I'm sure I'm pretty good at a lot of things, but I don't really think too much about it. I will, however, admit whole-heartedly that I am very good in the kitchen. I love to cook and bake and I am good at it. If I had to do it all over again, I would like to have gone to culinary arts school and be a great chef. Even now, as I watch shows like "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives" and hear stories of people who have no restaurant experience running a successful restaurant, I think "I could do that!" I daydream of recipes and what I would put on my menu. I'm waiting for the call for submissions for the next season of "Ultimate Recipe Showdown". I'm not sure if I would win or not, but I think it would be fun to try. Even if I didn't win, I think it would almost be enough just to hear Chef Michael Psilakis say he liked my dish. (Though the $25,000 would definitely come in handy).
Anyway, this year, like most years, it is my responsibility to bring dessert for Easter dinner at my parent's. I decided that a fruit tart sounded really good, so I poked around a few recipe sites and through my vast array of cookbooks. I couldn't really find one in particular that struck my fancy, so I took a bit from here and a bit from there and came up with what turned out to be a delicious looking treat. Due to multiple requests, here is what I came up with (my notes for putting it all together are at the bottom):
Tart Shell (http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/almond-tart-shell):
- 1/4 cup whole blanched almonds (about 1 1/4 ounces)
- 1 cup plus two teaspoons all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread the almonds in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet; toast in oven until light golden and fragrant, seven to 10 minutes. Let cool completely, then finely grind in a food processor. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until smooth and light, about one minute. Add almonds, egg yolk, and extract, and beat on medium speed until well combined. With mixer on low speed, gradually add flour mixture, beating until just combined to form a dough. Turn out onto a piece of plastic wrap; pat into a flattened rectangle. Wrap, and refrigerate until firm, at least one hour or overnight.
- Reheat oven to 350 degrees. On a work surface that is lightly floured, roll out dough to a six-by-16-inch rectangle, about 3/8 inch thick. Fit into a four-by-13-inch rectangular tart pan with a removable bottom. Trim flush with edge of pan. Prick bottom of dough all over with a fork. Chill until firm, about 15 minutes.
- Place tart pan on a baking sheet; bake until crust starts to brown around the edges, 13 to 14 minutes. (Dough will be slightly puffed in spots.) Transfer to a wire rack. Using a metal spatula, gently press on dough until it is smooth and flat. Let cool completely.
- 3 cups milk
- Seeds scraped from one vanilla bean
- 8 yolks
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 6 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons butter, softened
In a 3 quart saucepot combine the milk and vanilla bean seeds. Combine the yolks and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Sift the cornstarch onto a piece of wax or parchment paper.
Scald the milk. Meanwhile, beat the yolks and sugar until they lighten in color. Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the cornstarch. Pour about 1/3 of the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking continuously to incorporate. Whisk the tempered egg mixture back into the remaining hot milk, and place the pot back on the heat. Cook on medium high heat, stirring constantly but gently with the whisk, until the mixture comes to the boil. Reduce heat and let it boil for about 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and gently whisk in the butter. Strain the pastry cream into a bowl, place plastic wrap right down on the surface, and chill completely. This can be made up to 3 days ahead.
Melt 1/4 cup of milk chocolate chips with 1/2 tablespoon of milk in the microwave (or however you want to melt it) and pour a layer over the bottom of the cooled tart shell. Put in the fridge for about 10 minutes until the chocolate has reset. Pour the pastry cream over the chocolate. Decorate with your choice of sliced fruit in whatever pattern you want. Put in the fridge for one hour or overnight until the fruit has set in the filling.
*The tart shell recipe says to use a rectangle tart pan, but I used a 10" round one and it worked out just fine.
**Vanilla beans are kinda expensive ($10 or $12 for 2 beans!), but the flavor is ridiculous! I'm sure you could substitute vanilla extract which most people have on hand. I've heard one teaspoon of extract is the equivalent to one bean, but I've also heard that one teaspoon is the equivalent to only 1 inch of bean and vanilla beans are usually much longer than 1 inch, so you'd have to play around with the measurments.