Strawberry-White Chocolate Tart

Whenever I think of my earlier childhood, I recall going to the local Asian bakery section in the Japanese supermarket and getting fruit tarts. Buttery pastry, silky, custard pastry cream, fresh fruit on top, a simple combination, but really delicious and addictive. With strawberry tarts in particular, they take what I love about fruit tarts, and places a strawberry shortcake spin on them! The contrast between tangy red fruit and a sweet custard is always a welcome part of 99.9% of any dessert, and definitely so in a fruit tart! I did put a couple of fun spins on this particular recipe that separate it from a typical strawberry tart: I used white balsamic vinegar to make a jam with the strawberries, just to keep them on the less-sweet side, and instead of using sugar in the pastry cream, I used white chocolate, to give that custard an even silkier mouthfeel, and instead of a simple chantilly, I did a yogurt chantilly, just to keep the dessert from being too cloyingly sweet or rich! I used some white strawberries as a garnish on top of the tarts, just to add a pleasant contrast between the white and red throughout the entire dessert.

With the components, we have pate sucre(sweet short crust pastry), a white balsamic-strawberry jam, white chocolate pastry cream, white balsamic glazed strawberries, and edible flowers. The fun thing about this pate sucre is that I used cold milk in the dough – the milk fat adds an extra layer of flavor to the baked dough that regular water does not, and it caramelizes beautifully to give the shell a nice golden brown color. A huge tip(which I did not follow but totally should have) when rolling out your dough is to leave about a centimeter of dough hanging up the sides of the tin when baking the tart shells – the pate sucre will contract as it bakes, and if you are not careful, you will end up with really small and shallow shells. which means less filling, and less fun. Not the end of the world if that happens, but if the mistake can be avoided, then why not, right? With the pastry cream, it is important to fully melt the white chocolate through it before attempting to strain the custard for lumps, or else you will end up with a custard that is not sweetened enough. I also glazed the fresh berries with a balsamic syrup, since we are halving the fruit, and if left unglazed, the fruit will dry out and potentially rot – the glaze helps preserve the fruit in that sense, while also adding some additional sweetness, hence the need for a yogurt cream to balance that out. Beyond those tips, the rest of this dessert is fairly straightforward and not too-overtly technical!

For the pate sucre:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, diced and kept cold
a pinch of salt
1/4 cup cold milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, butter, and salt until combined into a fine powder. Make a well in the center and pour in the milk and vanilla, mixing together until just combined. Refrigerate the dough for at least 10 minutes before rolling out on a floured surface to 1/8-inch thickness. Transfer into a 4-inch crumpet rounds that have been lined with butter and flour, pressing the dough against the sides of the tins to guarantee that they are shaped properly and remain a consistent thickness across the entire pan. Trim the excess dough and prick the dough with a fork. Then weigh the shells down with parchment and either baking weights, dried beans, or uncooked rice. Bake at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes. Then remove the parchment with the weights and bake for another 5 minutes.

For the white balsamic-strawberry jam:
2/3 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
2 tbsp granulated sugar
a pinch of salt
1 tbsp white balsamic vinegar

Cook everything in a pot on low heat, stirring occasionally, until the berries are completely softened(you should be able to mash them completely with a spoon or spatula!) and the liquid has been cooked out – the mixture should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Allow the mixture to cool down before time to assemble.

For the white chocolate pastry cream:
2 egg yolks
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup white chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup milk
a pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks with cornstarch and white chocolate. In a pot, heat up the milk with salt. Pour half of the milk into the egg mixture while whisking until that is combined. Then pour the yolk-milk mixture back into the pot and whisk the two mixtures together on low heat for 2-3 minutes – the pastry cream should cling to the sides of the whisk and the white chocolate should be fully dissolved. Take the mixture off the heat and whisk in the vanilla. Once both are incorporated into the pastry cream, pass the custard through a sieve to remove any lumps, and transfer to a bowl. Press the top surface of the pastry cream with cling wrap and allow the mixture to cool down before final assembly.

For the white balsamic strawberries:
2 tbsp granulated sugar
A pinch of salt
1 tsp white balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp water
1/2 cup fresh strawberries, hulled and halved

In a pot, heat up the sugar, salt, balsamic, and water until everything is dissolved together. Take off heat and allow that to cool down. Toss the berries in the syrup right before garnishing – this will guarantee that they will not dry out. I also used white strawberries as a garnish on top as well.

For the yogurt chantilly:
2 tbsp Greek yogurt
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp confectioner’s sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
a pinch of salt

Whip everything together to stiff peaks. Transfer to a piping bag. Keep chilled until time to assemble the tarts.

For assembly:
Edible flowers

Start by pouring the jam into the bottom of the tart shell, allowing it to fill each tart about halfway-full. Then pipe on top of that the pastry cream, spreading it in an even layer on top. Pipe on top the chantilly cream, garnishing the sides with the strawberry slices. Finish with edible flower petals.

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