Friday, August 17, 2007

Strawberry and Honey Cream Tart

Strawberry Tart

Just when I thought I had seen the last of this summer's strawberries, Steven comes home with a huge box from none other than Costco and better yet, they were as delicious as they were bountiful! I spoiled myself earlier this summer and purchased a set of 6 mini tart pans, an 8 in tart pan, and a rectangular tart pan (I adore this one because it looks so elegant). Since then, I’ve fallen head over heels in love with tarts of all shapes, sizes, flavors. What I love most about fruit tarts is that it is a simple way to showcase the fresh flavors of seasonal fruit. Just take a pate brisee, pate sucree, or graham cracker crust, some pastry cream or curd, fresh fruit and voila! you have a beautiful dessert that’s sure to be a definite crowd pleaser.

Steven likes to eat his strawberries dipped in a little honey, whereas I usually do without the extra sugar, but a honey pastry cream paired perfectly with these ruby red berries. To go with the honey pastry cream, I opted for a graham cracker crust instead of my usual flaky pate sucree. The only problem I came across with this tart was taking a picture because as soon as I got within range for a photograph, the tantalizing aroma of the sweet berries, honey, and buttery crust ensnared my senses. All I could think about was gobbling up the distracting tart that was sitting mere inches from me. So with a few hurried click clicks of the camera, I quickly sat down to enjoy my reward.

Strawberry Tart

Strawberry and Honey Cream Tart

1 recipe Honey Pastry Cream (recipe follows below, you will need to make this at least 4 hours in advance, preferably overnight)
About 1 lb strawberries

Graham Cracker Crust
9 graham crackers
5 Tbsp butter, melted
1 Tbsp sugar
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

In a food processor, pulse the graham crackers until they are finely crushed. Alternatively you can place the crackers in a bag and use roll over them with a rolling pin to crush them.

Add the sugar and melted butter and pulse to combine in the food processor, or mix with a fork until the crumbs are evenly coated in butter.

Press the crumbs firmly into the bottom and sides of a tart pan. Use the flat bottom of a dry measuring cup or the bottom of a drinking glass. The recipe makes one 9in crust or one 8in and a 4in tarlet crust.

Bake at 350ºF for 11 - 13 minutes, until browned, and rotate the crust halfway.

Let the crust cool completely before filling with pastry cream and fruit slices. Fill with cream and fruit just before serving.

If your strawberries are uniformly small, you can hull them and place them on whole. If they are large and too unwieldy to place on the tart whole, cut them in half or into slices and arrange them on the tart.

Honey Pastry Cream
2 C milk, preferably whole
4 egg yolks
1/4 C corn starch
5 Tbsp honey
4 Tbsp butter, cut into 8 pieces
pinch of salt

- Make the pastry cream at least 4 hours before serving, preferably chill it overnight. The cream will hold in the fridge for about 2 days.
- To make the classic vanilla pastry cream, use 6 tablespoons of granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Honey is sweeter than sugar so I used 5 instead of 6 tablespoons.

Heat milk and honey in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, whisk to dissolve the honey. Heat until almost simmering.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the corn starch and pinch of salt until the mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 30 seconds to a minute.

Anchor your mixing bowl with a wet kitchen towel wrapped around the base of the bowl. Using a ladle with one hand, ladle some of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolks while whisking with the other hand to temper the egg yolks. Add the milk ladle by ladle until you have added about half the milk. Then switch from whisking the egg yolks to whisking the milk in the saucepan and whisk the egg mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining milk.

Heat this mixture over medium heat and bring to a simmer, whisking constantly. Continue simmering the cream for 30 seconds to 1 minute then take it off the heat. Off heat whisk in the butter.

Cover the cream with a piece of plastic wrap pressed directly onto the surface (to prevent a skin from forming) and chill for at least 4 hours. (Lemme tell ya this stuff is plenty good with just a spoon) ;)

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