Tarte aux Fraises: A Challenge Accepted

It’s my beau’s birthday week and he has been bugging me (lovingly haha) for quite some time now about this amazing Tarte aux Fraises that he’d want to have for his birthday. It’s a few days early of his birthday but today was a Sunday with free time and it ought to be perfect for a test run, yeah?

Don’t fret if you haven’t brushed up on your French. Tarte aux Fraises translates to Strawberry Tart in English. Yes, yummy red delicious strawberries in a tart. Mmmmm.

Strawberries, you say?! COUNT ME IN!

This delectable dessert is made by placing strawberries in circles on layer of French pastry cream or custard that you spread over a crumbly, baked tart shell. To give the brilliant sheen, a bright sugar glaze is brushed on top, or if you like a bit of edge, powered sugar can drizzled as well. Sweet, fresh, tasty on your plate.

Beautiful photo right here from Coco E Baunhila

Mind you, I have never been an pro at creating pies or more specifically, crusts. I would have wanted to just buy myself a pre-made pastry dough but that would be cheating and technically, I was making this for someone else and not for myself. I might as well step up to the challenge and alas, I did! Inspired by the Pierre Hermé recipe, here’s how it all went down~

First off, before you start doing this at the comforts of your own kitchen, make sure you have at least 4 hours of spare time to get this thing going. Also, patience. A lot of patience would be great.

I started with the dough. To make 500g of dough enough to fill up a baking tray the size of a large plate, you will need:

250 g sifted wheat flour
75g icing sugar
25 g almond powder
140 g butter (soft, room temp)
1 egg
1 half vanilla bean (but you can also substitute with around 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, or more. It’s up to you. I based mine on how well I can smell the vanilla on my dough mixture.)

If you have a Kitchen Aid at home, best use it but if not, don’t be afraid to get down and dirty. Use your hands! Yes! Avoid using a spatula as brisk movements add too much heat to the dough.

Start by mixing the butter then add the sugar and vanilla. Work until it is completely mixed. Add the egg, mix well. Then add the almond powder, and finally the flour.

Place your dough in plastic wrap and let it rest in a cool place for at least 2 hours. You may place in the fridge if you like.

Now while that’s setting, time to make the custard cream. You will need:

350g milk
30g cornstarch
1½ vanilla pod (or substitute with vanilla extract again. 4 teaspoons)
4 egg yolks
80g sugar
35g butter (room temp)

Pour the milk, cornstarch, and half the sugar into a saucepan. Add the vanilla. (If using the vanilla pod, split the vanilla pod in half, scrape the seeds. Place the seeds and pod in the milk.) Bring the milk to a boil.

Add the yolks with the rest of the sugar and stir for 3 minutes.

Drizzle this egg-sugar mixture with a little milk and continue to whisk. Remove your saucepan from the heat, add the egg-sugar mixture to the pan and transfer it to the heat. Cook the cream by whisking constantly.

As soon as it boils, remove the vanilla pods, if you have used them.

The cooking will be finished once the cream is of the right consistency–thick and firm like a purée.

Pour the cream into a container and place it in a bowl filled with ice cubes. Let the cream cool down.

When the cream has cooled to 50°C (it’s ideal to have a thermometer in hand for this one), add the butter and whisk vigorously. Let the cream rest in the fridge.

Now back to your dough. Take your dough out and spread on a baking sheet. I used a rolling pin to flatten the dough out then transferred slowly to the baking pan. But if you’re feeling less lucky with that ( it can get crumbly at times), you can place your dough directly on the pan then use a smooth bottom of glass bottle or even a spoon to flatten the dough unto the pan and take it’s shape. Make sure that the edges are covered as well.

Take a fork and use it to crimp the edges of the dough to give it a nice decorative touch. You may also flute the dough by using two fingers to pinch it. I used the crimping method on this instance.

Crimp method as seen on EatingWell
Flute method as seen on EatingWell

When your dough is all set on the pan, cover it with parchment paper on top and place dry beans above the parchment paper. The beans will help the dough stay in place following its intended crust shape.

Beans act as your pie weights! An alternative: uncooked rice

Pop in the oven for 20 minutes at 180°. Remove the beans and the parchment paper then pop back in for another 6 minutes.

Once done, let the crust completely cool down. Place in fridge if necessary. Once it’s no longer hot, you may spread your custard cream as your filling.

Strawberries can now be cut in whatever way you like and placed in a circular pattern covering the top of your filling. You can be as creative as you can get with this part. See below for inspiration!

I decided to add crushed pistachios over the strawberries and some glaze (made of 50g of sugar, lemon juice and 38g of water, brought to a boil).

And voila! The finished creation:

Tarte aux Fraises by Raizberry

Pretty happy with how it turned out given my first try but points of improvement for next time would be:

  1. A thinner crust – this one appeared to be too thick for the baking pan I used. I could easily roll it out thinner on my next try
  2. More strawberries!

Have a go at it and let me know how your Tarte aux Fraises turns out!

P.S.

Happy birthday week, my love! Enjoy your sweet dessert! Expect another one on your actual birthday 😉

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