I love a simple dessert. I really do. I love the bells and whistles of over-the-top sweets at times, don’t get me wrong. But there is something glorious about a buttery, sweet tart crust, velvety custard and fresh fruit. I went to the farmer’s market over the weekend and decided to take advantage of the last berries of the season (it has been extraordinarily hot in Texas this summer). These were truly the perfect berries–sweet and firm with just a hint of acidity and tartness. Perfect for balancing out the sweetness of the custard. However, this tart would be lovely with any fruit that your heart desires. Strawberries, blueberries, kiwi, mango, peaches, nectarines. You get the picture.
Though this tart is exceedingly simple, in my opinion it’s often in simple dishes that there is very little room for error. When a dessert only has 3 simple components, there is very little to hide behind if one of the components goes amiss. A grainy or gritty pastry cream is enough to make me lose my shit especially since I have made pastry creams and custards more times than I can count. Sometimes I try to rush the process and end up with something that I end up throwing in the garbage. The best piece of advice I can give someone working within the more technical aspects of cooking is to take your time and follow the steps.
The really important part is to cook the custard long enough to cook the cornstarch. In other recipes that call for cornstarch, most of the time you boil or simmer the sauce thus effectively cooking out the graininess of the starch. In a pastry cream, if you simmer it too hard your egg yolks will scramble and the whole thing will be a mess anyway. I find that the best method is to cook the custard over medium heat until very thick and then reduce the heat to very low and cook for another 5-7 minutes. This ensures a velvet texture without even the slightest hint of chalkiness or grit.
The crust is fairly easy to put together and much less difficult than a pie crust. A pâté sucrée is a sweeter pastry dough that is traditionally used for tarts. Basically we are making a slightly less sweet sugar cookie and using that for our crust (delicious, right?). After putting the dough together and pressing it into the tart pan, the freezing part is really important. Since we are not baking our filling, we are going to bake the crust to ensure that it’s nice and crisp before adding the custard. Naturally, when a crust bakes, some of the water from the butter evaporates and thus the crust shrinks a bit. To minimize this, freezing is important to help the tart hold its shape.
This is a really impressive and simple dessert to whip out at any party or gathering and so long as you take your time, you’ll be making french tarts like a pro. As always, feel free to leave me your questions/feedback in the comments section! –xx Jenny
RASPBERRY CUSTARD TART
makes one 10″ tart
125g (1 stick + 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter
1 egg yolk
225g (1 1/2 cups, roughly) all purpose flour
pinch of salt
1 g (1/2 teaspoon) vanilla extract
PASTRY CREAM (CUSTARD):
750g whole milk
pinch of salt
6 egg yolks
1 vanilla bean, seeds and pod
50g unsalted butter
10g (1 tablespoon) dark rum, optional
2 pints fresh raspberries
powdered sugar, for dusting
10 inch tart pan with removable bottom
non-reactive sauce pan or saucier
To make the pâté sucrée: Cream butter and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the egg and egg yolk, vanilla and salt and beat until well mixed. Add the flour and mix until dough just comes together. Transfer dough to a floured area and knead by hand for 2-3 minutes. Press into a disc shape and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before using. Dough can also be frozen and used at a later date.
Preheat an oven to 425 degrees F. Turn dough out onto a floured surface, adding flour as necessary to prevent sticking, and roll out into at least a 13-14″ circle. The dough should be between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick. Gently lift the dough and place over the tart pan. Press the dough into the pan and remove any excess from the top. If your dough cracks, that’s okay, just press the dough pack together or use excess dough to patch up any thin spots or holes. Transfer tart pan and dough to the freezer for 15 minutes. Place frozen tart shell on a baking sheet (makes transfer to and from the oven easier) and prick the bottom of the tart shell with a fork a few times to prevent the dough from puffing. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool completely before filling.
To make the pastry cream: In a 3 quart sauce pan or saucier, whisk together egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch until pale yellow in color. This will be tough work at first and it will seem too thick, but keep at it and you will see it slowly start to change and become thinner. Whisk milk into egg and sugar mixture with a pinch of salt. Add the vanilla bean seeds and pod. Place pot over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until pasty cream is very thick. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook for 5-7 minutes more, stirring constantly. The goal is to completely cook the cornstarch so that the pasty cream is velvety and not grainy. Once the appropriate texture is achieved, remove from heat and whisk in butter and rum, if using. Strain pastry cream through a fine mesh strainer and discard the vanilla bean pod. Cover custard with plastic wrap so that the plastic is touching the surface of the custard (helps prevent a skin from forming) and chill until cold, about 1-2 hours. Spread cold pastry cream in baked tart shell and refrigerate for 2 hours. Top with fresh raspberries and dust with powdered sugar.