I had a dream last night that Ina Garten invited me to her house for a cocktail party. Oddly enough, her house in my dream looked nothing like her bright and airy heaven-on-earth abode in the Hamptons. It was oddly modern, yet dark, and not at all Ina Garten-esque. Also, she wasn't warm and fuzzy like I imagine her to be. In fact, the whole situation was a little awkward...
However, it reminded me of the strawberry tarts I made a few weekends ago. While I enjoy watching Barefoot Contessa (it's one of the only cooking shows I can still stand to watch on the Food Network without cringing), this is only the second recipe of Ina's that I've followed word for word. I have to say, they turned out pretty well. The pasty cream filling is ridiculously easy to make and just as good as I was hoping it to be. Next time, I'd splurge and add in some vanilla bean instead of only "good vanilla" extract ;) I also didn't have any cognac on hand so I had to omit it from the recipe. The crust, was only satisfactory. There wasn't enough of a deep, rich, buttery flavor. However, it was very flaky. Once assembled, I noticed that some refrigeration actually helped the crust and pastry cream mingle a little more--resulting in more of the usual tart crust texture.
I got this recipe off of Food Network's website and it worked perfectly. The only thing I changed was the sugar content in the pastry cream. I usually reduce the amount of sugar in any recipe--especially if it's an American recipe. Americans have such a severe sweet tooth it's a little ridiculous. Also, since I don't own a large enough food processor, I made the dough for the tart shells in a stand mixer instead.
adapted from Ina Garten, Barefoot in Paris
makes 4 (4 1/2 inch) tarts
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt (I used a little less than 1/4 tsp table salt)
6 tbsp (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced
2 tbsp cold shortening (recommended: Crisco, I used some weird organic palm/coconut shortening from Whole Foods and it still turned out fine)
1/4 cup ice cold water
2 cups Pastry Cream, recipe follows
shelled pistachio halves
1. combine flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of your stand mixer and place in freezer for 30 mins
2. add butter and shortening to flour mixer and mix in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachments until the butter is the size of peas--do not over mix or else the crust will not be flaky
3. add ice water and mix until the dough starts coming together
4. dump on a well-floured board and work the dough together to form a disk. wrap in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes
5. preheat oven to 375F
6. divide the dough into four pieces and roll each out to fit into 4 (4 1/2 inch) tart pans with removable sides. take care not to stretch the dough when placing it into the pans or it will shrink (mine shrunk a little but they were still fine)
7. place a piece of butter aluminum foil (butter side down) on top of the filled tart pans and fill with dried beans or rice. bake or 10 minutes. remove beans and foil, prick bottom of shells all over with a fork, and bake for another 15-20 minutes until lightly browned. set aside to cool.
8. before serving, fill tart shells with pastry cream and arrange berries decoratively on top of the cream. sprinkle with pistachios.
yields 2 cups
5 extra large egg yolks, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar (I used a little less than 1/2 cup)
3 tbsp cornstarch
1 1/2 cups scalded milk
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp Cognac (did not use, but will try next time)
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp heavy cream
1. in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the egg yolks and sugar on medium-high speed for 4 minutes, or until very thick. reduce speed to low and add the cornstarch (the cornstarch keeps the eggs from curdling later on)
2. with the mixer still on low, slowly pour the hot milk into the egg mixture. mix.
3. transfer mixture into a medium saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens, 5 to 7 minutes.
4. when the custard comes to a boil and appears to curdle, switch to a whisk and begin beating vigorously. continue cooking and whisking for 2 minutes until the custard comes together and becomes thick like pudding.
5. stir in vanilla, cognac, butter, and heavy cream
6. pour custard through a sieve into a bowl
7. place plastic wrap directly on the custard and refrigerate until cold.
some other points:
*I loved that the pastry cream used so many egg yolks..because then I have plenty of egg whites for making macarons :)
*the tart shells can definitely be made in advance
*I thought the pistachios didn't really add anything to the tart (they were only good for looks)
*after making two tarts with only strawberries, I decided to make the other two with a mix of blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries--even better
*the original recipe said to glaze the fruit on top with some warmed jam, but my strawberries were already so ripe and sweet, they were perfect naked ;)