Those glamorous, jewel-like fruit tarts you see in the windows of French bakeries are deceptively easy to make. It’s just a matter of putting together several simple building blocks: a pate sucrée dough, a rich almond frangipane filling, a light vanilla pastry cream, and the glazed fresh fruit topping. In this episode, you’ll learn how to make a beautiful Fresh Fruit Tart from renowned pastry chef François Payard that’s as delicious as it is gorgeous.
|Fresh Fruit Tart||Orange and Brown-Butter Tart||Custard Tart with Wine-Poached Grapes||Peach & Mascarpone Tart|
Part One: The Crust
The base of a French fruit tart is a tart shell made from pate sucrée. In an earlier episode, we learned all about pate sucrée and how it’s different from pie crust. The dough for this tart is similar to the one we made for the lemon tart, but with a few notable differences.
First, the butter is at room temperature, because we’re not aiming for a flaky texture at all–here we are looking to incorporate the butter with the sugar as thoroughly as possible. Secondly, the sugar is confectioner’s sugar, which contains some cornstarch and lends the crust a finer texture. Start by processing the butter and sugar with a little salt and vanilla extract until they’re soft and smooth.
Next, we’re swapping out a portion of the all-purpose flour for cake flour, which makes for a more tender, finely textured crust. And finally, we’re adding a whole egg instead of an egg yolk, which, as we discussed earlier, adds structure and strength to the dough as well as richness.
Once the dough comes together, wrap and chill it as you would for pate sucrée.
Part Two: The Frangipane Filling
Frangipane is a rich almond paste made with plenty of butter and eggs. Besides adding another layer of flavor to this tart, it plays a functional role too: when you line the tart crust with frangipane, then bake them together, the frangipane bakes up into a firm barrier that keeps the crust from getting sogged out by the pastry cream and fruit.
To make frangipane, you simply cream your butter in a stand mixer until it’s light and fluffy. Add your sugar and beat them until well-blended, then comes the remaining ingredients: flour, egg yolks, and ground almonds (be sure to grind your almonds very finely in the food processor). When the frangipane is light and fluffy, spoon it into a pastry bag.
Pipe the frangipane in a spiral into the bottom of the tart shell, covering it completely. You could spread the frangipane with an offset spatula, but piping it is an easy way to get an evenly thick layer.
Bake the crust and frangipane layer together until the crust is well browned and the frangipane is golden brown. Unlike some of our earlier tarts, you won’t be baking it any more after this, so you want to be sure it’s baked fully. If the crust is underbaked, the flavor will be bland and pasty.
Part Three: Pastry Cream
While the crust is cooling, make the pastry cream. Pastry cream is just a basic vanilla custard made with starch–in this case the starch is flour. As with any custard, the challenge is to cook your eggs without scrambling them
Heat your milk in a medium saucepan, and meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and flour. To combine the egg yolks with the hot milk, you need to temper the egg yolks: whisk a little bit of the hot milk into the yolks to warm them up, then pour the mixture back into the full pot of milk. This keeps the yolks from scrambling as they come into contact with the hot milk.
Continue to cook the custard mixture over medium heat until it just begins to thicken. Cover your pastry cream with plastic wrap right on the surface-this prevents a skin from forming-and refrigerate it for at least an hour.
When the pastry cream is cool, whip your heavy cream to firm peaks, then beat your pastry cream with a wooden spoon to aerate it a bit. Then fold the two together. This gives the pastry cream a nice light texture.
You can spoon the pastry cream into the tart shell and spread it evenly, or do like you did for the frangipane and use a pastry bag to pipe it.
Part Four: Fruit Topping
Now comes the artistic part: choosing whatever fruit looks best at the market and arranging it on top of your tart. It can be as simple as sliced strawberries, or you can combine every color in the rainbow.
Once you have the fruit arranged as you like it, there’s one last step: heat a little apple jelly over low heat until it’s runny, and use a pastry brush to brush it lightly all over the fruit. This will keep your tart looking beautiful and fresh for several hours until you’re ready to serve it.
More Fruit & Custard Tart Recipes
Custard Tarts with Poached Grapes
Fresh Fig Tart with Orange Flower Custard
Mixed Berry Tarts with Lemony Filling
Cherry Custard Tart with Sliced Almonds
Peach & Mascarpone Tart
Making Perfect Fruit Tarts
Abigail Johnson Dodge is a contributing editor at Fine Cooking, and teaches cooking classes around the country. She studied at La Varenne in Paris, and worked with Michel Guerard and Guy Savoy, specializing in pastry. She has written six cookbooks, four of them about baking, including The Weekend Baker, winner of the IACP award. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and two children.
Other episodes in this series
|Episode 1: Press-in Cookie Crust Tarts
||Episode 2: Equipment Essentials for Pies||Episode 3: All About Pie Dough|
|Episode 4: Rustic Fruit Galettes||Episode 5: Double-Crust Apple Pie||Episode 6: Single-Crust Pecan and Pumpkin Pies|
|Episode 7: Pâte Sucrée and Lemon Tart||Episode 8: Lattice-Topped Mixed Berry Pie||Episode 9: Rough Puff Pastry Tarts|
|Episode 10: Classic Fresh Fruit Tart|