I had friends come over for tea during the Chinese New Year weekend and I was very clear what I was going to make - anything but CNY goodies! Since I had a batch of Pierre Hermé's Sweet Tart Dough leftover from making Warm Chocolate & Raspberry Tarts, I decided to use what I already had on hand.
This time though, I made Strawberry Tarts, given the abundance in my fridge - 4 punnets of Korean strawberries (sitting next to 3 punnets of blueberries and 3 punnets of raspberries)! Of course, any fruit works, but there's just something about the sweet summer appeal of strawberries.
Making these tarts is actually a breeze, because you can pre-bake the tart shells and cook the crème pâtissière a day earlier, and simply assemble the tarts before your guests arrive. If you want to make something fuss-free for Valentine's Day, you might want to consider these.
Here's how they turned out:
ONE photo - that's all I managed, right at the table. I posted this up on Twitter just before my friends arrived, and immediately received a number of self-invitations to tea. ;)
The tarts look adorable, don't they? :) I also made Japanese Cheesecake, seeing how my guests are fans of all things Japanese. I beat the egg whites on the lowest speed throughout, and got a texture that was so fine, it was practically "poreless" and sponge foam-like. I was really happy with that. A lot of readers have asked me how my cheesecakes stay tall and wrinkle-free. Honestly, I don't know! They always come out tall, never slouch and never crease. I sound like a Tiger Mom, don't I? Nothing but perfection, or else, I'll reject you!
And here's a close up of the Strawberry Tarts. I made these a second time because my family couldn't get enough. There's nothing quite like making them from scratch. Fresh just tastes better!
For the Sweet Tart Dough
(recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé, written by Dorie Greenspan)
- Make this at least 1 day in advance because you need to chill and rest the dough for a minimum 4 hours or up to 2 days, before rolling and baking;
- You are encouraged to make the full quantity because lessening the measurements may not yield the best results.
- Unused dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 days or wrapped airtight and frozen for a month. Frozen disks of dough take about 45 minutes to an hour at average room temperature to reach a good rolling-out consistency. Baked crusts can be kept uncovered at room temperature for about 8 hours.
- 2 1/2 sticks (10ozs; 285g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups (150g) icing sugar, sifted
- 1/2 cup (lightly packed) (3 1/4ozs; 100g) finely ground almond powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp vanilla bean pulp or pure vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
- 3 1/2 cups (490g) all-purpose flour
To make the dough in a mixer:
Place the butter in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on low speed until creamy. Add the sugar, almond powder, salt, vanilla and eggs and, still working on low speed, beat to blend the ingredients, scraping down the paddle and the sides of the bowl as needed. The dough may look curdled – that’s alright. With the machine on low, add the flour in three or four additions and mix only until the mixture comes together to form a soft, moist dough – a matter of seconds. Don’t overdo it.
Gather the dough into a ball and divide it into 3 or 4 pieces: 3 pieces for 10-inch (26cm) tarts, 4 for 9-inch (24cm) tarts. (Of course you can press the dough into one large disk and cut off as much as you need at the time that you need it.) Gently press each piece into a disk and wrap each disk in plastic. Allow the dough to rest in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or for up to 2 days, before rolling and baking. (The dough can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to a month.)
To prepare for baking:
1. Pinch balls of dough and press them into each tart mould using your thumb. Make sure you press more around the bottom rims where dough tends to gather. I like to my tart shells thin and delicate. Once you have pressed all the dough into your tart moulds, place them back into the fridge for another 15 minutes before baking.
2. While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Fit a circle of parchment or foil into the crust and fill with dried beans or rice before baking.*
* Note from The Little Teochew: I did not blind bake my mini tart shells and they turned out OK.
3. Fully bake the crust for about 20 minutes, or until they turn golden. Transfer the crust to a rack to cool. These can keep at room temperature for 8 hours.
For the Crème Pâtissière
(recipe largely adapted from Corner Cafe)
- For step-by-step photos, click here.
- 1 cup milk (236ml)
- 2 egg yolks
- 1/4 cup caster sugar (55g)
- 1/8 tsp vanilla beans or extract
- 2 tbsp cornflour
- 1 pinch salt (only if not adding butter, or using unsalted butter)
- 1/2 tsp unsalted butter, for additional shine and firmness (I always add unsalted butter)
1. Whisk together egg yolks, 1/4 cup milk (60ml), sugar and vanilla beans. Mix in cornflour and salt (if using).
2. Bring the remaining milk to a scald* in a saucepan. Pour the hot milk in small stream into the egg mixture, whisking constantly with a balloon whisk as you pour (very important). Once incorporated, pour everything back into the saucepan.
* To scald is to heat to just below the boiling point.
3. Whisk the mixture over medium heat until it thickens and firms up. Remove from heat and whisk in butter.
4. Pour the hot custard into a bowl and plunge the bottom of the bowl into another larger bowl of iced-water to cool, give it a whisk occasionally.
- I just continued whisking in the same saucepan until it cooled down.
5. Once it reaches room temperature, scoop the crème pâtissière into a piping bag (twist the open end to seal up the custard) or into a ketchup bottle. Keep in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Assembling the tarts
1. Hull and half the strawberries. Set aside.
2. Pipe the crème pâtissière into tart shells, into a rounded mound. This will provide the fruits with some support to stand at an angle.
3. Place the strawberry halves all around.
4. Close gaps with blueberries (optional).
5. Glaze the fruits (not the tart rims). Most people use jam for this. Scoop some jam out and thin it slightly with warm water, then gently brush over the fruits. I didn't have to do that because some liquid/syrup had collected at the bottom of my bottle of strawberry jam - and I simply used that for the glaze.
6. I used strawberry jam, which intensified the flavour of the fresh strawberries. But if you are using other fruits, apricot jam is usually preferred because it is clear and does not mask the true colours of the fruits. You don't need a lot of jam ... as long as the fruits look shiny, it's mission accomplished!
7. Chill the tarts (in a covered container) in the fridge till it is time to serve. The colder, the better. :) These are best eaten fresh. Do not keep them for more than 24 hours.