Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tartes aux Fraises (Fresh Strawberry Tarts)

This is what I made for my birthday ... yes, waaaay back in May. I began typing in the recipe waaay back then also, but you can see that I got sidetracked and never got back to it until now. (That's a heckuva sidetrack!)

At any rate, this was a staple of my teenage years at home each spring, once my parents got the Time-Life Foods of the World: The Cooking of Provincial France.

It is not difficult at all and can be done in steps.

I make a 10" shell with 2" inch sides, using a spring-form pan since I don't have a tart pan.

Also, I have added the step of beating up an egg white and lightly brushing the inside of the shell with it, letting it sit in the fridge for 30 minutes, and then baking. That greatly helps to preventing the custard from softening the shell if on assembles it ahead of time as I am wont to do.

Tartes aux Fraises
(Fresh Strawberry Tarts)

To serve 6

6 individual 3- to 4-inch pate brisee tart shells or 9- to 10-inch pate brisee (I use Perfect Piecrust for this)

1 egg plus 1 extra egg yolk
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
pinch of salt
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup hot milk
1 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 400 and bake the pastry shells (or shell) as described in the recipe (linked above), adding another 7 to 10 minutes to the final baking to brown the shell lightly and cook it fully. Unmold the shells (or shell) and slip it onto wire cake rack to cool.

In a heavy 2- to 3- quart saucepan -- off the heat -- beat the egg, the extra egg yolk and the sugar with a wire whisk, rotary or electric beater until the mixture thickens and turns a pale yellow. add the flour and salt, and beat until well blended.

Beat in the powdered gelatin and vanilla; then slowly pour in the hot milk in a thin stream, beating constantly.

Cook over moderate heat, stirring with a whisk, until smooth and thick. Do not allow the custard to boil; it if seems to begetting too hot, life the pan off the heat a few seconds to cool it. If the custard gets lumpy, beat it with a whisk or rotary beater until smooth. pour the custard into a large mixing bowl and place it in the refrigerator to cool.

When the custard is cold and has begun to solidify slightly, whip the cream until it holds soft peaks. fold it thoroughly into the custard with a rubber spatula and beat gently if there are any lumps. At once, pour or spoon the custard into the pastry shells (even if finishing later!).

Currant Glaze
1 cup red currant jelly
1 tablespoon hot water
1 tablespoon kirsch

1 to 1-1/2 quarts large ripe strawberries, cleaned and stemmed
Powdered sugar

Make the glaze: in a small saucepan, warm the red currant jelly and water over low heat, stirring occasionally, until they begin to froth and thicken. Remove the saucepan from the heat, stir in the kirsch and let the glaze cool a bit.

(My note: I always have a problem with this glaze as it seems to slightly liquify the custard ... I may try this in the future with no water. The other answer is to have it only on the berries, which is a difficult proposition but may be possible with care.)

Meanwhile, arrange the strawberries on the custard, stem side down -- and in concentric circles if the tart is a large one -- until the top of each tart is completely covered with berries. Spoon the warm glaze over the berries. Refrigerate the tarts for at least 2 hours or until the custard is firm. Sprinkle them with powdered sugar before serving.

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