Sunday, 12 June 2011

Strawberry tart

Nothing smells of an English summer like strawberries. I’m very lucky to live in Essex, which grows some of the tastiest, sweetest, prettiest strawberries in England…not that I’m biased!

I have wanted to make crème patisserie for ages and thought it would be the perfect accompaniment to the strawberries in this classic, unfussy tart.

My earliest memory of crème patisserie has to be the Marks & Spencer choux bun. Like everything (except my waistline) they were definitely bigger in the past, and the creamy light custard filling tasted like heaven! It was the sort of treat that you almost ate too quickly in your desire to consume it, and then regretted that you hadn’t savoured it more. Of course, the CCM (Caked Crusader’s Ma) usually made sure there was more than one cake to be enjoyed…(see earlier comment about waistline!)

This crème patisserie recipe produced very thick, rich results and – while delicious – didn’t have the lightness I wanted for my tart. So I did what any proper gourmet (i.e. gutbucket) would do in the circumstances...I whisked some cream into it. I then achieved the light, custardy cream that I wanted. This example highlights one of life’s important lessons – always add cream. To be honest, it probably didn’t need it and whisking alone would’ve lightened the texture. But never let reality get in the way of adding cream.

This tart relies on great ingredients and should probably only be made in the summer when the strawberries are local, and packed with flavour. The simple shiny glaze gives a professional looking finish.

The buttery pastry is crisp and crumbly and provides a lovely textural contrast to the thick, creamy crème patisserie.

Cut a very large slice, sit back and enjoy!


For the pastry:

250g plain flour
125g unsalted butter, straight from the fridge and cubed
50g caster sugar
2 eggs

For the crème patisserie:

4 egg yolks
100g caster sugar
25g plain flour
1 vanilla pod, cut in half lengthways and the seeds scooped out
350ml milk
optional: 4 tablespoons double cream (whisked in just before assembling tart)

For the strawberries:

2 large punnets (about 400g each) strawberries
3 tablespoons caster sugar
3 tablespoons water


Start by making the pastry. Place the flour, butter and sugar into a food processor and blitz until you have breadcrumbs. (You can do this by hand with the old rubbing the butter into the flour method)

Add the eggs and blitz again.

Tip out onto a sheet of clingfilm and, with a little extra flour if necessary, bring the mixture into a dough.

Wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 150°C/fan oven 130°C/300°F/Gas mark 2.

Roll out the pastry between two sheets of clingfilm until it is large enough to line a 25cm loose bottomed flan tin. There is no need to grease the tin as the pastry is so buttery. I found the pastry behaved really well and there was no tearing thus no patching needed. Leave any surplus pastry hanging over the edge.

Line the pastry with a sheet of baking paper and fill with baking beans and bake blind in the oven for 45 minutes. This sounds a long time but the temperature is very low so the pastry won’t burn.

Remove the paper and beans and, if the pastry looks wet, return to the oven for a further 5 minutes to dry it out.

When cool enough to touch, trim away the excess pastry.

Leave to cool and then store in an airtight container (the tart should only be built on the day of serving).

Now make the crème patisserie – this can also be made a day in advance and refrigerated until required.

Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until light and thick – don’t skimp on this stage, it will take several minutes.

Whisk in the flour.

Place the vanilla pod and milk into a saucepan and bring it to the boil slowly; take it off the heat as soon as it boils and remove the vanilla pod.

Pour the milk onto the egg and sugar mix and whisk all the time.

Return the mixture to the sauce pan and stir over a low heat until it comes back to the boil.

Stir all the time; you will feel the mixture start to thicken as it approaches boiling point. This won’t be a subtle thing – you will have no doubt that your liquid has firmed up!

If you find the crème patisserie becomes lumpy whisk it quickly, off the heat. Don’t panic though – you can always pass the mixture through a sieve. Some people are funny about this and think it’s a sign of failure - I always do this, just to be on the safe side, whether there are lumps or not – why be proud and risk it?

When the crème patisserie has thickened, remove the pan from the heat and press clingfilm onto the surface to stop a skin forming.

When it is cool, transfer it to a bowl and cover with clingfilm; refrigerate until you build the tart.

Add the cream to lighten your crème patisserie when you build the tart. Take the crème patisserie from the fridge and whisk in a large bowl – it will have set so whisking loosens it up.

Add cream, a tablespoon at a time, until you achieve the light consistency you require – mine took 4 tablespoons. (if you don’t mind a thicker crème patisserie omit the cream, but still whisk it to lighten the texture).

Now prepare the strawberries: wash them and hull them (this means remove the green leaves and the little white core you get in the middle).

When the strawberries have dried, you are ready to start building the tart: fill the pastry case with the crème patisserie and arrange the strawberries on top.

Now make the glaze for the strawberries: place the sugar and water into a saucepan and bring them to the boil, stirring occasionally to ensure that the sugar dissolves.

Brush the glaze over the strawberries and leave to cool.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.



Kate@katescakesandbakes said...

Yummmmm-yy! I love your life lesson of always adding cream- I too had an identical thought process last night with a denser-than-wanted chocolate tart... i just bunged in some cream! Perfect! And local strawberries this time of year? Nothing beats them!

Gloria said...

Look absolutely georgeous!! gloria

decocinasytacones said...

I love creme and strawberries. This is a spring´s cake, no doubt, and we are in the season.
Love from Spain

Trash said...


Anonymous said...

Oh I want a big slice now!!! I will def be trying this this summer. I have never made creme patisserie before but seems easy enough! Thanks for the recipe x

At Anna's kitchen table said...

Ooh, lovely!
If in doubt add cream eh? I like your reasoning!

C said...

Wow, that creme patisserie looks lush - the perfect accompaniment to delicious strawberries!

Hazel said...

I am addicted to strawberries at the moment, I feel they are a healthy snack! I always let them warm up to room temperature (if they have been kept in the fridge) before I eat them because they are so much more aromatic... mmmm! Beautiful tart!

ilikeyoursundress said...

Will def aim to make this this summer. It looks absolutely delicious! :)

Les rêves d'une boulangère (Brittany) said...

That looks sensational! I am lucky to have strawberries in the house often (not an issue here in Australia) so I can make this anytime. Tarts are my favourite!

Clare said...

Ooh, where in Essex?! I'm in Essex too! Near Colchester

Maggie said...

Creme Patisserie is a winner with my husband and topped with strawberries - you can't go wrong. The tart looks wonderful.

Lisa said...

I'm waiting to get strawberries as nice as those and would love to just dive into a bowl of those with the cream, crust optional. :)

Maria♥ said...

OMG that looks so divine!! That tart is summer on a plate :)


Cakelaw said...

Seriously drooling here CC! I adore fruit and custard tarts. The closest I got wa the fruit and custard damish I bought for my Mum (who is visiting) and me a couple of days ago. These look very fine indeed.

James Brewer - Back to the Chopping Board said...

Now that is a great way to eat British strawberries!!!!!

Jo said...

Oooh that looks delicious! Looks like a real summery treat. Maybe I should have done that instead of putting them in cupcakes. It didn't particularly work!

Anne said...

Ooh yum wowee, the tart looks perfect!! I've been wanting to try making creme Patisserie for ages now, can imagine how delicious it is with the those lovely ripe strawberries on! Mmm save me a slice!

Choclette said...

This looks wonderful and just the sort of thing you expect to find in a French patisserie. I was wondering shy your strawberries looked so shiny, but read on and found the answer.

Virginia said...

I adore strawberries and even planted some this year. I've even submitted a few to recipe contests because I enjoy them that much. I'll definitely be adding this recipe into my "make next" file.

Anonymous said...

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Take care and have a nice day :-)

BTW, your tart looks great!

Xinmei @ Pudding Pie Lane said...

I wish the English summer was living up to the weather that this tart was made for! Looks delicious!

therealandrew said...

The tart looks wonderful! The color in the strawberries looks so vibrant. This sounds like a perfect dish for the summer. Thanks for the recipe!


[cooking contests]

Baking Addict said...

I love strawberry tart. Your strawberries look amazing - I think I need to move to Essex!

Lucy said...

I've yet to try making my own creme patisserie but this tart definitely has me tempted. Such a perfect summery dish :)

morri said...

I made this tart for a family reunion, like I said. The crème patisserie had a nice consistency, but it came out quite sweet, so I spiced it up a little by adding a teaspoon of lemon zest and some juice. The recipe also got me a very large amount of pastry - I think I should have saved some of it for later and gone for a thinner pastry layer (my baking dish was about 27 cm in diameter). Other than that, it worked out pretty well... if only my great-aunt didn't forget to put the tart in the fridge after we brought it! (the creme quickly became liquid in the summer heat) Other than that, it was a moderate success :)

the caked crusader said...

Hi Morri

Pastry is always tricky because in different climates, on different days it will alter. It also depends on your oven - if yours is different to mine (which of course it is!) you'll find you need more/less pastry and longer/shorter cooking times.
My advice would be never feel you need to use all the pastry - use what you need. The leftover amount will freeze, or you could just make some (bonus) jam tarts

Happy baking