Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Pastry Class: Fresh Fruit Tarts and Creme Brulee

In today's class, we made two classic desserts; fresh fruit tarts, and creme brulee. I love both of those.

The fresh fruit tart is a butter rich almond flavored crust, with a thin layer of white chocolate, vanilla pastry cream, and fresh fruit with an apricot glaze. The crust is blind baked. Blind baking is baking a crust without a filling.

Once cool, it is brushed with a thin layer of melted white chocolate. It makes a moisture resistant barrier, which keeps the pastry cream from making the crust soggy.

The tart is then filled about 2/3 full with the pastry cream. The pastry cream is essentially a thick vanilla pudding. We used vanilla beans to get the vanilla flavor.

Your choice of fresh fruit is then layered over the pastry cream in a decorative pattern. We had mango, orange, kiwi, blackberries, strawberries, and red grapes to work with. The fruit is then brushed with a layer of warm apricot glaze, which will prevent oxidation of the fruit. It also gives a shiny, glossy finish. Finally, the tart is dusted lightly with powdered sugar.

Creme brulee is a rich custard with a thin layer of caramelized sugar on top. I love creme brulee, as I do most puddings and custards. It has this reputation as an ultra chic dessert, but it is ridiculously easy to make. A little attention to detail, and a blowtorch, are all it takes to make creme brulee.

You make a custard base of dairy and egg yolk, bake it in a water bath, being careful not to over cook it. When cool, sprinkle with a little sugar, and carefully caramelize the sugar with a kitchen torch. That last step should not be done until just before serving. If let to sit for long, the sugar will draw in moisture, and get gooey on you.

As always, all recipes courtesy of Chef James Foran.


Almond Tart Shells

7 oz by wt. butter
2 1/2 oz by wt. powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg
1 egg yolk
11 oz by wt. all purpose flour
3.2 oz by wt. almond flour

Sift together flours, set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer using a paddle, cream together butter, sugar, and salt. When smooth, add egg, cream until Incorporated, then add egg yolk and cream. Add the sifted flours in two stages, scraping down bowl between stages. When dough is smooth, form into a flattened disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for one hour.

Once dough is chilled, work briefly with hands to soften.  On a well floured surface, roll out to 1/8 inch thick. Cut rounds large enough to line tart molds. Carefully press dough into molds. Freeze until firm.

Line shells with foil, and fill with dry beans or pie weights. Bake in a 350 F oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, remove foil and weights. Return to oven, bake another 5 minutes, or until; golden brown. Allow to cool.

Pastry Cream

16 oz by vol. cream
1/2 vanilla bean
1/8 tsp. salt
7 tsp. corn starch
3 Tbsp. pastry flour
4 1/2 oz by wt. sugar
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 3/4 oz by wt. butter

Sift together flour,corn starch, sugar, and salt. Whisk in eggs and yolks.

Cut vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Scrape vanilla bean, place scrapings and pod in milk. In a sauce pan over medium heat, bring milk and vanilla just to just below a simmer (scald).

Temper milk into egg mixture. Add tempered egg mixture to milk. Over medium low heat,  continuously whisk mixture until it thickens and has reached a boil when you stop whisking. Continue whisking and cook another 30 seconds.

Remove from heat, whisk butter. Strain, cover directly with plastic wrap, and chill.

Creme Brulee

12 oz by vol cream
6 oz by vol milk
2 1/4 oz by wt sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
7 egg yolks
pinch salt

3 tsp. sugar for topping

Cut vanilla bean in half lengthwise, and scrape. Combine cream, milk,  sugar, and vanilla in a pot over medium heat.  Bring to a scald, remove from heat, and let stand 5 minutes. Temper egg yolks with milk, then mix with cream mixture. Add salt.

Strain. Place 6 four ounce ramekins in a pan. Fill ramekins about 3/4 full with custard. Add hot water to pan, covering ramekins about 2/3 up the side. Cover pan tightly with aluminum foil.

Carefully transfer to the oven. Bake at 300 F 30 to 35 minutes. Custard is ready when it jiggles firmly.

Cool custards. When ready to serve, cover top of custard with a light coat of sugar. Use a kitchen torch to heat sugar until caramelized.

Happy Eating!

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