Sweet tart with pastry cream and fruit

Serves 10
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The Independent Online

This is a classic French tart, comprising sweet pastry, filled with custard that has been thickened with a little flour. Any seasonal fruit is lovely, strawberries, raspberries or apricots in the summer – or as I have done for this picture, poached rhubarb and quince. Whereas summer fruit can be served just as it is, or glazed with a little jam, most winter fruits need to be poached or roasted before they are placed on top of the pastry cream.

For the pastry

250g/8oz plain unbleached flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
150g/5oz unsalted butter, well chilled and cut into cubes
1 egg yolk
A little cold water if necessary, to bring the dough together

For the pastry cream

500ml/17fl oz whole milk
1 vanilla pod, cut in half lengthwise
8 egg yolks
150g/5oz caster sugar
1 tbsp plain flour

Follow the instruction for the savoury pastry, substituting vanilla extract for the salt and using only egg yolk rather than the whole egg. The only other difference here is that once you have removed the baking beans and the parchment paper, you should allow the pastry to cook for 10 minutes longer – it must be golden-brown with a biscuity texture. While the pastry is cooking, prepare the pastry cream – this can be done the day before.

Place the milk and vanilla pod in a pan over a low to medium heat on top of the stove. Bring to just under a simmer, immediately remove from the heat and set aside to infuse for 20 minutes.

In the meantime, place the yolks, sugar and flour into a bowl and beat together well. Remove the vanilla pod from the milk and pour the warm milk over the egg mixture, whisking as you do. Return the custard to the pan, place over the lowest heat and stir with a wooden spoon constantly until the custard is thick – this requires a little patience, as it will take about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain through a fine sieve.

Once the custard has cooled to room temperature, spread over the base of the cooled tart shell and place in the fridge until you are half an hour or so ready from serving. Top with the fruit of your choice and serve.

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