Last weekend Jeremy and I went to a marriage conference. It was nothing short of awesome. In fact, we were required to write each other a love letter. How cool is that? This weekend, starting, ahem, today (that's Wednesday folks) we are going to Denver for a really long weekend all by ourselves. I got a shellac manicure, four nights worth of dinner reservations, an appointment for high tea at the Brown Palace, shopping at Park Meadows with the necessary stop at the California Cafe for a tropical mojito mid-day...Oh yeah, and tickets to U2!!! I bought the tickets in February and had to pinch myself because going to see U2 in concert is one of those things I wish I could do year after year, and is also a bucket list item for many people including me, but not something I would necessarily plan. It's usually one of those "Oh, I'll see them someday". Only the problem with "someday" that is sometimes you put it off too long and it never ends up happening. I made it happen because I hate the thought of that. I am seriously beyond excited to see this concert, however, I find it a little strange that I think I'm looking more forward to spending alone time with my husband. You see, he is a very good husband and well, I got a very good love letter.
Kel took this amazing picture of us at the marriage conference
My husband loves Strawberry tarts. He used to work at a hotel in Vail back when he was a "ski-bum" who would later move to Steamboat and train for the US Ski Team (moguls) before blowing out his knee. Boo! Anywho, back at that hotel they used to serve Strawberry Tart and he remembers eating them a lot. I think theirs was just the tart shell and berries, no pastry cream, which was fine with Jeremy because his favorite thing in the world is a little doctored up pie crust. This was awesome for a guy who was on a steady diet of Fruit Loops at the time.
This strawberry tart, I'm happy to report is the real thing. Delicious and thick vanilla bean flecked pastry cream and all. Strawberry tart is a pleasant, unassuming dessert. All It's flavors blend easily into the others and you can be sure it's welcome on any dessert table. I love the fresh berries with the cream filling the most. It goes without saying that Jeremy's favorite part is the buttery crust. Opposites attract even with food preferences. I suppose that's what makes us such a good team.
Adapted from Bouchon, By Thomas Keller
makes 3 cups
2 cups milk
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, split
1/2 cup loosely packed cornstarch
1 large egg
4 large egg yolks
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and chilled
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or liqueur or your choice (I used amaretto)
2 quarts strawberries, rinsed, dried and hulled for topping
Combine 1 2/3 cups of the milk and 5 tablespoons of the granulated sugar in a medium saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add them to the pan along with the pod. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Meanwhile, whisk together the remaining 1/3 cup milk and the cornstarch in a small bowl.
Whisk together the egg, egg yolks, and the remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar in a medium bowl. Whisk about one-third of the hot milk into the egg mixture to temper it, then return the mixture to the saucepan and whisk over medium heat until the pastry cream comes to a simmer and thickens. The mixture will become lumpy, so whisk vigorously. When the mixture is very thick, remove from the heat and continue to whisk to break up any remaining lumps. Let the pastry cream cool for 2 to 3 minutes, whisking often, then whisk in the butter and the Grand Marnier.
Immediately pour the pastry cream into a baking dish and press a piece of plastic across the surface of the cream; let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate. (The pastry cream can be prepared up to 2 days in advance).
11 tablespoons (5 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons confectioners sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
8 ounces (scant 2 cups) all-purpose flour
Butter and flour for the tart pan
Combine the butter and confectioners sugar in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream until smooth. Mix in the egg. Add the salt, then gradually add the flour and mix until the dough comes together. Remove the dough from the mixer and shape into a disk. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before rolling. Butter and flour a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Flour a pastry board or other work surface. Roll the dough into an 11-to-12 inch circle about 1/4 inch thick, flouring the dough and board as necessary to keep it from sticking. Roll up the dough around the rolling pin and unroll it into the tart pan. Gently lift the edges to ease the dough into the corners of the pan, then push down gently to be certain the dough around the sides is 1/4 inch thick. Use a pairing knife to cut excess dough from the rim of the pan. If there are any holes, cracks, or thin spots in the sides of the crust, pat a bit of the dough scraps over them to create an even thickness.
Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Line the tart shell with parchment paper or aluminum foil and fill with dry beans or pie weights. Do not push down on the beans or they may damage the dough. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the crust is a light golden brown. Do not rush the process--if the weights are removed too early, the sides of the crust will shrink. Remove the parchment and beans and bake the crust for another 10-15 minutes, or until it is an even rich golden brown and the bottom is thoroughly cooked. Place on a cooling rack and cool completely.
To serve: No more than 4 hours before serving, transfer the pastry cream to a medium bowl. Remove and discard the vanilla bean. Whisk the cream to loosen it slightly; do not over whip or it may thin out too much. The pastry cream can be piped, using a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip or spooned into the shell.
Fill the shell about two-thirds full (the level will rise when you add the berries). Smooth the surface with an offset spatula. There may be a little extra pastry cream. Heap the berries on top of the tart. Refrigerate until ready to serve.