Sunday, September 2, 2007
I have a friend that moved to the United States about 8 years ago. Every since he learned that I like to bake, he has been requesting a "fruit cake". I figured that something was getting lost in translation - there was no way he could possibly be asking for an actual Fruit Cake. I thought maybe something along the lines of strawberry shortcake? Nope. Finally one day, we were walking through a Whole Foods bakery and he exclaimed, "That's it! That's what I want! A fruit cake!"
I made this "fruit cake" for his birthday. It was my first time making pastry cream, and now that I have done it, I can't wait to move on to Boston Cream Pie and eclairs. It was way easier than I imagined, and tasted heavenly. I followed the directions exactly, but still had a moment of terror just after the mixture came to its final simmer - suddenly the cream appeared to curdle, and looked like it was rapidly becoming scrambled eggs. But I just continued to whisk vigorously as I removed it from the heat, and the cream turned out beautifully.(!?) I don't know if that is normal or not, but the final product was wonderful. The tart shell was also delicious, and the dough was easy to roll out and work with. It tasted like not-too-sweet vanilla sugar cookies.
I used the recipe for the "Fresh Fruit Tart with Pastry Cream" in Baking Illustrated: the Practical Kitchen Companion for the Home Baker, by the Editors of Cook's Illustrated Magazine. The recipe calls for either currant or apple jelly to glaze fruit - I used neither, and did not miss having a glaze. For the fruit part, I used blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, champagne grapes, and mandarin orange slices. The recipe called for unwashed berries, because any moisture left on the fruit would cause the pastry cream to weep. My O.C.D. tendencies in the kitchen prevented me from following that direction. Please note the drying fruit in the following picture...
Sweet Tart Pastry for 9 or 9 1/2 inch tart shell, from Baking Illustrated, p223
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 Tbsp heavy cream
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 cups (6 1/4 ounces) all purpose flour
- 2/3 cup (2 2/3 ounces) powdered sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 8 Tbsp cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (I used salted)
Whisk yolk, cream, and vanilla in a small bowl and set aside.
Place flour, sugar, and salt in food processor and combine. Scatter in butter and process until resembles coarse meal, about fifteen pulses. Turn on machine and pour in egg mixture; process until dough just comes together, about 12 seconds. Turn dough onto plastic wrap, press into 6 inch disk, wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
If dough has been refrigerated for longer than 1 hour, remove dough from frig and let stand at room temp until malleable. Roll out between lightly floured sheets of parchment to a 13 inch circle. Transfer dough to 9 or 9 1/2 inch tart pan with removable bottom and carefully press dough into corners. Roll over pan with rolling pin to trim edges. Freeze tart pan for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, oven to 375 degrees, rack to middle position. When dough is done freezing, place pan on baking sheet. Line with foil, and fill tart with pie weights. Bake for 30 minutes on baking sheet, rotating half-way through. Remove from the oven and carefully remove foil, lifting weights with it. Bake another 5 to 8 minutes, until tart shell is deep golden brown. Set baking sheet on wire rack to cool shell completely.
Pastry Cream, from Baking Illustrated, p227
- 2 cups half and half
- 1/2 cup sugar
- pinch of salt
- 5 large egg yolks
- 3 Tbsp corn starch
- 4 Tbsp cold butter, cut into 4 pieces
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
Heat the half and half, 6 Tbsp sugar, and the salt in a saucepan over medium heat until simmering, stirring occassionally.
Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks and 2 Tbsp sugar in medium bowl until creamy, about 15 seconds. Whisk in corn starch until pale and thick, about 30 more seconds.
Gradually whisk simmering half and half mixture into egg yolks to temper. Return mixture to saucepan and bring to simmer over medium heat, whisking CONSTANTLY, until a few bubbles burst on surface and the mixture is thickened, about 30 seconds. Add butter and vanilla off the heat. Strain through fine-mesh sieve over a bowl. Refrigerate at least 3 hours with plastic wrap pressed directly on surface to prevent skin from forming.
Do not assemble this tart until very close to the time that you will be eating it, particularly if you are using sliced or washed fruit (see above).