A week or so ago, my girls and I met up with a friend and her kids, and went strawberry picking at a local farm. It's one of the things I look forward to in the summer. I missed it last year due to having a baby right around prime strawberry picking time. This year, I was afraid I'd miss it because it was such a horrible year for it. A long, cold winter that dragged into Spring. Making it a hard growing season this year. In result of the cold, the strawberries were small and the owners of the farm claimed to have lost several fields of berries. But, we still managed to pick 8 quarts of those sweet, small and delicious berries. Well, I say "we" lightly because my oldest daughter ate more than she picked and my youngest napped in the car. Ha!
Since I had 8 quarts of fresh, ripe, beautiful red strawberries sitting in my fridge, I had to think of ways to use them ASAP! That is, whatever we didn't eat. So, I have several strawberry recipes to share with you all that I am pretty excited about. But first, I just HAD to share this recipe with you. After putting this dessert together, I was giddy with excitement. Isn't it gorgeous?
First, I baked a sweet tart dough. Then, I made a velvety pastry cream to fill the crust with. To top it off, freshly diced (or in my case, whole) strawberries are piled over the top and smeared with jam. Oh my. It is definitely as good, if not better, than it sounds. A show-stopper dessert fitting for the heart of summer.
For the sweet tart dough
1 /12 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
9 Tablespoons cold, or frozen, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
For the pastry cream
2 cups whole milk
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 1/2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature cut into small pieces
For the berries
4 cups your choice of berries (blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and/or raspberries), washed and larger ones diced
a few tablespoons of strawberry jelly
For the dough, have ready a greased 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Place the flour, confectioners' sugar and salt in a bowl of a food processor. Pulse 2-3 times to combine. Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture and pulse until the butter is roughly chopped, making sure there are no big pieces left. Pulse in the egg yolk. Then process until the dough starts to clump.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and lightly knead to incorporate any loose flour. Gently press most of the dough into and up the sides of the prepared tart pan, saving a small piece to patch the crust after it partially bakes incase it cracks. Wrap with plastic wrap and freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Once the dough is sufficiently chilled, grease the shiny side of aluminum foil and gently press down and around the dough. (You don't need weights since you froze the dough.) Place on a baking sheet, then put in the preheated oven on the middle rack. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and patch the cracks if necessary. Place back in the oven, uncovered and bake for another 8-10 minutes, or until the crust is lightly golden around the edges. Remove from the oven and let cool completely before filling.
Meanwhile, make the pastry cream. Pour the milk into a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-low heat. In a separate heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch until well combined. Very slowly, whisk in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk into the eggs to temper the eggs so they won't curdle. Whisk in the remaining milk. Place the saucepan over medium heat and whisking constantly, bring the mixture to a boil. Cook, whisking constantly, for 1-2 minutes or until the mixture is thick and the whisk leaves streaks through it. Remove from the heat. Whisk in the vanilla extract, then let sit for 5 minutes. Whisk in a few pieces of butter at a time until fully incorporated.
Scrape the pastry cream into a bowl and press plastic wrap over the cream to prevent any skin from forming. Place in the refrigerator until completely cooled 2-3 hours. (Alternatively, you can chill it by creating an ice bath- place cold water and ice cubes in a large bowl. Place the bowl the pastry cream is in, in the larger bowl with the ice. Whisk every 10 minutes or so, and add more ice to the larger bowl until chilled.)
To assemble the tart, remove the tart from the pan and place on a plate. Pour about 1 1/2 cups of the pastry cream into the tart, smoothing the top. Remaining cream can be used as an extra topper, smeared on scones or eaten with berries as a separate dessert. Place the berries in a mound in the center of the tart or sprinkle evenly over the top. Microwave the jelly in a small bowl with 1 tablespoon of water. Brush or drizzle the jam over the berries. Serve immediately or cover tightly and refrigerate. It is best the day it is made, but will last several days in the refrigerator.