February 6, 2011

Auspicious Strawberry Tart

Lie: It is Chinese New Year and therefore a red strawberry tart is a good and auspicious thing to make and devour eat.

Truth: I just love the custard in this strawberry tart. OK, so it is just your basic Creme Anglaise, but I dream of it. A lot. I fantasize eating a whole bathtub of it. With or without strawberries.  This pastry cream is just the perfect texture: not overly runny, and not too firm. Just a gentle soft bed for the strawberries to lay on, a sweet delicate barrier that you sink your teeth into before it reaches the flaky crust. What's not to love? My kids' verdict on this one: it's yummy good, mommy! Double thumbs-up! Mmmmmmmmmm... ...

See the custard peeking from beneath? That pastry cream is what makes this tart so enjoyable (for me).
Are you seduced now? Be it for auspicious reasons (of course eating red-colored foods for Chinese New Year is a lucky thing to do) or just for the plain love of making something delicious (but not overly complicated), this is the tart for me. Below is the recipe, adapted from Barefoot Contessa's. I make the pastry cream the day before. I love rose-flavored berries and had added rose extract when macerating the strawberries. It adds a subtle, but heady flavor that really adds dimension to the flavors. I also find macerating the strawberries before improves the texture, and gives it a soft, attractive sheen.

Auspicious Strawberry Tart


  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 1/4 cup ice water
  • 2 cups Pastry Cream (recipe below)
  • 2 pints whole strawberries, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons sugar + 1 teaspoon rose extract
  • 3 tablespoons shelled pistachios, chopped (optional)


Mix together the flour, sugar and salt in a small bowl and place in the freezer for 30 minutes.
Put the flour mixture in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the diced butter and pulse until the flour mixture and the butter combine to form a pea-sized mixture. With motor running, add the ice water through the feeding tube and process until the dough comes together.
Dump on a well-floured board and form into a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes.
In the meantime: wash, dry and slice strawberries and then toss with the 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1 teaspoon of rose extract. Toss again from time to time to make sure strawberries evenly absorb the rose flavor.

Pre-heat the oven to 375 F.

Roll out the dough and fit into a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Run the rolling pin across the top of the pan to cut off excess dough. Butter a piece of aluminum foil large enough to cover surface of shell and place foil, buttered side down, on top of dough. Top foil with dried beans or rice. Place pan on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes.
Remove the beans and foil, prick the bottom of the shell all over with a fork, and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes until lightly browned. Set aside to cool.

Before serving, fill the tart shell with the luscious pastry cream. Carefully remove strawberries from liquid and arrange on top of cream. Sprinkle with pistachios (optional, but adds a nice and pleasing contrasting color and crunch) and serve. Enjoy!

Pastry Cream:

  • 5 extra-large egg yolks (at room temperature)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 cups scalded milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon Cognac (I sometimes also use amaretto)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
Combine egg yolks and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-high speed for 4 minutes, or until pale and very thick. Reduce speed to low, and add the cornstarch.

With the mixer still on low, slowly drizzle the hot milk into the egg mixture. Once incorporated, pour the mixture into a medium saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens, 5 to 7 minutes. When the custard slowly comes to a boil and appears to curdle; switch to a whisk and beat vigorously. Cook, whisking constantly, for another 2 minutes; the custard will come together and become very thick, like pudding. Stir in the vanilla, Cognac, butter, and heavy cream. Pour the custard through a sieve into a bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on the custard and refrigerate until cold.
Yield: 2 cups

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