Nothing says summertime quite like a fresh fruit tart. I take slices of berries, kiwis and apricots and arrange them on top of a sweet, custardy pastry cream, all encased by a tender shortbread tart crust. It’s a light dessert that looks so good, you won’t want to eat it.
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Prepare the tart crust:
8 tablespoons butter, cold
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 scant cups flour
1/8 tsp salt
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons heavy cream
In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse the butter and sugar together until combined. Add the flour and salt, pulse a few more times. Add the yolk and cream, pulse just until incorporated. The dough should be slightly crumbly (not wet) but should hold together when pinched.
[If you don't have a food processor, place the butter, sugar, flour and salt in a medium bowl and cut the butter into the dry ingredients with a pastry cutter or two knives. Combine the yolk and cream in a separate bowl, then add the yolk mixture to the sugar mixture.]
Turn the dough out into a 9 .5 by 1 inch tart pan and press into the pan with your palms, working the dough up the sides with your fingers and pressing it evenly around the rim. (The pad of your thumb should be on the dough, while the pad of your index finger should be on the outside of the pan as you work your way around it.) Trim any overhanging bits of dough with a knife. Watch out for “thin spots” around the edge of the dough, as they will burn easily.
Chill for 20 minutes while you preheat the oven to 325 F. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the crust is golden.
Prepare the pastry cream:
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups half-and-half
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon butter
In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and cornstarch, whisking until the cornstarch is completely absorbed. Whisk in 1/4 cup of the half-and-half
In a medium saucepan, combine the remaining half-and-half, sugar and salt and bring to a boil. Whisk 1/4 cup of the hot half-and-half mixture into the eggs, then pour all of the egg mixture back into the boiling half-and-half, whisking constantly. The mixture will become very thick. Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla and butter.
Transfer to a bowl and immediately press a piece of greased plastic wrap over the top of the cream to prevent a “skin” from forming.
Assemble the tart:
When the pastry cream and tart crust have cooled, spoon the cream into the crust and spread evenly with an offset spatula. Arrange slices of strawberries, kiwi, apricots, and whole berries on top of the cream in concentric circles, starting along the outer edge. Using evenly-sliced, similarly sized pieces of fruit will produce the most attractive results. Make sure your fruit is dry and unblemished.
When your design is complete, brush the fruit gently with melted apricot jelly. (Place 1/4 cup in the microwave in a small glass bowl, then brush on with a pastry brush. If all you’ve got is jam, strain it.)