Wednesday, February 12, 2014

French Pastry Tarts

French Pastry Tarts

Ted and I spent a week house hunting in the Washington D.C. area, before we moved to the East coast.  We stayed in a great hotel in Dupont Circle, surrounded by embassies, wonderful architecture, historic row houses, fun places to shop and eat, not to mention all of the museums...the Capitol... the White House... etc. that the capitol city has to offer.  Every morning for breakfast we would pick up some amazing little fruit tarts at this great bakery around the corner, reminiscent of little bakeries in France.  They were my inspiration for creating these tarts.  I love how wholesome and rich the crust tastes with the wheat flour.  Paired with the pastry cream and fresh berries?   It’s just delicious.  Delicious and nutritious enough for breakfast as well as dessert?  In "life according to Andrea"... absolutely yes!   I like to make the pastry cream the day before I want to assemble these tarts.  
1 cup old fashioned oats
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup white flour
1½ cup powdered sugar
¾ cup cold butter, cut into bits
1 tablespoon canola oil
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract

In bowl of food processor place oats and pulse several times until fine.   Add remaining dry ingredients and pulse to mix.  Add butter and carefully toss.   Pulse a few times and add oil, vanilla and almond extract.  Mix until a dough almost forms.  Gather dough together and press into a 12-15 inch tart pan with removable bottom.  You can also use individual tart tins a few inches in diameter as well.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden brown. For individual tarts, reduce baking time a little.  Cool completely.  Make pastry cream.

Pastry cream:
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
2 cups milk
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in tablespoons

Prepare an ice-water bath in a large bowl.  In medium pot bring milk, ¼ cup sugar and vanilla to a low boil.  In bowl of electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine eggs, egg yolks and ½ cup sugar.  Beat on medium high speed until pale yellow and thick and creamy.  About 5 minutes.  Sift in cornstarch and beat for a minute until thoroughly combined.  Pour half of the hot milk into egg mixture and whisk until smooth.  Pour the egg mixture back into the pot of hot milk.  Whisk CONTINUOUSLY for 2-3 minutes on medium heat until mixture becomes thick and pudding like.  Do not walk away from the stove even for a minute!   Remove from heat and whisk in butter I tablespoon at a time until fully incorporated.  Transfer pastry cream to a medium large sized bowl that will fit in the ice bath.  Let pastry cream cool in ice bath.   Stir occasionally until completely cooled.  Cover surface of pastry cream with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for at least 1 ½ hour before filling crust.
                                            Optional fruits to top the tarts:
Fresh strawberries
Fresh raspberries
Fresh blueberries
Fresh kiwi, sliced
Fresh mandarin oranges, sectioned
Fresh pineapple cut into thin smaller slices

Pile fruit and berries on top of pastry cream and garnish with a little mint or basil leaves if desired.

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