Strawberries are a big favorite in our house. Each summer, we grow them on our roof deck, and every evening while I water the plants, my daughter hunts for ripe ones and eats them on the spot. I like to think that she will cherish these summer memories, just as I fondly recall nightly visits to my own strawberry patch growing up.
Too bad then, that the sweet, juicy fruit you remember from last July isn’t here yet. You’ll just have to work a little kitchen magic until the produce catches up. That’s where this strawberry tart comes in.
We bought some strawberries at the store the other day knowing full well that March strawberries in New York are just going to be March strawberries–nothing compares to the just-picked strawberries we enjoy all summer. But the creme anglaise in this tart is the perfect creamy compliment to these not-quite-juicy spring strawberries. What you’re left with is a classic tart that’s failry easy to make and gives you a taste of summer a few months early.
for the tart shell
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons cold butter
1/4 cup ice water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
Combine the flour, salt, and sugar in your food processor. Add the butter and pulse 3 or 4 times. The dough should have a crumbly, sandy texture. Drizzle in the ice water and pulse just until combined. If you don’t have food processor, cut the butter into the flour with a pastry knife, then add the water and mix just until the ingredients are combined.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured board, and form into a 6³ disc. Wrap the disc with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least a half-hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 or 10″ tart pan.
Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface, or on a sheet of parchment, into a 13 or 14″ circle. Fold the dough into quarters, and press into the tart pan. Fold any excess dough under to build up the sides of the shell. Poke the crust with a fork all over.
Place the shell on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, or until the crust is a light golden color. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
for the pastry cream (adapted from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters)
1 cup milk
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon butter
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a heavy bottomed sauce pan heat the milk just until steamy. In another medium heatproof bowl combine the yolks and use a whisk to beat them with the sugar. When the eggs and sugar are well-combined, beat in the flour until smooth, 1 or 2 minutes. Slowly whisk the warm milk into the egg mixture, adding just a little at first, and then adding more once the egg mixture is tempered. Pour the mixture back into the sauce pan, and heat over medium heat. Stir with a wooden spoon until smooth for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture is quite thick.
Remove the sauce pan from heat and stir in the butter, salt, and vanilla–stir the cream until smooth. Pour the cream into a bowl, cover with plastic directly touching the surface, and chill for an hour in the refrigerator. If you are in a hurry, set the bowl over ice and stir.
to assemble the tart
1 quart strawberries, washed, tops cut off, and halved
Once the tart shell has cooled and the pastry cream has chilled, gently spoon the cream into the shell. Arrange the strawberries in circles. Serve right away, or chill in the refrigerator covered with plastic.