Pastry – Pâte Sablée
250 grams plain flour
½ teaspoon salt
180 grams butter, diced and chilled
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
60 grams icing sugar
1½ cups milk
1 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 egg yolks
90 grams caster sugar
35 grams cornflour
2 tablespoons brandy – optional
¼ cup cream, whipped to soft peaks
selection of fresh fruit, (we used blueberries, kiwi fruit and tamarillos)
½ cup apricot jam
¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted
mint sprigs for garnish
15 brioche tins or other small tart tins
Pastry: Put the flour, salt and butter in a food processor and blend to coarse crumbs. Stir the egg, vanilla extract and icing sugar together and pour over the flour. Pulse until the dough just starts to come together.
Tip onto the bench and gently form into a disc. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm. Roll out on a lightly floured bench and line the tart tins. Place in the freezer for at least 15 minutes prior to baking.
Preheat the oven to 200°C.
Bake blind for 15 minutes then remove the baking paper and beans. Reduce the oven to 170°C and bake until the pastry is golden and cooked through. A lower temperature is required due to the high butter content in the pastry which can burn easily.
Crème Patissière: Put the milk into a saucepan. Halve the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds out with the point of a knife. Add the seeds and pod to the milk and slowly bring to just below boiling point.
Whisk the egg yolks, caster sugar and cornflour together. Remove the vanilla bean and slowly whisk in the hot milk then pour the whole mixture back into the saucepan. Place over a medium heat and stirring constantly, bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 2 minutes, stirring constantly, to cook out the cornflour. Stir in the brandy.
Tip into a bowl and cover the surface with a piece of plastic wrap. Cool and refrigerate until ready to use. Whisk the custard to loosen and fold in the cream. Heat the jam and press through a sieve to remove any bits of skin. Stir in 1-2 teaspoons of boiling water to thin down if necessary.
To assemble: Fill the tart cases with crème patissière and top with sliced fruit. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the fruit with the apricot glaze and scatter with the almonds and a sprig of mint. Glazing the fruit gives a glossy shine and prevents the fruit from discolouring.
The tarts can be topped with fresh berries or stone fruit in summer, roasted apples or pears in autumn, poached dried fruits or any good quality purchased preserved fruits.
Cook's Tip: To bake blind line a prepared pastry case with baking paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. The beans support the pastry as it cooks. Bake in a preheated 190°C - 200°C oven for up to 20 minutes before removing the paper and weights. The shell should now have taken form. Return the tart to the oven for the specified cooking time.
Baking beans are ceramic or metal ‘beads’ which can be re-used again and again. Available from cookware stores.