I made this for a friend’s birthday party last week, and I’ll be making this for a work barbecue potluck next wednesday. With blueberries abound both in grocery stores and the farmers markets, it’d be a shame not to incorporate them into some sort of dessert. Fruit tarts have always been a favorite of mine. I know I’ve announced my love for pies over and over again, but chilled fruit tarts, especially in the summer, are a close second. It’s the crumbly crust paired with chilled vanilla pastry cream and topped with fresh fruit. Blueberries are (in my opinion) a superb choice because they are not too sweet and not too tangy. In fact, I remember years and years ago, when I was taking my SATs, my parents told me to bring blueberries, because they were “smart foods”. Ok. I know that’s nonsense and that blueberries will not suddenly boost my mental intelligence, but there was something comforting about bringing fresh blueberries as a snack during break. I still bring blueberries to work as a snack :).
I really love this because you can easily adapt it for ANY fruit. In fact, I’ve topped it with fresh peaches, mandarins, kiwis, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries. It’s extremely versatile and easy to prepare. The reason I bring this to a lot of potlucks or barbecues is that it can be assembled and chilled beforehand. On a particularly busy day, I can plan it this way: make the pastry the night before to chill overnight. Make the pastry cream the night before as well. The morning of the potluck, bake the crust and set aside. Go and do whatever errands I have (like a family portrait session!). Come back, fill shell with pastry cream, throw some blueberries on, brush with syrup, quickly zest a lemon. Cover with foil and tell the husband to drive to potluck.
Do you see how fat these are? Add a simple lemon syrup, sprinkled with lemon zest, and these blueberry tarts will give little bites full of sugary, tarty, creamy goodness. I had extra crust and cream, so I decided to fill these cute little mini-tart shells I had on hand. They were a good way to test the taste. And by test… I actually mean devour. These little ones did not last, let me tell you.
Vanilla Pastry Cream
2 cups half-and-half
1/3 cup + 2 heaping tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
5 egg yolks
3 tablespoons cornstarch
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, divided into 4 pieces
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1| Over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat up the half and half, 2 tablespoons sugar, salt, and stir to dissolve sugar.
2| Whisk egg yolks. Add in 1/3 cup sugar until sugar is dissolved. Mixture should be creamy and thick. If using electric mixture, turn on low and add in cornstarch. Mixture should be pale and thick (30 seconds).
3| Do not let half-and-half mixture boil! Keep it at a gentle simmer. Right when it is about to boil, remove from heat, and gradually whisk it into yolk mixture. I do this in batches, whisking quickly after each addition, so that the eggs do not cook. Return mixture into the saucepan. Heat once again, whisking constantly, until bubbles begin to burst on the surface. This is different from a custard – for a custard you would not want it to actually boil. For pastry cream, though, you want it to boil a little. The mixture should become very thick and glossy. Turn off the heat, and whisk in butter and vanilla.
4| Strain pastry cream through a sieve into a bowl. Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until cold, about 3 hours. I make this the night before.
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg yolk
1.5 tablespoon heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 stick of butter (8 tbsp), cold and cut into 1 cm cubes
1| Prepare: Cut up butter and set aside in freezer. This will ensure its coldness.
2| Whisk together yolk, heavy cream, and vanilla. Set aside.
3| Sift together flour, sugar, and salt. Using a food processor, place butter into flour mixture and mix. For a tart shell, I will usually use a food processor. This is different from pie crust – you don’t really want pea-sized pieces to remain. You want a nice even mixture resembling a coarse meal.
4| As food processor is running, add in egg/cream/vanilla mixture and process until it JUST starts to come together (10 seconds). Turn machine off, and turn dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and form into a disk. Wrap tightly and chill for 1 hour.
5| Bake: Remove dough from refrigerator. Unwrap and, using a rolling pin and flour, roll to a large circle, about 13″ diameter. You want ample dough to fall across the tart pan. Transfer dough and gently ease it into the corners of the pan. Press dough against the fluted edges. Trim and remove excess dough. Using a fork, prick the bottom and sides of dough. Freeze for 30 minutes. This can be sealed in a zip-lock bag and frozen for one month.
6| Preheat oven to 375F. Cover tart pan with foil (be sure to cover edges, otherwise it will burn). Fill it with pie weights (I’m cheap. I just use uncooked rice, and it works!).
7| Bake for 30 minutes, rotating halfway through. Remove from oven and proceed to remove foil and weights. Bake for another 5-8 minutes until golden brown. Cool to room temperature
Simple Lemon Syrup + zest topping
3 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons lemon juice
zest of one lemon
1| Combine honey, cornstarch, and water and whisk. Stir in Lemon juice. Bring to a boil then simmer for 5 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.
Assemble Tart: Spread cold vanilla pastry cream over bottom of tart. Pile blueberries on top. Brush lemon syrup over blueberries using a pastry brush. Sprinkle lemon zest over blueberries. Sprinkle further with powdered sugar, if desired.