Every June, my dear friend Allen hosts a Pride kick-off cocktail party with the famous last words, “just a small party this year”. Inevitably it turns into a full house with a bartender and enough food to feed a small village – always a fabulous start to the weekend’s celebration and a chance to see friends before scattering to different events.
Part of Allen’s generous spread will usually be a delicious rainbow-themed cake, taunting everyone who has religiously followed a Pride diet for months. I always felt bad for this little cake….like a child sitting in the corner, longingly waiting for someone to pay attention but alas, nothing. Then, as the temperature starts to creep (imagine it’s late June, in a house with at least 50 people and the AC is struggling to keep up) the buttercream icing would start to sweat, quiver and hang on for dear life. Poor thing.
So I thought I would shake it up this year and offered to make a lighter treat, pulling inspiration from Mother Nature’s rainbow with this fruit tart. Here I used raspberries, apricots, mango, kiwi, blueberries and blackberries nestled on a rich almond flavoured pastry cream – vanilla would have been my first choice, but I only had almond extract at the time, and it totally works. Try it with your favourite fruit combination, or whatever you love that’s in season – perfect for a special occasion or backyard BBQ.
TIP: Once assembled this tart is best served within 1 – 2 hours as the moisture from the fruit and pastry cream will soften the crust.
- 2 ½ cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch cubes and chilled
- ¼ cup ice water
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 2 large egg yolks
TIP: Wrapped well in plastic wrap and stored in a Ziploc bag, the dough can be stored in the refrigerator for 2 – 3 days or frozen for up to 1 month.
Almond Pastry Cream Filling
- 1 cup whole milk
- 5 tbsp sugar
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tsp almond extract
- 3 large egg yolks
- Assorted fresh fruit for garnish: raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, sliced kiwi, sliced apricots, sliced mango
- Whisk the flour and sugar together in a large mixing bowl. Using a hand-held pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse sand. You could also pulse everything together in a food processor.
- Combine the egg yolks in the ice water and mix lightly with a fork. Add to the flour and mix together quickly, just enough so the dough comes together. It’s OK if you see small pieces of butter showing through the dough. If the mixture looks a little dry at this point, add more ice water 1 tablespoon at a time until everything comes together (you should only need 2 – 3 additional tablespoons).
- Turn the mixture onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead the dough until it comes together to form a ball – about 1 – 2 minutes. Don’t over-mix or the dough will become tough.
- Flatten, shape into a round and in plastic wrap. Chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour, or pop it into the freezer for 20 – 30 minutes (be careful it doesn’t freeze solid)
- While the dough is chilling, move on to make the almond pastry cream for the tart filling.
Keeping everything super chilled – even the bowl, flour and sugar – will make for the flakiest pastry
Shaking the bowl once in a while will move larger pieces of butter to the surface
The texture should look like this, with pieces of butter the size of peas still visible
Make a well in the middle of the flour and butter mixture to hold the water and egg yolks
Work quickly with a fork to combine the dry and wet ingredients.
Turn out on a lightly floured surface – it should look sandy like this
Form into a ball and flatten into a round, then wrap and refrigerate
Almond Pastry Cream
- Combine milk and 4 tablespoons sugar in a medium saucepan over high heat, cook until almost boiling
- In a medium bowl or measuring cup, whisk together egg yolks, 1 tablespoon sugar and almond extract. Add cornstarch until well combined
- Pour the warm milk into the egg mixture in a slow stream while whisking constantly. This will gradually bring the eggs up in temperature without curdling them
- Add this mixture back to the saucepan and cook over medium, whisking constantly until it thickens, about 2 – 3 minutes
- With a spatula, push the thickened custard through a sieve over a medium bowl to get rid of any lumps. Stir in 1 tablespoon of melted butter until combined
- Cover with plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming; chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour
- While the pastry cream is cooling, move on to bake the tart shell
I like using a large measuring cup – it’s easier to pour the mixture back into the saucepan with a spout
Adding the almond extract at this stage helps the flavour develop as it warms up
Pour the hot milk into the eggs slowly to avoid curdling. If the eggs scramble, toss out the mixture and start again – there’s no way to recover
Straining will get rid of any lumps or bits of egg for a velvety texture
Voila, the finished custard
Once chilled, you don’t need to cover directly on the surface of the pastry cream. Transfer to an airtight container and store for 2 – 3 days
- Preheat oven to 375°F
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry dough into a circle, to about 1/8 inch thickness
- Roll the dough on the rolling pin and place into a 12-inch removable bottom tart pan. Gently press in the dough, reinforcing the sides. Roll the rolling pin over the edges of the pan to trim off the excess dough with a neat finish
- Dock the tart shell bottom with the tines of a fork and refrigerate for 30 minutes so the butter has a chance to set
- Cover the pastry with parchment paper and fill with dried beans or pastry weights, bake on a baking sheet for 40 minutes until the edges are golden brown
- Remove the beans and parchment and bake uncovered for another 8 – 10 minutes until the bottom of the tart shell is golden
- Cool completely on a wire rack before filling
- To assemble the tart, spread the chilled pastry cream evenly to the edges of the cooled pastry shell
- Arrange berries and sliced fruit in even rows, starting from the outside edge and working your way to the middle, one row per fruit to create a rainbow design
- To glaze the fruit for a professional finish, melt 5 tablespoons of apricot jam in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. With a pastry brush, gently brush a light coating onto the fruit
- Chill the finished tart before serving. For best results, serve the same day it’s made