Mixed Berry Tart
From: Baking: From My Home to Yours
Serves: 6 – 8
Well, friends, here it is: I make disasters, so you don’t have to.
Since I’ve always loved to bake and I’ve always been pretty good at it, sometimes my baking hubris gets the better of me. Even if I’m tackling something I’ve never tried before, I’m fairly certain it’s going to turn out well, because of my magic baking touch. Or ability to follow directions to a degree of compulsion, or history of success, or reliable compliments, or what have you. Essentially, I could stand to be taken down a peg or two. Occasionally.
Enter pastry cream! Here to remind Jill that baking is an act of chemistry and that she is no scientist.
I followed the recipe exactly, or so I thought, but I ended up with curdled, runny pastry cream. Sounds delicious, doesn’t it? Actually, it did taste good. It just didn’t look pretty or set up the way it should have. I served it to Terwilliger and some guests anyway. They are still healthy and willing to eat my baked goods, so all is not lost.
Assembled, the tart was fetching enough:
But once sliced, the pastry cream made a run for it:
Consuming this nice-tasting disaster might have been easier had the tart crust not been so firm — it sets up more like a shortbread cookie, which I’m normally on board with, but topped with dessert-soup, it was difficult to wrangle. It was a confection that called for a spork, and I had none.
I’ve copied the recipe and instructions below. I also got a tip on pastry cream from Michelle over at Brown-Eyed Baker — she advised using medium heat and constant whisking. She says “it usually hits the right thickness when two or three big bubbles pop on the surface and it stops looking frothy and shifts to being more shiny.” Click here for a full pastry cream tutorial, if you’re interested. That’s what I’ll be doing next time I try to tackle pastry cream.
Finally, if any of you, my valued readers, have tips on making the perfect pastry cream, please share!
Mixed Berry Tart: Ingredients
about 1 & 1/2 C. pastry cream, chilled (recipe below)
1 9-in tart shell, fully baked and cooled (recipe here & linked below)
2 pints fresh berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries — whatever you fancy)
2 T. red currant jelly* (the original recipe calls for 1/3 C., which was way too much. You just need enough to glaze your berries to a delectable sheen.)
*Only use this if you already have some mild-flavored jelly (apple, currant) on hand. I made a special trip to the store for currant jelly, and I definitely could have saved myself $3 and done without it.
For the crust:
Follow the recipe for this peach tart sanctioned by the gods. Remember to give yourself three hours of refrigerating and freezing! Or substitute your own recipe, perhaps one that is a little less cookie-like. Make sure the crust is fully baked and cooled. To fully bake, follow the instructions for partial baking, then return it to the oven for 15 minutes more, or until it’s golden brown and firm to the touch.
To make the pastry cream:
2 C. whole milk
6 large egg yolks
1/2 C. sugar
1/3 C. cornstarch, sifted
1 & 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 & 1/2 T. unsalted butter, cut into bits, at room temperature
Bring the milk to a boil in a small saucepan.
Meanwhile, in a heavy bottomed saucepan, whisk the yolks together with the cornstarch until thick and well blended. Still whisking, drizzle in about 1/2 C. of the hot milk — this will temper, or warm, the yolks so they won’t curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remainder of the milk. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously, constantly, and thoroughly (making sure to get the edges of the pot), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.*
Whisk in the vanilla extract. Let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in the bits of butter, stirring until they are fully incorporated and the pastry cream is smooth and silky. Scrape the cream into a bowl. You can press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the cream to create an airtight seal and refrigerate the pastry cream until cold or, if you want to cool it quickly, put the bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice cubes an cold water, and stir the pastry cream occasionally until it is thoroughly chilled, about 20 minutes.
*This is the point where I realized I my cream had gone from silky to pockmarked, with little bits of…firmness, or something…in it. I pressed the cream through a sieve and into a bowl, and the sieve didn’t quite solve the problem. It didn’t seem like curdled egg or anything horrific like that — it was just like the cream had seized up for no good reason. Stupid, delicious cream.
Cooking the cream: Pre-Fail
Cream of Deception: You’d never know its consistency was closer to Brand X yogurt than high-quality pudding, eh?
To assemble the tart:
Spoon enough of the pastry cream into the tart crust so that it comes almost to the rim, then smooth the surface with a rubber spatula. Carefully lay the berries on the cream, arranging them however you wish.
Put the 2 T. of red currant jelly in a small bowl, add a splash of water, and microwave the mixture for 15 seconds or so to soften it up. (Make sure you put some wax paper on top so it doesn’t start splattering all the hell over everything. I forgot this step.) Using a pastry brush, glaze the berries. You could probably also use a spoon to dribble the glaze over the berries, but I didn’t try this so I can’t vouch for it.
Now the tart is ready! I do hope your pastry cream is better than mine.