four-square strawberry tartlets

23 Jun

Proper French patisserie. It’s hard. Lots and lots of ingredients. Multiple steps and advance preparation. A correct spoon and bowl for everything. Whisks not appropriate here. Stir it like that, not like this. Many things to learn before I am allowed to improvise and adapt the way I do at home.

No strawberry juice? Use tropical flavour. No red food colouring? No big deal. Feeling like making tartlets instead of one big tart? OK. Tarts a little crumpled on one side? Cover it up with extra strawberry cream.

It is supposed to be traditional French tarte à la fraise multiplied by four: strawberry flavour in the pastry and the almond base, amped up with pink strawberry custard and fresh strawberry slices.

My tartlets were pretty damn good even so. I can only imagine with bright red pastry and a perfect rose of strawberry petals they would be a knockout.

Four-square strawberry tart

from Hugues Pouget’s recipemakes 28 mini tarts

Pastry:

150g butter, room temperature

20g icing sugar

40g ground almonds

1 egg

20g strawberry juice

250g flour

pinch of salt

couple of drops red food colouring

Almond paste:

80g butter, room temperature

80g sugar

40g single/whipping cream

120g ground almonds

40g strawberry juice

1 tbs lemon juice

1 tsp lemon zest

Strawberry custard:

500g strawberries

1 egg

90g caster sugar

35g cornflour

To finish:

at least 250g (up to 500g) strawberries to decorate

Make the pastry the night before: rub the butter into the sugar and flour with your fingertips to a breadcrumb-like texture. Add the ground almonds, egg, strawberry juice, salt and food colouring. Stir to combine and gently work into a ball. Flatten it into a disc, cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge overnight.

Make the almond paste: cream the butter and the sugar. Stir in the other ingredients, cover with cling film and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

The day of serving, make the custard: blend the strawberries to a smooth pulp. In a medium sized bowl, mix the egg, sugar and cornflour. In a medium sized saucepan, bring the strawberry pulp to a boil. Tip a third of hot strawberries into the egg/sugar mix and whisk furiously. Tip it all back into the saucepan and heat it on a low heat, still whisking. The liquid should gel and thicken without burning or becoming lumpy. Cook and whisk for 2 minutes then remove from the heat and leave to cool. Refrigerate for an hour.

Bake the tartlets: Preheat the oven to 180C. Roll out the dough very thinly and cut rounds with a large glass (a pint glass would do). Place the rounds in well greased cupcake trays and bake for 10-12 until just golden.

Add a teaspoon of almond paste to each tartlet and bake again for 7-10 minutes until the almond mixture is just set. Leave to cool.

Just before serving: dollop a generous spoon of strawberry custard on each tarlet and top with neatly sliced strawberries.

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