French Fruit Tartlets

Because I felt that the blog was growing a bit quiet this month, I decided to hop in at The Food Blog Diary to see if they had any fun challenges I could join this month. And they did !
Among the monthly challenges, I came across the French Baking challenge hosted by Blue Kitchen Bakes.  She set a summery theme this month, inviting us to try our hand at the sweet deliciousness of a classic French fruit tart.  This sounded right up my alley so I went straight to my cookbook shelf.

A couple of months ago, when I was in my macaron making stage, I bought several books by Pierre Hermé.  Pierre Hermé is famous for his macarons, which really are to die for and I would willingly take a little trip to Paris just to stock up on his Mogador macarons.  What is maybe less known is that he has also written this dessert bible, Le Larousse des Desserts, which covers all areas a sweet tooth should be able to prepare: pies, cakes, ice creams, soufflés, crumbles, individual pastries, crèmes, mousses, types of dough, etc.
Browsing through its pages, I came across a few recipes for fruit pies, but in the end I choose to stray a bit from the “all in” recipes, picking out the recipe for the Pâte sablée (sandy shortcrust pastry) and the Crème Pâtissière, and assembling them to my liking.

Ingredients for the Pâte sablée :
(makes 500g or 12 tartlets of 10cm in size)

* 1 vanilla pod
* 125g caster sugar
* 250g flour
* 125g butter at room temperature
* 1 egg

Directions :

Cut the vanilla pod lenthwise and remove the seeds.  Mix in a bowl the caster sugar and the vanilla seeds and set aside.
Sift the flour immediately on your work surface.  Dice the butter and work it into the flour using your fingertips until it gains a sandy consistency, without any butter lumps.
Make a hole in the sandy mixture, add the egg and the vanilla sugar.
Mix everything together using your fingertips without kneading too much.
Flatten the dough with your handpalm by pushing your hand away from you, until you achieve a homogeneous dough.
Form a ball with the dough, flatten it slightly, cover it in film and let it rest in the fridge for at least an hour.

Ingredients for the Crème Pâtissière :
(makes 500g or enough for 12 tartlets)

* 1,5 vanilla pod (1 used the empty pod from the dough and a full pod)
* 80g caster sugar
* 30g corn starch
* 350ml (full fat) milk
* 4 egg yolks
* 35g butter at room temperature

Directions :

Cut the vanilla pods lengthwise and remove the seeds.
In a heavy bottomed pan, add half of the sugar and the corn starch.  Add the milk and whisk everything together.  Add the vanilla seeds and pods and bring the liquid to a boil, while whisking continuously.
In a large bowl beat the egg yolks with the remaining sugar for about three minutes. Keep whisking and add a little bit of the milk, to temper the eggs.
Add the egg mixture to the milk and keep whisking while it cooks.
As soon as it comes to a boil remove from the heat. Remove the vanilla pods. Pour the Crème Pâtissière into a bowl and submerge it into a large recipient filled with ice.
When the crème has cooled down to 50C, add the butter while whisking vigorously.  Set aside to cool down completely.

Ingredients for 12 Fruit Tartles:

* 500g crème pâtissière
* 500g pâte sablée
* a selection of fresh fruit : I used red and blue berries
(100g raspberries, 100g blueberries, 100g blackberries and 200g strawberries)

Directions :

Preheat your oven to 190C.
Wash the fruits and let them dry on paper towels. I choose not to wash the blackberries and raspberries as they are quite fragile, dusting them off instead. Cut the strawberries in halves or quarts, depending on their size and how you want to present them on the tartlets.
Remove the dough from the fridge and roll it out to a thickness of 3mm.  Cut out circles the size of your tartlet moulds using a cookie cutter.
Grease the tartlet moulds and put the dough disks into them, covering the complete surface.  Using a fork, prick some holes into the dough.  Cover the bottom of the forms with some parchment paper and add some dry beans or pie weights on top, in order to keep your tartlet flat during baking.
Bake for 10 minutes.
Let the tartlets cool down slightly before carefully removing them from the moulds (fragile!) and let them cool down completely on a cooling wire.
When cool, add a good spoonful of the Crème Pâtissière in each tartlet and add the fresh fruit on top of the crème.  You could add some glaze made of red fruit jam on top of it but I just kept them as such and there were very much appreciated by my colleagues, who are the guinea pigs on zhich I try my weekly baking :o)  I got many compliments on the dough especially, so this recipe is definitely a keeper.


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