually make tartlets instead of a big tart - I make a lot in the summertime.
I have been very hesitant posting this recipe for a long time since it is a classic. Who needs another strawberry tart recipe? Can I add anything to it? The answer is no. However. writing about my experience with pastry dough or rather sharing my tips from a passionate amateur baker point of view has been on my mind for a long time. There are quite a few recipes that include pastry dough on my blog and I often thought I should go more into details how I make pastry dough. So here I am chatting about pastry dough and at the end I am sharing a classic recipe for strawberry tartlets.
Making pastry dough can be very intimidating, in particular when you have had bad experiences. Fortunately, I have never had a bad relationship with pastry dough but my pastry dough skills have improved a lot over the years. The reason is not only practice but also tools and methods that I learned and helped me along the way. I, personally, love making tart shells and there are so many different delicious tarts such as a tarte au citron or a tarte au chocolat.
I hope some of my tips are helpful to you and perhaps I can tackle your fear making your own pastry dough and tart shells.
Shortcrust Pastry DoughBesides the different kinds of pastry doughs, there are also two different methods of making the dough.
One method is rubbing cold butter into a flour and sugar mixture until it resembles breadcrumbs and then adding the remaining ingredients. The other method of making the pastry dough is mixing soft butter and sugar until creamy and then adding eggs and flour. I prefer the latter method because I think this method makes the dough smoother and easier to roll out.
Rolling PinI use a French wooden no-handle rolling pin. I used to work with a rolling pin with handles but I am so happy I switched to a no-handle rolling pin because it gives me more control over the dough and it results into an even texture of the rolled out dough.
Thickness StripsI have a selection of wooden thickness strips and this is another tool that I do not want to miss anymore. Though the no-handle rolling pin creates an even texture, the thickness strips help making an even more even texture.
You place a strip on each side of the dough and then you roll out the dough until the rolling pin glides across the surface of each strips and voilà you have the perfect even thickness of the dough.
When making tart shells I usually make the dough 3 mm / 0.1 inches thick.
Tart(let) mouldsI like using tart rings.
You do not have to use tart rings; tart pans work just as well. I personally like the simple shape of tart rings a lot and it is used in professional kitchens as well.
If you are making tarts very often I do recommend investing in tart rings. Unmolding the tartlet shell is very easy, maybe this is the one advantage over tart moulds.
FlourSince there is no standardization of flour types - the grind and blend is different in each country - it is impossible to duplicate the same flour to another country. Having lived in different countries I know how difficult it can be to find "the flour" that you are used to.
I am using a flour with a very fine texture and a very low protein content. In some countries this kind of flour is called pastry flour.
Maybe you are curious where I get my flour. I buy my flour from the mill "Kunstmühle" in Munich which is the only mill producing flour in the city and the quality of the flour is outstanding. It is always such a joy visiting the tiny store next to the mill which is hidden behind a façade of a 19th century beautiful building and it is situated right in the city center.
There is so much to say about flour and about this mill in Munich but I will save this for an upcoming post.
- 100 g / 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 100 g / 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, soft
- 1 (15 g) egg yolk
- 1 pinch of salt
- 250 g / 2 1/2 cups pastry flour, sifted *
- 25 ml / 2 tablespoons whole milk
- Mix sugar and butter until creamy. You can do this with your hands, a standing or electric mixer (I have not noticed any differences between these methods). Add egg yolk and a pinch of salt and mix until well combined. Add 1/3 of the flour and mix. Then add the remaining flour and milk and stir.
- Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead dough until smooth. Try to work as quickly as possible. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour and if too dry add more milk. Form the dough to flat disc and wrap the dough into cling wrap. Let the pâte sucrée chill for a few hours or overnight in the fridge. You can keep the dough in the fridge for a few days. If you are not using up the entire dough you can also freeze the dough.
- When you take the dough out of the fridge you will notice that the dough is very hard. Let the dough rest for 10 to 15 minutes at room temperature, then roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface. Try to use as little flour as possible. While rolling out the dough lift the dough regularly, if needed dust your surface with flour, so the dough does not stick to your work surface.
- If you have thickness strips - as described above - place one stripe on each side of the dough in order to get a perfect even thickness. I like my dough 3 mm / 0.1 inches thick.
- Butter your tartlet moulds/ rings. This helps that the dough sticks to the moulds and prevents that the dough does not shrink unevenly while baking.
- Cut out big circles; I use a little bowl. Gently place the circles into the tartlet rings or pans and gently press the dough into the corners of the moulds or rings. Be carefully that you do not stretch the dough.
- Trim excess dough with a sharp knife. This also helps that the dough is pressed to the edges.
- Prick the bottom of each tartlet with a fork. Place tartlet moulds on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and freeze the tartlet shells for at least 30 minutes. You can also leave the tartlets in the freezer overnight. Freezing the unbaked tartlets help preventing shrinking while baking, so do not skip this step.
- Preheat the oven to 160 °C / 320 °F.
- Line each tartlet with parchment paper (cut out circles) and fill dry beans (I often use almonds or nuts) to the tops of the tartlet moulds.
- Bake tartlets for 20 minutes. Carefully remove the dry beans or nuts and parchment paper and bake the tartlets for another 10 minutes or until the tartlets are golden in color. The baking time can differ due to the thickness of your pastry dough. As I have mentioned above, I like my dough 3 mm thick but if you like your tartlet shells a little bit thinner the baking time will be shorter and a thicker dough means a longer baking time.
- Let the tartlet shells cool. If your edges of the your tartlet shells are not perfectly even, take a sharp knife and gently scrape to even out the edges. Be careful that you do not break the tartlet shells.
- You can store the tart shells in an airtight container or a cookie tin up to a month.
- 1 vanilla pod
- 200 ml / 3/4 cup whole milk
- 4 (120 g) egg yolks
- 75 g / 1/3 cup and 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 100 ml / 1/3 cup and 1 tablespoon heavy cream
- 20 g / 3 tablespoons pastry flour *
- 20 g / 2 tablespoons corn starch
- Pour milk into a saucepan.
- Split vanilla pod lengthwise and scrape out the seeds (use the tip of your knife or the dull side of a knife). Add the vanilla seeds and the empty vanilla pod to the milk. Bring vanilla milk to a soft simmer. Set aside and remove the vanilla pod.
- Whisk egg yolks and sugar until well combined. Add flour and corn starch and whisk until smooth. Slowly pour the hot milk to the egg yolk mixture and whisk.
- Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and over medium heat bring to a boil, whisk continuously . You will notice that the crème pâtissière thickens. Cook the crème for one minute, continue to stir. Now you should have a thick custard. Remove saucepan from the stove and immediately place the crème into a flat bowl or a casserole dish. Cover the surface with cling wrap which prevents skin forming. Let the crème pâtissière cool at room temperature; it takes one to two hours.
- Give the crème pâtissière a strong stirring in order to break up any lumps. Add whipped cream to the crème pâtissière. In a classic fruit tart one does not add whipped cream but I like the combination of whipped cream and vanilla custard and it makes the vanilla flavor more subtle.
- Use the crème on the day of preparation. If you are not adding the whipped cream you can store the crème pâtissière up to two days in the fridge.
- 150 g / 1/2 cup and 1 tablespoon freshly whipped heavy cream
- Small strawberries
- Strawberry jam or red currant jam
- Mint leaves, optional
- Wash strawberries and pull off the leaves.
- Mix strawberry or redcurrant jam with a few drops of water, it depends on the thickness of the jam, and mix well. Brush the strawberries with the jam mixture which gives the strawberries a glossy glaze.
- Fill the crème pâtissière into the tartlet shells. Place the strawberries onto the crème pâtissière and garnish with mint leaves.
- Keep the tartlets in the fridge until you serve them. Consume the tartlets on the day of assembling, preferably within 4 -6 hours because the tartlet shells get soft.
* If you are using all-purpose flour: 2 cups instead 2 1/2 cups and 2.5 tablespoons instead of 3 tablespoons.