Saturday, February 28, 2015

Recipe: Fresh Fruit Tart

If you don't know that much about Vietnam and its history, it might surprise you to find that it is full of bakeries selling delicious bread, cakes and pastries. However Vietnam was a French colony for around 100 years and it left them with an amazing legacy of baking. It is really no surprise that just about every shopping strip in Australia has a "Saigon Hot Bake" as a legacy of Vietnam war refugees.

During our recent trip to Vietnam we enjoyed plenty of this French influenced baking. From the amazing banh mi sandwiches, to all sorts of cakes and pastries. The Cargo Club where I discovered the delicious crispy pork belly salad also has a fantastic patisserie attached and we found ourselves there nearly every morning.

Everything we had was delicious, but S fell particularly in love with their mango tart. So much so that when it came time for him to request a birthday cake he asked me to recreate it. The Cargo Club version is small individual tarts which were a bit fussy for me, so I make it as one large tart. Mango is excellent on the tart, but you can use any fresh fruit. Most recently I've made it with plums and nectarines and the gorgeous raspberries that are in season right now would be particularly nice.

This is a reasonably complicated recipe and it takes time. You need to allow the pastry to rest, the creme patissiere to cool and assembling it prettily isn't quick. You could shortcut by making the pastry in a food processor, but personally I love hand-making pastry. I find the process of rubbing the butter into the flour and kneading the dough almost like meditating. So basically you will need to allow a couple of hours to make this, although a good chunk of that time is just letting things cool.

However the end result of that work is pretty spectacular looking and even better tasting!

Fresh Fruit Tart
250g plain flour
150g unsalted butter, room temperature cut into cubes
2tbsp cater sugar
1 egg yolk

Creme Patissiere
600ml milk
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
6 egg yolks
125g caster sugar
60g corn flour

Fresh fruit of your choice

For the pastry case
Combine the flour, butter and caster sugar in a bowl and rub between your fingers till the butter is evenly distributed and the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Mix the egg yolk through and add the water, a tablespoon at a time till the mixture comes together. Kneed the pastry lightly on the bench till it is a smooth ball with no cracks. Shape into a disc, wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for around 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180oC, and grease fluted tart tin* with a loose base. Roll the pastry out between two sheets of baking paper till 2-3mm thick, then carefully line the tin and trim any excess. The pastry is quite soft so if it tears (or you put it in a bit lopsided like I often do) you can use the excess to patch any holes.

Line the pastry case with baking paper and fill with pastry weights. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the baking paper and weights and bake for a further 10 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool in the tin completely.

For the Creme Patissiere
Place 500ml milk and the vanilla pod (I like to scrape a few seeds out and put them in the milk too) in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Meanwhile whisk egg yolks and sugar together. Add the cornflour and remaining 100ml milk to the eggs and continue to whisk until combined.

Pour the hot milk into the egg mixture (remove the vanilla bean, you can use it to make vanilla sugar) and whisk to combine, then return this to a clean saucepan (just give it a quick wipe out with paper towel). Place back on a medium/high heat, whisking continuously. When pastry cream begins to bubble and thicken remove from heat and transfer back to the mixing bowl.  You need to watch it carefully, it will seem very runny for ages then all of a sudden will boil and thicken.

Cover with cling wrap with the wrap touching the creme patissiere to form a seal. Place in fridge and allow to cool (approx 1 hour).

To Assemble
Remove the pastry case from the tart tin and place on your serving dish. Fill with the creme patissiere (if it is completely cold give it a quick stir to loosen it up) and decorate with fresh fruit.

It is best on the day it is made but will keep in the fridge for a couple of days.

*Note: My tart tin is 25cm in diameter and 4cm deep. If you use a smaller tin, you may have excess creme patissiere. My recommendation is to not quite fill your pastry case to the top, leave a little gap to help hold the fruit in place.

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