Fresh strawberry tart
- First make the crème patissière (or pastry cream), so it can chill in the fridge before assembling the tart. Put 450ml of the milk in a small saucepan and put on the stove on a low heat.
- Score along the vanilla bean with a small sharp knife – then strip the vanilla seeds out with the back of the knife. Add the vanilla seeds (and bean) to the milk in the pan.
- Separate the 4 eggs, putting the yolks in a large heat-resistant mixing bowl (the whites are not needed).
- Add the caster sugar to the egg yolks and whisk together until the colour goes paler.
- Mix the cornflour with the remaining 50ml of milk in a small dish, ensuring no lumps.
- When the milk is hot, remove and discard the vanilla pod. Then pour the hot vanilla milk through a fine sieve into a heatproof jug.
- Slowly pour the hot vanilla milk into the mixing bowl with the egg yolks and sugar, stirring all the time.
- Immediately add the milk and cornflour mixture to the mixing bowl, and then pour the whole lot back into the saucepan which goes back on the heat on the stove.
- Bring the pastry cream mixture close to a boil, stirring continuously, and it will suddenly start to thicken. Don’t worry if the pastry cream suddenly goes lumpy – just remove from the heat for a moment and whisk quickly until the lumps disperse. Then return it to the heat.
- Continue to heat and stir for a minute or two until it is looking fairly thick. Then remove from the heat and stir in the butter pieces.
- Immediately pour the pastry cream in to a shallow bowl or tray and cover with clingfilm to prevent a skin forming.
- Allow to cool (you could sit the tray in a sink with a little cold water and ice under it) for 20-30 minutes before putting in the fridge to chill.
- To make the glaze for the fruit just put a tablespoon of apricot jam and 2 teaspoons of water in a small microwaveable dish, an heat for 2o seconds. Stir until the jam dissolves into the water. Put aside.
- Prepare the strawberries by cutting in halves or quarters (depending on their shape and size).
- Only start assembling the tart when the pastry cream is thoroughly chilled (at least an hour in the fridge). Use a spatula to transfer it to the pre-baked tart case.
- Pile the pastry cream slightly higher in the middle, rather than flat, as the finished tart will look better. Use the spatula to smooth the pastry cream around the case.
- Place the strawberry halves/quarters around the tart in whatever design you like.
- Use a pastry brush to brush the apricot jam glaze over the strawberry pieces – it makes the strawberries nice and glossy which makes the tart look really professional.
- Keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve – just removing 20 minutes beforehand to allow it to get to room temperature.
- You can use other fruit instead of strawberries, or a combination – kiwi slices work really well, and tinned peach slices are really colourful too.
- Of course, you can make your own sweet shortcrust pastry, or buy fresh pastry to roll and bake yourself, but it’s so much easier to buy a good quality pre-made one!
- Use leftover egg whites to make meringues, pavlova or macarons.