Saturday, July 31, 2021

Ladybug fruit tart

This is a sponsored post by Challenge butter, but the text and opinions are all mine. Thank you for supporting brands that make Kylee's Kitchen possible!

One of the first things I learned how to make in my baking classes is fruit tarts. The two main components of tarts, the shell and the pastry cream, are basic skills that are clearly very important because I've had to prepare them time and time again. I had an internship at a local bakery over the summer (more on that later), and the very first thing my supervisor asked me to make was pastry cream. I was quite nervous because it had been at least half a year since I last made pastry cream, but fortunately it turned out perfect. Over the next few weeks, I made a lot of pastry cream, and really, once you get the hang of it, it's like riding a bike.

My internship course at Ivy Tech concluded with a final exam in which I had to make numerous desserts over the course of 4 hours (once again, more on that later). One of the dishes was, you guessed it, a fruit tart. So I thought this would be a good opportunity to walk you through how to make that tart shell and the pastry cream. The fruit tart recipe I'm sharing today has a lemon pastry cream and is made to look like a ladybug because I thought it would be a fun summer dessert.

First, let's discuss the shell, also known as pâte sucrée. Pronounced pat-sue-cray, pâte sucrée is the French term for sweet pastry dough. It is similar to the American short dough, and I think it tastes like a shortbread cookie when it is baked. 

There are two main mixing methods for pastry dough: the sanding method and the creaming method. The sanding mixture is what you think of when making pie crusts—breaking up the butter with your hands or a pastry cutter into tiny, pea-sized pieces and cutting it into the flour. The creaming method is what I use when making cookies in which I beat the butter and the sugar together until creamy before adding egg and the dry ingredients. Pâte sucrée is traditionally made using the creaming method, but it can also be made using the sanding method. Personally I prefer the creaming method, so that’s what I did. Traditionally, when using the creaming method with cookies, you want the butter to look “light and fluffy” before proceeding. However, that isn’t what we want here. That’s because when you’re beating the butter and sugar together you’re incorporating air, which is great for reducing the spread on cookies, but that isn’t what we want here. So just beat the butter and sugar until well combined, but not any longer. I like to use Challenge European Style Butter. It has a higher butterfat than regular butters (83% versus 80% for standard butters), and the lower moisture content yields a flakier crust.

This recipe calls for almond meal because I think it gives the tart shell a boost in taste and texture. But it is important to note that almond meal isn’t the same as almond flour. Yes, they are both made from ground almonds, however, almond flour is made from peeled almonds and finely ground, whereas almond meal is made from unpeeled almonds and is coarser. That said, it won’t contribute to the texture in the same way as almond meal.

The classic formula for pâte sucrée (using baker’s percentage) is 100 percent flour, 50 percent butter, 50 percent sugar, and 20 percent egg. But I also like to use a little baking powder in my pâte sucrée because I found that it lightens the texture.

The shell is blind baked with parchment paper and pie weights (or dry beans). Blind baking is the process of fully baking a tart shell. We want to fully bake the tart shell because the pastry cream doesn’t need to go into the oven. We cover the tart shell in parchment paper and pie weights to prevent the crust and sides from becoming misshapen during the baking process. The pie weights should completely fill the pie pan. I’ve seen a lot of pictures that show pie weights just on the very bottom, but that doesn’t prevent the sides from slouching.

After about 15 minutes, remove the parchment paper and pie weights from the shell and continue baking about another 10 minutes, or until the bottom is baked through and turns golden brown. Once the shell cools, it is ready to be filled.

Now, let’s talk pastry cream. It is a cooked-stirred custard with very basic ingredients, including milk, sugar, egg yolk, cornstarch, and butter. Additional ingredients can be added for flavor (like in this case I added lemon zest for a lemon pastry cream.

When making pastry cream, the first thing you want to do is bring your milk up to a boil. While it’s heating up, whisk the sugar and the cornstarch together for even dispersion and then whisk in the egg yolks until just combined. Don’t overmix because you don’t want to incorporate too much air into the mixture. Once the milk comes to a boil, remove it from the heat and slowly pour about half of the milk into the egg yolk mixture while whisking continuously. This is called tempering. You’re slowly heating up the egg yolks so that they don’t scramble. Then return the mixture to the pot and heat it to its boiling point once again. It’s important to continuously whisk the custard, making sure nothing is sticking to the bottom or the sides.

Once the mixture comes to a boil, continue to whisk and let it boil for 2 minutes. This is important in order to thicken the cream and fully swell the starch. Once you’ve finished cooking it, remove it from the heat and stir in butter. Butter increases the pastry cream’s richness and flavor.

If made correctly, you shouldn’t have to strain the pastry cream. However, if you see that your pastry cream has small lumps in it, strain it through a chinois or fine-mesh strainer.

Finally, the pastry cream is poured into a shallow container, covered to the surface with plastic wrap (otherwise a skin will form), and refrigerated until you're ready to use it.

Ladybug Fruit Tart
Yield: One 9 or 10-inch fruit tart, or about 12 servings
For the pâte sucrée
  • 180 grams (1 stick + 5 Tablespoons) Challenge European Style Butter
  • 180 grams (1 1/2 cups) confectioners’ sugar
  • 94 grams (2 large) eggs
  • 4 grams (1 teaspoon) vanilla extract
  • 360 grams (3 cups) all purpose flour
  • 54 grams (1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons) almond meal
  • 2 grams (1/2 teaspoon) baking powder
For the lemon pastry cream
  • 550 grams (18 fluid ounces) whole milk
  • 6 grams (or zest from 1 lemon) lemon zest
  • 140 grams (1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons) granulated sugar
  • 39 grams (4 Tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) cornstarch
  • 110 grams (6) egg yolks
  • 67 grams (4 Tablespoons) Challenge unsalted butter
For assembly
  • 2 pints raspberries
  • 1 pint blueberries
  • 1 pint blackberries
  • 125 grams (1/2 cup) apricot preserves
  • 1 Tablespoon (14 milliliters) water
For the pâte sucrée
  1. Cream butter and sugar together until combined; don’t overmix
  2. Add eggs and vanilla and mix until smooth
  3. Gently mix in flour, almond meal, and baking powder until just combined
  4. Gather all ingredients and form a ball and then gently flatten into a disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  5. Grease bottom and sides of 9-inch or 10-inch tart pan
  6. Roll dough to 1/8-inch thickness and lay over tart pan, carefully pressing the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the tart pan; trim excess dough
  7. Use a fork to dock the bottom of the crust all over
  8. Place the tart pan in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes
  9. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  10. Line the tart pan with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dry beans
  11. Bake the crust for 15 minutes, remove from oven, and remove parchment paper with weights
  12. Return tart shell back to oven and bake uncovered for 10 to 12 minutes, or until tart becomes golden brown, cooked through, and crisp
  13. Remove the tart pan from the oven and cool completely
For the lemon pastry cream
  1. Add milk and lemon zest to stainless steel pot and heat on medium until it begins to boil
  2. While waiting for milk to come to a boil, mix sugar and cornstarch in large bowl
  3. Add egg yolks to sugar-cornstarch mixture and whisk until combined; don’t overmix
  4. Once milk comes to boil, remove pot from heat and slowly pour 1/2 of it into egg yolk mixture while whisking continuously
  5. Return mixture to pot with rest of milk, set heat to medium, and continue to cook while stirring constantly
  6. Cook until custard has boiled for 2 minutes; at this point it should be thick and difficult to stir
  7. Remove from heat, add butter, and stir until mixed completely
  8. Pour pastry cream into shallow pan and lay plastic wrap on the surface so it doesn’t develop a skin
  9. Refrigerate immediately until ready to use
For assembly
  1. Fill tart shell with pastry cream
  2. Arrange raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries in ladybug pattern
  3. Heat preserves and water in microwave until mixture is liquified. Brush glaze gently over fruit tart.
  4. Remove tart from tart pan and serve

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