Strawberry Tart

I'm very pleased with how this strawberry tart has turned out. The Pâte Sucrée (sweet crust pastry) is crispy, delicate and crumbly. The Crème Patisserie (Pastry Cream) is rich and creamy with a good vanilla flavour. I don't want to boast, but this is as good as the strawberry tart that I love at a popular boulangerie patisserie in Perth.

The recipe for the pâte sucrée and crème pâtissière are from the book, PS desserts. This book is great for a novice baker like me because it comes with step by step instructions (with photos) and helpful tips to making the basic components of a great dessert.

This is in fact my first attempt on making Pâte Sucrée. It's not very difficult but does require a bit of attention.

Strawberry Tart
(Adapted from PS desserts)

Crème Pâtissière
300 ml milk
225 ml thickened cream (35% milk fat)
100 grams caster sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, halved and seeds scraped
15 grams cornflour
60 grams egg yolk (about 3)

Pâte Sucrée
360 grams butter, softened
150 grams pure icing sugar, sifted
4 egg yolks
50 ml cold water
500 gram plain flour, sifted
a pinch of cooking salt
Egg whiles, for brushing

Note: Make Crème Pâtissière and Pâte Sucrée the day before.

To make Crème Pâtissière:
Combine the milk and cream in a saucepan. Add half of the sugar and the vanilla bean and seeds and bring to a simmer.

In a electric stand mixer, whisk together egg yolk, remaining sugar and all the cornflour until mixture becomes pale and thick.

Reduce speed of electric stand mixer to low, strain a little of the hot milk mixture through a sieve into the egg yolk mixture. Continue straining in the milk mixture, bit by bit.

Pour the mixture back into the pan. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer, whisking all the time with a hand whisk until the crème pâtissière is thick and shiny. (Note: The crème pâtissière will be a bit runny, but it will thicken further once completely chilled.)

Transfer crème pâtissière to a bowl, press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until ready to use. You can store the crème pâtissière in the fridge for up to 1 week.

To make Pâte Sucrée:
Place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Work the butter on low speed until smooth and the same texture.

Add the icing sugar and mixing together on medium speed until combined, taking care not to aerate too much- you don't want it pale and fluffy.

In a seperate bowl, combine the 4 egg yolks and water. While still mixing, add to the butter mixture bit by bit. At this stage, the mixture may look as through it has separated, but once the flour is added, this will be rectified.

Now turn off the mixture, then tip in the flour and salt. On low speed, work in the flour and salt until the mixture comes together and is crumbly. Do not overwork at this stage as the gluten in the flour will activate and the pastry could become tough.

Tip the contents of the bowl onto a work surface and, using the heel of your hand, smear the mixture away from you until it looks smooth and no patches of butter remain.

Using a palette knife or scraper, scrap the pastry together into a mound. Divide the mound of pastry in half and pat each half into about 3 cm high rounds- you don't want a big boulder otherwise it will make it harder later to work the dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled all the way through. (This pastry freezes well. Freeze the portion you don't use. Remove from the freezer and thaw overnight in the fridge before rolling out.)

Roll out dough between 2 sheets of non-stick baking paper to a thickness of 5mm. Chill in freezer until firm, about 5 minutes. Place dough into tart tin and gently press it into the tin without stretching it. Do not trim the excess pastry but leave it overhanging. Reserve a little of the dough scraps for patching up the shell later. Freeze the tart shell until very firm.

Preheat the oven to 160 degree celcius fan force. Carefully line the chilled tart shell with foil and fill with uncooked rice all the way to the top.

Bake for 15 minutes or until the tart shell is golden brown all over. Remove from the oven, then tip out the rice and remove the foil. While the tart shell is still hot, patch up any holes or crackes with a smear of the reserved pastry scraps. Lightly brush the tart shell with egg white to seal. Return to the oven for 5 minutes to dry the pastry completely.

To assemble:
Fill baked tart shell with crème pâtissière and arrange fruit on top. (This is optional- I brushed with the tart shell with some melted chocolate before filling it with the crème pâtissière)

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