This strawberry tart recipe makes the most delicious little mini tarts that you can imagine! If you have read much of my writing, you will know by know that nothing beats a chocolate eclair for me! But these little tarts come a close second to eclairs.
The pastry case is made with pate sablee which is the most crumbly and deliciously buttery pastry I have ever tasted. The filling is creme patissiere (pastry cream) folded together with whipped cream to loosen it. The topping is the fresh fruit - in this case, strawberries.
You can of course use other fruits - such as raspberries, blackberries and even chopped up kiwi fruit, or a combination of these. Fruits to avoid, in my opinion, are pineapples, citrus fruits, apples....
Stick with berries for the best results. And to be honest, I really think that strawberries are best. Other fruit can be a bit overpowering for the delicate pastry and filling.
In the past I have always used an old tart tin that I believe may have come from my grandma. It made lovely shallow tarts of just the right size. But it has been sticking and although my tarts still tasted sublime, they didn't look so beautiful!
However, I have recently found a really fantastic heavy weight tart tray on Amazon as shown below.
Should you decide to go ahead and buy this tin, please make sure you look after it! I only use a soft sponge to clean it and then I dry it carefully with a soft tea towel. I want that non-stick coating to last as long as possible! I store it on its side in a cupboard with other tins so that it doesn't get scratched.
This mini pie tray made by Masterclass is really fabulous. I would definitely buy another!|
Tarts made in this tin do not stick and I did not even grease the pan. It's the perfect size for making mini mince pies at Christmas, quiches for picnics and of course, pretty little fruit tarts for afternoon tea.
Love it, and can't recommend it highly enough.
So long as you follow the recipe for the pate sablee, the pastry will be just fine. Just remember to keep it light as you mix and to handle it carefully and for the least amount of time possible.
I used to have a problem with pastry when making little tarts. You have to blind bake the cases - which means cooking the pastry without the filling. In this case, the filling is not cooked in the case, so the pastry must be fully cooked.
Traditionally you fill a tart case with dried chickpeas, or beans, or something like that while it is baking to stop the pastry from puffing up too much. If it puffs up, there isn't much room left for the filling.
As you can imagine, this is very tedious with mini tartlets like these. I used to put off making tarts until I found found this tip: freeze the pastry first. And it works like a treat.
So although the time for this strawberry tart recipe is written as 2 hours, that does include freezing the tart cases and cooling the pastry cream. There is time to do other things between the stages.
This strawberry tart recipe uses 3 egg yolks altogether for 12 little tarts. If you felt inclined, that would leave 3 egg whites - the exact amount needed for a batch of mini meringues....
The pastry cream filling is actually enough to fill 24 tarts, and you can't really halve that recipe. I have already made the quantity of pastry cream as small as it is feasible to be. But you can keep the pastry cream for a few days in the fridge - so long as the cream is well in date. And then you can have tarts later in the week...
Time: 2 hours if you choose to freeze the pastry
Makes 12 small tarts
For the pate sablee:
125g (2/3 cup) plain flour
100g (1/3 cup + 1 tbsp) butter
50g (scant 1/2 cup) icing (powdered) sugar
1 egg yolk
For the pastry cream:
2 egg yolks
40g (3 level tbsp) caster sugar
1 rounded tbsp plain (all purpose) flour
150ml (2/3 cup) milk
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
(60ml) 1/4 cup of whipping cream
Strawberries to decorate
Once your pate sablee is made (see here for instructions), flour your work surface lightly and dust your rolling pin with flour.
Gently roll out the pastry to 2mm thickness. It's better for it to be 3mm than 1mm..... I used a 3 inch fluted pastry cutter to stamp out circles to fit my tray. Gather together any excess pieces and gently re-form to roll out a second time to cut the last circles.
I usually roll out the excess and make a cookie with it as a Cook's Bonus.... Just place it on a small lined tin and pop it in when you cook the tart cases.
Place the circles over the tart tin and gently push them down. My rolling pin has flat ends that just happen to be the perfect size to gently tamp them down. And it makes such a neat finish, as you can see.
Otherwise, you can try using the bottom of a shot glass, or something like that if you can find one the right size. You can of course use your fingers too, and I always did before I got my new tin. But it can be easy to cut the pastry with long fingernails.
I looked up tart tampers on Amazon, thinking I might recommend one, but I couldn't find one that I would recommend particularly after reading through the reviews.... Perhaps worth a look though.
Prick the pastry cases in several places with a fork. Put the whole tray into two plastic shopping bags or cover loosely with cling film and place it carefully into the freezer.
Leave for at least one hour. I often leave them in the freezer overnight. And, in fact, at this stage you can remove them from the tin and store them carefully in a box or bag for up to 3 months.
Once the pate sablee is in the freezer, you can make the pastry cream (creme patissiere). Follow instructions here.
When the pastry cream is made, leave it on one side to properly cool. Cover it with greaseproof paper (baking paper). The paper needs to actually touch the pastry cream to stop it from forming a skin.
After an hour, you can bake the pastry cases. Heat the oven to 350F (gas mark 4). When the oven is to temperature, remove the cases from the freezer and pop them on a shelf in the middle of the oven.
Set the timer for 5 minutes. While you wait, break an egg into a cup and beat it with a fork and get your pastry brush ready.
Remove the tarts from the oven and close the door to keep the heat in. Gently brush the pastry cases all over with the beaten egg and then put them back in the oven. Set the timer for 5 minutes.
After 5 minutes, check the tarts. They should be just lightly golden round the rims. If not put them back in just for a minute at a time. They burn easily...
When they are ready, remove the tin from the oven and put on a baking rack to cool for five minutes. After this time, remove the cases carefully and leave them to cool out of the tin on the baking rack.
Once the cases and the pastry cream are both cold, you can fill the tarts. You can fill the tarts at least a couple of hours before you need to serve them. But I never keep them in the fridge. You just can't taste them properly if they are too cold. Keep them somewhere cool and protect them from flies.
First prepare the fruit. If the strawberries are large, you might need to cut them into smaller pieces. Otherwise, small ripe strawberries cut in half are best. If you decorate with raspberries, three bunched together looks good. Kiwi cut into very small pieces together with a little piece of strawberry and a raspberry is also pretty.
Whip the 60ml (1/4 cup) of cream up with 1/2 tsp of icing (powdered) sugar.
Remove the baking parchment from the pastry cream. Put the beaters into the pastry cream and whip it just to loosen it. You can use a hand whisk if you are not using an electric whisk.
Now add the cream to the pastry cream and mix together on a low speed. Spoon into the pastry cases straight away. You only need to use half the filling to make 12 tarts. Save the rest in the fridge and make tarts later in the week, perhaps. Or serve with fresh fruit. Each tart will take about a teaspoon.
Level out the pastry cream in each of the tarts with the back of a spoon and top with the fruit as soon as possible. You need to do this reasonably quickly because the pastry cream does begin to form a slight skin and then it cracks when you push the fruit onto it, which is just slightly less pretty - but still just as tasty, which is the main thing.
Just before serving, dust the strawberry tarts with icing sugar. Put just a teaspoon of icing sugar into a fine meshed sieve and gently tap it over the top of the tarts while they are on a wire rack. It's better to start gently and add more than to put too much on in one go.
Very carefully, transfer the tarts to their serving dish. This pastry is delicate, and it is easy to break the edges of the tarts if they bang into each other on the plate. Don't worry too much if this happens. They taste so marvellous that no-one will care!
We tend to make strawberry tarts if we are serving a full afternoon tea spread. They look so pretty on a tiered cake stand with finger sandwiches. They also look lovely served with meringues and tiny cupcakes. We prefer to serve them in this case with a delicate cupcake such as the lemon cupcake.
We used them in our Pink Roses afternoon tea menu along with salmon sandwiches, cucumber sandwiches, tomato sandwiches, buttermilk scones and fresh strawberry cake served with mint and rose petal tea.