Just a quick post today. My poor blog has been neglected lately but with good reason – I’m in the process of writing my honours thesis which is due in exactly 3 weeks! What with all the statistics analysis and writing everything up for my supervisor, it’s been a hectic two weeks and I can only imagine it wil only get worse until October 13th when it will all be over. Luckily thanks to a few people I have plenty of fun things lined up for after I finish which gives me something to look forward to while I’m staring at a screen full of words for hours on end.
Sometimes when life gets crazy busy it makes me appreciate the simple things in life, like this strawberry tart. There’s no fancy brulee and no fancy decorating. It’s just pastry, creme patissiere and strawberries, with a light dusting of icing sugar. No more, no less.
And while it may not have the delicacy of a macaron, or the richness of a chocolate brownie, it tastes just as good, if not better. I can say with certainty that it tastes a thousand times better than thesis-writing.
For the sweet shortcrust pastry
225g plain flour
2 tbsp icing sugar
125g cold butter, cut into small cubes
3 tbsp cold water
For the creme patissiere
250ml full cream milk
22.5g corn flour
62.5g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod or 1 tsp vanilla extract
3 egg yolks
25g butter, softened
1 x 250g punnet strawberries
icing sugar, for dusting
1. Make the creme patissiere. Whisk the milk, cornflour and 30g of the sugar in a heavy based pan. Split the vanilla pod in half lengthways and add the seeds and the pod to the pan or add vanilla extract. Bring to the boil, whisking constantly.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks and remaining sugar. Pour the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture in a thin stream, whisking constantly. Transfer the mixture back to the pan and ring just to the boil while whisking, then immediately remove from the heat. Allow to cool a little, then add the butter in small cubes, whisking briskly until they have melted and the creme patissiere is smooth and shiny. Set aside to cool and place in the refrigerator until ready to use.
3. Make the shortcrust pastry. Put the flour, sugar and butter into a food processor and pulse until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. With the motor running, add water until the dough comes into a ball. Turn onto a work surface and bring together. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. When you are ready to roll it out, remove from the refrigerator, turn onto a lightly floured work surface and roll out to fit your tart tin (about 3mm thickness). Line the tins with pastry, trimming away any excess.
4. Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Place lined tins into the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Remove, cover with baking paper and fill with baking weights or uncooked rice. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove paper and weights and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the base is dry and the pastry turning golden. Place on a wire rack to cool.
5. To assemble, fill the pastry cases with creme patissiere. Place one whole strawberry in the middle and arrange four strawberry halves around the centre strawberry. Dust with icing sugar, and serve.