Springtime. The word conjures up images of tweeting birds, colorful flowers, bright sunshiny days. As nice as Spring is, it isn’t even my favorite time of year! Sure, I don’t hate it, my seasonal love is reserved for Fall and Winter. When it becomes socially acceptable to watch Hallmark Christmas movies in April, we’ll talk.
One thing I do really like about the Spring is all the bright colors everywhere, and that goes for food too. Fresh fruit, especially, is perfectly in season right now and that’s why this tart is perfect for this time of year. It makes for a really yummy treat that can be changed up, depending on what type of fruit is available to you and what you like. You can also use smaller shells and make individual tarts! Who doesn’t love their own personal dessert, right??
Another good thing about this dessert, is that it looks really impressive. There are a lot of steps, but it is actually pretty easy to put together. It will look like you slaved over it and everyone will love it. Go with it. My father-in-law always used to tell me not to reveal my secrets. If people think it was hard, let them.
(Sorry for the lack of step by step photos. I was concentrating on not messing up my pastry cream!)
For the tart shell:
1/4 cup whole almonds
1 cup plus two teaspoons all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread the almonds in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet; toast in oven until light golden and fragrant, seven to 10 minutes. (Or you could just buy roasted almonds) Let cool completely, then finely grind in a food processor. Set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until smooth and light, about one minute. Add almonds, egg yolk, and extract, and beat on medium speed until well combined. With mixer on low speed, gradually add flour mixture, beating until just combined to form a dough. Turn out onto a piece of plastic wrap; pat into a flattened disk. Wrap, and refrigerate until firm, at least one hour or overnight.
Reheat oven to 350 degrees. On a work surface that is lightly floured, roll out dough to the size of your tart pan, about 3/8 inch thick. Trim flush with edge of pan. Prick bottom of dough all over with a fork.
Place tart pan on a baking sheet; bake until crust starts to brown around the edges, 13 to 14 minutes. (Dough will be slightly puffed in spots.) Transfer to a wire rack. Using a metal spatula, gently press on dough until it is smooth and flat. Let cool completely.
For the vanilla bean pastry cream:
3 cups milk
Seeds scraped from one vanilla bean
8 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons butter, softened
Set up: In a pan combine the milk and vanilla bean seeds. Combine the yolks and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Sift the cornstarch onto a piece of wax or parchment paper.
Scald the milk, which basically means to bring it to a boil but don’t let it burn. Meanwhile, beat the yolks and sugar until they lighten in color. Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the cornstarch. Pour about 1/3 of the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking continuously to incorporate. Whisk the tempered egg mixture back into the remaining hot milk, and place the pot back on the heat. Cook on medium high heat, stirring constantly but gently with the whisk, until the mixture comes to the boil. Reduce heat and let it boil for about 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and gently whisk in the butter. Strain the pastry cream through a strainer into a bowl, place plastic wrap right down on the surface, and chill completely. This can be made up to 3 days ahead. It sounds like a lot of steps, but it’s easier than it sounds. If it all seems too daunting, just use instant pudding. It will still be delicious and beautiful.
Now, this is my little secret: a thin layer of chocolate! Melt 1/4 cup of milk chocolate chips with 1/2 tablespoon of milk in the microwave and pour a layer over the bottom of the cooled tart shell. Put in the fridge for about 10 minutes until the chocolate has reset. Pour the pastry cream over the chocolate. Decorate with your choice of sliced fruit in whatever pattern you want. Put in the fridge for one hour or overnight until the fruit has set in the filling.
Serve and get ready for the “oohs and ahhs” to come you way.
**Vanilla beans are kinda expensive ($10 or $12 for 2 beans!), but the flavor is ridiculous! I’m sure you could substitute vanilla extract which most people have on hand. I’ve heard one teaspoon of extract is the equivalent to one bean, but I’ve also heard that one teaspoon is the equivalent to only 1 inch of bean and vanilla beans are usually much longer than 1 inch, so you’d have to play around with the measurments.