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Fruit Tart



Easter is here again! I love this holiday; to me it signals springtime and rebirth. I love pastels, dying eggs, and any excuse to make an Easter basket full of candy is fine with me. For my Easter dinner dessert, I wanted to make something that was fresh, full of color, and festive. A fruit tart seemed like the perfect solution.
Pate sucree, or sweet pastry, is a sweet, crumbly French pastry used for the bases of sweet tarts, like a fresh fruit tart with pastry cream. It tastes rather like shortbread but isn’t nearly as delicate, able to stand up to heavy fillings without falling apart. For the best results, it needs to be chilled thoroughly twice. The first allows the butter to chill and the gluten to relax, and the second time prevents the pastry from shrinking back from the pan when you bake it. Blind baking the crust with weights prevents the dough from bubbling up and ensures a flat base for your fillings.

Pastry cream, or crème pastissiere, is like vanilla pudding times ten. Rich, sweet, creamy and full of floral vanilla, it is always my favorite part of eclairs, crème puffs and many other pastries. The key to it is tempering the eggs and passing it through a sieve; your pastry cream will be delightfully smooth if you follow those steps. Make sure to let it chill fully before using as well to prevent any soggy bottom on your tart crust.
Use whatever fruits you like best and arrange them in a way that suits your disposition. If you are slicing fruit, make sure to slice thinly to prevent large, cumbersome pieces getting in the way of a pleasant bite of tart. The apricot glaze adds sweetness, but also prevents the fruit from browning and creates a lovely, shiny effect. Serve this after a special dinner or for a weekend brunch, and rake in the accolades. Enjoy!

Pastry (Pate sucree):
Ingredients: (for 2 tart shells- 9 to 10 inch tart pans)
3 cups pastry or all-purpose flour
3 egg yolks
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 to 4 tablespoons heavy cream
2 sticks softened butter
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste


Method:
Whisk together the salt and flour. Set aside.
Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the egg yolks one at a time. Add in the vanilla bean paste and mix well.
Add the flour/ salt mixture, and mix to combine. Add the cream one tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together. Dive the dough into 2 equal disks, wrap them in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
1 hour before baking, roll out the disk(s) to one quarter inch thickness and press into a 9 or 10 inch tart pan with a removeable base. Cut off the excess, but leave a one quarter inch overhang. Refrigerate for an hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the tart shell from the fridge, and trim the overhang off of the edge of the tart. Line the tart shell with foil and fill with pie weights or dry beans. Bake for 20 minutes, rotating halfway through. Remove the foil and weights, and continue to bake until the bottom is golden brown, about 15-20 additional minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack before removing from the pan and filling.

Pastry Cream (Crème Patissiere)
Ingredients:
3/4 cup whole milk
1 cup light cream
1/4 cup heavy cream
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch salt
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
6 egg yolks
3 tablespoons cornstarch
4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces

Method:
In a medium saucepan with a heavy bottom, add the milk, cream and vanilla bean paste. Bring to a bare simmer over medium heat.
Meanwhile, whisk together the sugar, salt and cornstarch. Add the eggs, and whisk until lightened in color and they form a thick paste. 
Pour a small amount of the hot cream mixture into the eggs and whisk well to temper them. Repeat. This ensures the eggs will not scramble when added to the hot cream. Pour the tempered eggs into saucepan and return to medium low heat, whisking constantly to prevent clumping and scorching. Remove from the heat when the pastry cream is very thick. Push the mixture through a strainer to catch any lumps. Add the cut up butter and mix until the pastry cream is glossy and the butter is fully incorporated. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 hours or up to 2 days before using.


Apricot Glaze:
1 cup of apricot preserves
1 tablespoon limoncello or grand marnier

Method:
In a saucepan, combine the preserves and water. Heat over medium heat until the mixture is loosened and liquid. Pass through a strainer. Let it cool until slightly warm before using. Paint fruits lightly with a pastry brush. 

Fruit:
Sliced strawberries
Blueberries
Blackberries
Raspberries (red and golden)
Sliced kiwis
Mandarine oranges, supreme (cut to remove peel and pith, then segment to remove any membrane) 
Any other seasonal fruit you like! (I used mango)
Mint leaves for garnish

Method:

Remove the tart shell from the pan and set it on your serving platter. Fill with the pastry cream, smoothing it with a spatula. Arrange your fruit to your liking, then glaze lightly with apricot preserves glaze. Garnish with the mint leaves. Chill for an hour, and then serve! Enjoy!


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