The best fruit tart crust crumbles in your mouth, not in your hands, and the filling compliments your chosen fruit perfectly. Bakers have developed tricks for baking the best fruit tart crust and for protecting it from absorbing moisture over time. Even the filling can play a symbiotic part in protecting the crust as well as preserve the flavors of the fruit. So here are 10 great secrets to making the best tart crust and filling for every kind of fruit tart.
#1: Butter Cubes
Cut a 1/2 cup of butter into small cubes before mixing it in your blender with 2/3 cup of confectioner’s sugar. The cubes will keep the butter from melting immediately. This will lend the fruit tart crust silky smoothness. Add 2 egg yolks, 1/2 a teaspoon of salt and 2 cups of flour.
#2: Cake Flour
Instead of 2 cups of all-purpose flour, replace one cup with cake flour. The cake flour will bake faster, trapping moisture inside, which will give your fruit tart curst the softness you desire inside, with the cookie texture on the outside.
#3: Almond Cream
Instead of custard filling, consider using almond cream (not to be confused with almond paste). Mix 1/2 a cup of butter cut into small cubes with 1/2 a cup of sugar. Add 2 egg yolks and 1.5 cups of almond flour. To enrich the flavor, add rum or replace the almond flour with 2 cups of blanched almonds. Once baked, the almond cream will adhere to the fruit tart crust, protecting it from absorbing moisture from the fruit.
#4: Pastry Cream
Pastry cream is heavenly with fresh fruit but may cause your tart crust to grow moist. Protect the crust with a thin layer of melted chocolate and let it harden before filling the tart (or use ganache as described in #9). Make your pastry cream by mixing together 1/2 a cup of sugar, 1 egg and 3 additional yolks and 1/4 cup of cornstarch. Bring 2 cups of milk with 1 tsp of vanilla to a simmer, then stir half into the egg mixture before blending everything together. This will prevent the eggs from cooking immediately. Bring the mixture to a boil, then let cool. Be sure to cover with a plastic wrap that touches the top layer, as this will prevent a dry crust from forming on the top.
#5: The Best of Both Worlds
If you’re looking for a lighter alternative to almond cream, yet something thicker than pastry cream, consider making Frangipane, a tart filling that will protect your crust yet lend the fruit tart a creamy center. Simply mix half the amount of almond cream with pastry cream.
#6: Fruit Crème Mousseline
Add a fruit flavor to your fruit tart filling by turning ordinary Mousseline into fruit crème. Use 2 cups of fruit puree instead of milk, brining it to a boil. Mix 2/3 cup of sugar, 1 egg and 3 yolks together, then add 5 tbsp of cornstarch and continue whisking. Four half the hot puree into the egg mixture and only then transfer everything back to the pot, to cook until thickens. This will prevent the eggs from lumping.
Whether you are making a fresh fruit tart or a baked one, glazing the fruit adds sheen and sweetness to your fruit tart. Create a simple glaze by placing jam in the microwave until it turns liquid. Brush over the fruit. Apricot jam works well with most types of fruit.
#8: Oven Temperature
Different fruits will bake at different temperatures. For apple or pear tarts, back at 375°F for one hour. For plum, apricot, tart back at 300°F for 30 minutes. For pre-baked tart shells back at 400°F for 15 minutes. And consider all baking times a recommendation only. When the fruit or pastry turns golden, the tart is ready.
For fresh fruit tarts, instead of protecting the crust with simple chocolate, consider making ganache. Chop 8 oz of chocolate in the flavor of your choice (milk, bitter, white). Pour 1 cup of heavy cream heated to a simmer. Allow the milk to melt the chocolate, then stir with a rubber spatula. For a creamer version, place the hot bowl of ganache in a cold bowl of water to help it cool and simultaneously whip until fluffy. Do not over whip or the ganache will turn to butter.
#10: Baking Pan
If you have no tart pants, bake the tart dough with almond cream to keep it from rising. If you want a plain tart dough for a cold filling, layer the tart crust with a sheet of parchment then pour dried beans on top to weigh the dough down while baking.
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Peterson, James: “Baking: 350 recipes and techniques, 1500 photographs, one baking education”. Ten Speed Press, Random House, New York, NY.