Mini Fruit Tarts with Berries

I have always wanted to make these, I am very very excited to share and more so happy with my results.  The crème pâtissière is thick and sweet, alone I would say it’s almost too rich.  However with the sour and tart fruit it is a perfect balance.  The flakey pastry crust adds the texture it needs for the most amazing balance.  I would have to say for personal preference, the blueberries and raspberries had the best balance, but the strawberries made it decadent.  I would not omit them by any means.  These would make a beautiful addition to any summer gathering.   The crème pâtissière can be made days in advance, as well as the pastry crust.    Then assemble the day they are needed.

I don’t own mini tart pans so I used a cupcake tin, it actually worked out quite well, just cut 4″ rounds out of the pastry dough and fitted into the tin pan.  Filled with a tiny piece of parchment paper and pie weightes made cute little tarts.    So, don’t think you -must- have a tart pan it may make for a prettier presentation of course, but I was please with the results of the cupcake tin.   The crème pâtissière is from the amazing Julia Childs, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  The crust is my sweet crust adaptation from Williams Sonoma.

French Pastry Cream
Creme Patissiere

  • 2 cups hot milk
  • 2 tsp. Vanilla Paste or 1 Vanilla Bean
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp. Unsalted Butter, cut into cubes

Over medium heat in a small sauce pan bring the 2 cups of milk and vanilla to a boil (If using a vanilla bean, cut in half and scrape the beans out stir in the milk and add the whole bean pod in the milk as well). Place a 3 quart or larger sauce pan on the stove ready for use.

Place the egg yolks in a stand mixer, and with a wire whip gradually beat in the sugar. Continue beating for a 3-5 minutes until the mixture is thick, pale yellow, and it should form thick ribbons.

Beat in the flour until well combined.  Slowly on low speed, trickle in the milk in a thin slow stream.  Do not add the vanilla pod set aside for a moment. After the milk is added turn onto medium high speed and mix for 1 minute.

Pour the mixture into the 3 quart pan you previously had set on the stove, re-add the vanilla pod.   Turn to medium-high heat.   Slowly and  continuously whip with a wire whip, reaching all over bottom and sides of pan, until mixture thickens.   The mixture will get lumpy as it begins to thicken.  Keep whisking it and it will work the lumps out.   After a while you will notice the mixture start to decrease in volume down to a thick custard.  At this point turn it down to medium-low and keep mixing to work out any lumps.

Continue stirring for several minutes, anywhere from  5-10 minutes to cook the flour and thicken the cream. Be very careful about scorching cream in bottom of pan; be sure your pan is heavy, be sure to keep stirring, and do not use high heat, particularly after cream has reduced in volume and started to thicken.  It will be ready when the mixture is thick and heavy, but not so thick it resembles a roux.

Remove from heat and whisk in the butter.  Pour into a bowl, using a spatula to clean off sides of the pan to get all of the custard. Cover the bowl with cling film pressing it down lightly touching on top of the custard.  This will prevent it from creating a film from forming when refrigerated.   Will keep refrigerated for one week or frozen up to a month.

Sweet Pastry Crust

  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbs. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 8 Tbs. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 3 Tbs. very cold water

To make the dough by hand, in a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar and salt. Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour mixture until the texture is a small crumb, and slightly resembles coarse cornmeal. Add the water and mix with a fork just until the dough pulls together.   Transfer the dough to a work surface, shape into a ball and flatten into a disk.  Lightly flour the work surface, then flatten the disk with gentle taps of the rolling pin. Lift the dough and give it a quarter turn. Lightly dust the top of the dough or the rolling pin with flour as needed, then roll to the needed size.  Fit into pan(s), prick dough with fork and fit a piece parchment over the top of the dough enough to cover up over the sides.  Fill with pie weights (alternatively and cheeper, you can use dried beans as pie weights).  Refrigerate the dough until firm 15-20 minutes.  Preheat oven to 425°F.  Bake until golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack.  When cool enough to handle, remove the weights and parchment.  Fill as desired.
To make dough in a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, salt in the processor and pulse until combined.  Slowly add the butter and pulse until it forms a small crumb like coarse cornmeal.  Add the water and pulse until the dough starts to come together.  Turn onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a ball, and flatten into a disk. Lightly dust the top of the dough or the rolling pin with flour as needed, then roll to the needed size.   Fit into pan(s), prick dough with fork and fit a square of parchment over the top of the dough enough to cover up over the sides.  Fill with pie weights (alternatively and cheeper, you can use dried beans as pie weights).  Refrigerate the dough until firm 15-20 minutes.  Preheat oven to 425°F.  Bake until golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack.  When cool enough to handle, remove the weights and parchment.  Fill as desired.

Adapted: Pastry Cream:  Julia Childs MtAoFC, Pastry Crust: Williams Sonoma

Spinach Bacon Quiche

This is quickly be coming a favorite with us.  The crust is simple and quick, not as intimidating as I originally thought.  I mean, considering only 2 weeks ago I had never made a homemade pie crust.  I changed some things with the original recipe based on first attempt with the taste, texture and removed what I didn’t care for and added in what we do like, also what I had on hand.  Realizing I changed the recipe so much now that the only thing that is the same is the amount of bacon. This is honestly amazing tasting, the flavors are subtle yet right in your face.  The result was a nice light but rich quiche with a flaky crust that is irresistible.

Savory Pie Crust

  • 1 1/4 All Purpose Flour
  • 1 tbsp Sugar
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 8 tbsp Butter, unsalted cut into small pieces
  • 3-4 tbsp ice cold water

Put your oven on 400°.  Sift the dry ingredients together in a bowl.  Add in the butter and using a food processor or hand dough blender which is what I use.  Cut the butter into the dry until all the larger pieces are broken down.  You should have what looks like a small crumb strudel topping.  At this point add 2 tbsp of water, and keep adding water 1 tbsp at a time until it comes together, keep working it with the hand cutter don’t use your hands, it should form a ball.   Once it’s together.  Get a cookie sheet size of plastic wrap on your counter top and drop the dough ball into one half of the plastic wrap, cover with the other half and as it’s covered shape into 5″ round, do this very quickly!  The more you handle it with your warm hands the less flaky your crust will become.  Quickly wrap completely in plastic wrap and put into a zip-lock bag and put in the fridge until firm 20-30 min, or you can place in the freezer for use later.   Lightly flour your work space and put the dough down and flour the top, roll about 2″ wider then the size of the pie plate you are going to be cooking in.   Once you have it worked into your pie pan take a fork and make little pricks around the base and sides of the crust to prevent big bubbles from forming while baking.  Cut a piece of parchment paper 2″ wider then the pie pan and layer on top of your raw dough fill the inside of the parchment with pie weights, or dry rice or beans, if you do not have the weights.  Bake for 10 min with the weights, remove from oven and bake 10-15 more minutes until the center of the crust is a pale golden brown.  If you’re edges start to turn brown quickly wrap the edges in foil to prevent further browning while the base of the crust cooks.  Cool on a wire rack.


Quiche Filling

  • 4 Strips thick sliced bacon, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 stems of fresh Thyme
  • 1 stem of Rosemary
  • 2 tsp Herbs de Provence
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 1 leek, diced
  • 1/2 c dry white wine
  • 1 bundle fresh spinach, de-stemmed, washed, and chopped roughly
  • 1 c Gruyere, grated
  • 1/2 c Parmesan, grated
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 c half and half
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Turn your oven to 350°  In a hot pan, saute the bacon until brown and lightly crisp.  Drain out all but 2 tbsp of the oil, toss in the garlic,  Herbs de Provence  and whole herb stems (this is so they can be removed later why leave them on the stem) and lightly cook then add the shallots and leeks, cook until pale in color.  Add in the white wine, and when it comes to a simmer toss the spinach on top loosely and place a lid on the pan.  Do not stir just put the lid on, and leave for 3 min.  While your pan is steaming the spinach, in a blender or large glass with a stick blender mix the eggs and half and half until light and foamy looking.   Toss your Gruyere and Parmesan with the flour and set aside.  After  the 3 minutes is up take the lid off and toss around lightly at this point remove the stems of thyme and rosemary.   In your pie crust, pour your saute mix into the bottom of the crust and spread out evenly.  Sprinkle the cheese mix over the spinach mix  in a thin light layer.  Pour your egg mixture over as a third layer and carefully place in the oven.  Bake for 30-40 minutes, depends on the depth of the dish, just bake until the center is soft yet firm to the touch.   Cool for 15-20 min slice and serve!

Source: Crust: Williams-Sonoma