This lovely recipe comes from Cenk Sönmezsoy’s The Artful Baker: Extraordinary Desserts From an Obsessive Home Baker. Cenk just had to name this timeless tart after another, Golden Girl Blanche Devereaux, who once said, “Like the fatal blossom of the graceful jimson weed, I entice with my fragrance but can provide no succour.” Except this time, she does.
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- 2½ cup (650g) chilled Vanilla Pastry Cream
- 17oz (480g) Vanilla Bean Short Tart Dough, fully baked as a 9” (23cm) square tart crust or a 10.25” (26cm) round tart crust and cooled
- 1 cup (4.2oz/120g) fresh strawberries, hulled and halved lengthwise (top to bottom)
- ½ cup (2.7oz/75g) fresh blackberries
- 1 cup (4.2oz/120g) fresh raspberries
- ¾ cup (3.5oz/100g) fresh blueberries
- ½ cup (2.8oz/80g) stemmed fresh red currants
- 12-15 sprigs fresh chocolate mint (Mentha x piperita f. citrata)
- Vanilla Pastry Cream - makes 2½ cup (about 650g)
- 2 cup (480g) whole milk
- 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped or 2 tsp (10g) pure vanilla extract
- 5 large egg yolks
- ⅔ cup (133g) granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup (40g) cornstarch
- Pinch of fine sea salt
- 3½ tbsp (1.7oz/50g) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- Vanilla Bean Short Tart Dough - makes 17oz (480g), enough for a 9” (23cm) square tart crust, 10.25” (26cm) round tart crust, 13.75x4.23” (35x11cm) rectangular tart crust or eight 4.25”(11cm) round tart crusts
- 9 tbsp (4.5oz/125g) unsalted butter, softened
- ½ cup (80g) confectioners’ sugar
- ½ vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
- 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
- 1 tbsp (15g) heavy cream or whole milk
- 1 tsp (5g) pure vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp (2g) fine sea salt
- 1⅔ cup (233g) all-purpose flour
Whisk the chilled pastry cream until smooth and scrape it into the cooled tart crust. Spread evenly with a small offset spatula. Gently shake the pan to fill the corners of the crust and to smooth the top.
Starting with the larger pieces and working your way to the smaller berries and currants, arrange the fruits over the pastry cream, making sure that each slice will get its fair share of all varieties.
Pluck the young and tender top leaves from the mint sprigs and tuck them evenly among the fruits.
Set the tart in its pan on an overturned flat-bottomed bowl (or a wide can) and gently release the ring. Slip the tip of a small knife between the crust and the bottom of the tart pan and run it all around the edge to loosen the crust. Carefully slide the tart onto a serving plate and serve.
Blanche is best shortly after she is made but she will keep, wrapped airtight, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
Note 1: Vanilla Pastry Cream
Crème pâtissière, or pastry cream, should be in every home baker’s arsenal. Thickened with egg yolks and starch and enriched with butter, it may be flavoured with vanilla, chocolate, coffee, liqueurs, fruits or other flavourings. When made with vanilla extract, this may be considered a master pastry cream that welcomes almost infinite variation. I’ll share two of my favourites – mocha and chocolate – but feel free to play with it by steeping the finely grated zest of a citrus fruit or aromatic tea leaves in the milk, or by adding extracts or liqueurs.
If using a vanilla bean, in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the milk and the vanilla seeds and pod to a simmer. Take the pan off the heat, cover and let steep for 30 minutes. Retrieve the vanilla pod from the milk and rinse thoroughly with cold water. Set the pan with the vanilla milk over medium heat and bring to just below a boil.
If using vanilla extract, simply bring the milk and vanilla extract to just below a boil. Take the pan off the heat and cover to keep the vanilla milk hot. Fill a medium bowl with ice and cold water. Place a medium bowl over the ice bath with the bottom touching the water. Set a mesh strainer on top.
In a separate medium saucepan, whisk the yolks, sugar, cornstarch and salt with a narrow wire whisk until the yolks lighten in colour, 2-3 minutes. While whisking the egg mixture constantly, drizzle in about half the hot vanilla milk. Add the rest of the hot vanilla milk all at once, then set the pan over medium heat. Cook until the mixture comes to a full boil and is thick enough to mound when dropped from the whisk, constantly whisking and scraping the bottom of the pan with the whisk, about 8 minutes.
Scrape the thickened pastry cream into the strainer over the ice bath and strain, pressing with a silicone spatula. Scrape any pastry cream clinging to the bottom of the strainer into the bowl. Add the butter pieces, whisking until blended. Stir the pastry cream frequently until it reaches room temperature, about 5 minutes. Remove the bowl from the ice water and cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming.
Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. The pastry cream is now ready to use.
The pastry cream will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Whisk until smooth before using.
Note 2: Vanilla Bean Short Tart Dough
This short tart dough, also known as pâte sablée, is sweet, tender and rich. It is also too fragile to roll; instead, you simply press it into the pan. I use a combination of vanilla bean seeds and vanilla extract for flavour. With half a vanilla bean plenty for a single batch, I always double the recipe to use the whole bean and freeze half for an impromptu tart.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar and vanilla seeds at the lowest speed until the sugar is incorporated. Raise the speed to medium-high and beat until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the yolks, cream, vanilla extract and salt. Beat until blended, about 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the flour and beat at the lowest speed just until incorporated. Remove the bowl from the mixer and press the dough into a ball with your hands. Pinch off a teaspoon sized piece of dough, wrap and refrigerate for patching the baked crust later if needed.
The dough will keep, wrapped airtight, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then let stand at room temperature until soft enough to press into the pan.
To make a 9” (23cm) square tart crust or a 10.25” (26cm) round tart crust, use all of the dough.
To make a 13.75×4.25” (35x11cm) rectangular tart crust, measure out 12.7oz (360g) of the dough; reserve the rest for another use.
To make eight 4.25” (11cm) round tart crusts, divide the dough into eight equal pieces (2.1oz/60g each). In all cases, use two piece tart pans with removable bottoms.
For each crust, place the dough into the centre of a tart pan. Using the heel of your hand, press the dough across the bottom of the pan as smoothly and evenly as possible, accumulating excess dough along the seam of the pan. While pressing the excess dough along the seam and fluted sides of the pan with the index finger of one hand, push down on the rim of the pan with the thumb of the opposite hand to make an even and evenly thick edge, making sure it’s not too thick at the seam where the bottom meets the sides of the pan. Transfer the pan to a baking sheet and freeze until firm, 30-40 minutes. Meanwhile, set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 340°F (170°C).
Crumple up a sheet of parchment paper and straighten it out half a dozen times to soften it, so that it will fit into the corners of the dough without sharp edges. Line the chilled dough with the parchment paper across the bottom and up the sides, pressing creases at the bottom and top edges. Fill the pan with pie weights or dried beans.
For a partially baked crust, bake for 25 minutes, remove the pie weights and parchment and continue baking until the edges and bottom are light golden, about 6 minutes longer (about 4 minutes longer for 4.25” (11cm) round tart crusts). Patch any cracks or holes in the crust with small scraps of the reserved raw dough.
For a fully baked crust, bake for 25 minutes, remove the pie weights and parchment and patch any cracks or holes in the crust with small scraps of the reserved raw dough. Continue baking until the edges are golden brown and the bottom is golden, 15-17 minutes longer (about 11-13 minutes longer for 4.25” (11cm) round tart crusts).
Set the baking sheet on a wire rack to cool completely. The tart crust is now ready to use.