Makes: 20 tartelettes
One of my favourite pastimes in France is to window shop… at fancy pâtisseries! I remember when I first visited Paris when I was around 12, pâtisserie windows were more interesting to me than anything else. To this day, I’m still far more likely to be looking in a pâtisserie window than any other store! Probably my favourite is a Tarte aux Fraises – a buttery flaky pastry shell, filled with silky crème pâtissière and topped with fresh strawberries – but a whole 9 or 10-inch tart can feel intimidating to make. I’ve taken the components of the full-sized tart and “minified” to make bite-sized tartlets and even though this recipe has a few different components and might seem complicated, each individual component is actually really easy. You can make and bake the shells and make the crème pâtissière the day before you assemble. This is a favourite with my kids’ cooking classes!
For the pastry
- 1 ½ cups (225g) all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar
- ½ cup (113g, 8 tablespoons, 1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
For the crème pâtissière
- 1 ½ cups (375ml) whole milk
- 4 egg yolks
- ¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup (40g) cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons (28g, ¼ stick) unsalted butter, room temperature cut into small pieces
- 10 large strawberries, sliced in halves lengthways
- ¼ cup apricot jam
- 1 tablespoon boiling water
Making the crème pâtissière
1In a medium saucepan, bring the milk to a boil.
2In the meantime, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch together in a medium saucepan.
3Once the milk has just reached a boil, pour in a couple of teaspoons of the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture and whisk until combined.
4Slowly pour in the rest of the hot milk, whisking constantly and place the pan over medium-high heat, continuing to whisk.
5 Continue to cook and whisk until the mixture starts to thicken slightly and produce slow large bubbles (around 3 minutes – it should be quite thick) then remove from the heat.
6 Transfer the mix to a clean bowl and whisk gently to cool the mixture down slightly. Let this sit for a few minutes.
7Whisk in the vanilla, then the butter, a couple of pieces at a time, until completely incorporated.
8 Cover the custard with plastic wrap (the wrap should be touching the surface of the custard to prevent a skin forming) and allow the custard to come to room temperature, then refrigerate, until you are ready to use (a minimum of 4 hours). Before you use to fill the tartelettes, give the custard a whisk to loosen it.
Making the pastry
1Whisk the flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl.
2Add the cubed butter and, using your fingertips lightly rub the butter into the flour until it resembles large breadcrumbs with some pieces the size of small peas. You can also use a pastry cutter for this job.
3Make a well in the middle of the flour mix and add the egg.
4Mix the egg into the flour using a wooden spoon until the egg is completely mixed in.
5Add the cream and mix until the dough is firm enough to form a ball when you press the mixture together with your fingers – it might be a little crumbly but form the dough into a disk and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap.
6Refrigerate for a minimum of an hour or up to 3 days in the fridge. You can also freeze the dough, tightly wrapped in plastic for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge before you roll and bake.
Baking the pastry cases
1Remove the disk of dough from the fridge and let it sit for a few minutes so it’s easier to work with. Cut the dough in halves.
2Lightly flour a large sheet of parchment then place one piece of dough on the parchment, sprinkle it lightly with flour and place a second sheet of parchment paper on top.
3Roll the dough between the two sheets of parchment paper to a thickness of ⅙ inch (4 mm). If the dough is soft, you might need to put it back in the fridge to firm up a little before you cut it.
4 Pre-heat the oven to 375˚F lightly grease two 12 cup capacity muffin tins with butter.
5Using a cookie cutter that’s approximately 3 inches (7 cm) in diameter, cut rounds of the dough. One disk of the pastry should make 10 rounds. You will need to gather up and re-roll scraps of the pastry to make sure you get 10 – each time you re-roll, you will need a touch of flour to ensure the (increasingly sticky) pastry does not stick to the parchment. You may need to re-refrigerate the dough once it’s been rolled out if it is very soft and sticky.
6Use an offset spatula to help you remove the pastry from the parchment and gently place them in the muffin tins. You don’t need to press them right down to the bottom, gravity will ensure they sink to form a little cup. Make sure the pastry rounds are evenly centred in the muffin cups. Place the muffin tin in the fridge while you work with the second piece of dough.
7Repeat with the second piece of dough and refrigerate the muffin tin and disks for 30 minutes.
8Lightly prick the bottom of each pastry disk with the tines of a fork or a small, sharp paring knife.
9Bake for 20 minutes until the pastry is golden.
10Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
Assembling the tartlets
1Pipe the pastry cream into the centre of each pastry disk then top with a half a strawberry.
2Mix the jam and boiling water together and gently brush the tops with apricot jam to glaze.
About the author
Mardi Michels is the author of In the French kitchen with kids (Appetite by Random House, 2018) and the popular blog eatlivetravelwrite.com. She lives in Toronto, Canada, where she teaches French and cooking at the elementary school level and adult cooking and baking classes. She is a full-time Francophile who spends as much time in France (the Southwest) as possible!
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