I made this tart specifically for a photo op. You see, every year my family has a Jamaica Party in which we all get together to have a good time and recreate experiences we’ve had on our vacations in Jamaica.
It all began when my brother and sister-in-law got married in Jamaica. We had a fabulous time (it was a week filled with good food, tropical drinks, and a special event – what more could you want?), and our families decided to get together six months later to recreate the experience.
One of our favorite desserts in Jamaica were the tartelettes, and I was given the task of making them for the first party. Since then, I’ve experimented with tartelettes, full-size tarts, whole wheat crusts, regular crusts, and pastry creams. (Amazingly, the crust with all whole wheat pastry flour is the favorite, but the dough is a bit difficult to work with). I ended up creating my own recipes for the crust and pastry cream, based on experimentation and what I thought ultimately tasted the best, yet wasn’t a complete pain to work with.
Last summer, I opted to make a full-size tart so I could have a little more creative leeway with when it came to arranging fruit. So I made the tart, carefully packed everything on ice (it was the middle of summer), and drove two hours to my parents for the party.
The tart didn’t survive the trip.
It looked like fruit soup in a shell. I was on the verge of tears and wanted to throw it away, but my mom wouldn’t let me. The tart may not have looked like a tart, but it would still taste delicious, so I just mixed everything up into a sort of tart-trifle. But I was still frustrated and on the verge of tears; I spent a lot of time on that tart, both with making several stops that morning to get the fruit I wanted, the planning of the arrangement and the packing, and the actual packing of the tart. And I admit, I wanted to hear someone say it looked nice. Shallow, I know, but there you have it.
Determined that everyone would know what the dessert looked like when it was still in my kitchen, I made another tart the following weekend, took pictures, and then promptly served the tart to a friend. I dug out the tart pictures from last summer because I figured this was the perfect time to put the recipe out there; we’re gearing up for summer and a bounty of fresh fruit, and to this day, I think tarts are one of the best ways to showcase summer berries in dessert form. And when summer is over, you can simply switch to apples and pears for autumn and winter tarts.
for the tart shell
3/4 c all-purpose flour
1/2 c whole wheat pastry flour
2 T sugar
1/2 tsp salt
8 T very cold unsalted butter, diced
1/4 c ice water (you may not need all of it)
for the pastry cream
1 1/2 c milk (2% or whole)
5 large eggs yolks, at room temperature
1/2 c sugar
2 T cornstarch
1 T flour
1 T pure vanilla extract
1 T butter
Apricot Jam or Jelly
1. For the tart shell, place flours, sugar and salt in a container and place in the freezer.
2. Begin the pastry cream. In a medium saucepan (3-4 qt), heat milk over medium heat, until just under the boiling point. The surface of the milk will appear to have a film, and the milk will appear to “move” under the film. At this state, the milk will be ready.
Meanwhile, beat egg yolks and sugar on medium speed about 4 minutes, or until eggs are very thick and drop in a ribbon from the raised beater. Switch to low speed and add cornstarch and flour. Beat on low and SLOWLY add the hot milk to the mixture. When the mixture is combined, pour back into saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for about 7 minutes. As the mixture starts to thicken, stir or whisk constantly for another minute or two until mixture is thick. Remove from heat. Add butter and vanilla and whisk until combined. Pour pastry cream through a sieve into a small mixing bowl. Cover with plastic wrap by placing the wrap directly on the pastry cream and refrigerate.
3. For the tart shell, place the flour-sugar mixture into a food processor with the S-blade. Give it a quick pulse to combine the flours, sugar, and salt. Add the butter and pulse about 6-8 times. You’ll want to see pieces of butter in the dough mixture, the size should be a bit larger than the size of peas (this will help you get a really flaky crust). Continue to pulse as you add the ice water through the feeder tube. Stop as the dough starts to come together but still remains a little crumbly. Dump the dough out onto a floured board and pat together into a disk, handling as little as possible so as not to melt the butter. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
4. To bake: Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place on a well-floured board. Roll out the dough and place over the tart pan. Carefully fit the dough in, being careful not to stretch it. Remove the excess by gently pressing the edge of the pan. Place the pan on a cookie sheet and place a piece of plastic wrap over the shell (don’t worry, the plastic will not melt) and cover with beans or pie weights. Bake for 10 minutes, remove the plastic wrap. Prick the pastry a few times with a fork, return to the oven for another 15 minutes. Cool and remove from pan.
5. In a small sauce pan, combine jam with just enough water to thin the jam a bit (about a teaspoon of water to a couple of spoonfuls of jam). To assemble, fill cooled tart shells with pastry cream and top with fresh fruit. Using a pastry brush, brush fruit with jam mixture.
Note: The recipes I’ve seen for pastry cream use either flour or cornstarch, but I wasn’t satisfied with either. When only using flour, I could actually taste the flour in the cream. When just using cornstarch, the mixture tasted better, but didn’t thicken the way I wanted it to. Using both gives the cream better flavor, and the thicker texture I wanted for this recipe.