A week ago I went on vacation with my family to our favorite spot in South Carolina.  We had a truly wonderful trip and Andrew got to experience the ocean for the first time.  We had quite a large group along with us, and though the island had many options for dining out, most nights I made dinner for the whole crowd (10 people!)  This was a great arrangement for several reasons – one, I probably would have gone crazy not cooking for a week, two – it was a nice way for us to all reconnect at the end of the day, and three – it was much, much cheaper than eating out.  One of the evenings I made this dessert as a sweet end to our evening.  And oh, how sweet it was.  I’ve made fruit tarts before and they have always been good, but this was just incredible.  I have a basic recipe for tart dough that I use all the time, but since I normally make it in my stand mixer which was not available to me, I decided to give this version a try.  It was fabulous – great texture and deliciously sweet.  But the show-stopper was the pastry cream.  Oh.My.Gosh.  It was so so so amazing.  It took all of my will power to not just eat the whole batch and pretend that I had planned no dessert for that evening.  Combined with the beautiful fresh fruit, this was a wonderful light summer dessert and it was devoured in a matter of minutes. 

Cooking or baking in an unequipped kitchen can be quite difficult when you have become accustomed to the convenience and efficiency of certain appliances or gadgets.  Though trying, I think it can also be good to get back to the basics and remind yourself of alternate techniques (such as cutting together a pastry dough using a fork and knife rather than a food processor or mixer, separating eggs with the shell, etc.)  It can also remind you that even simple desserts such as a fruit tart can be just as elegant and scrumptious as something more complex.  This would be great with just about any combination of fruit, but I loved this particular variation because of the gorgeous colors.  Normally I glaze the fruit with a bit of jam as recommended, but I wasn’t going to buy a jar on vacation just for that, so I skipped it.  Wouldn’t change a thing about this, and definitely can’t wait to make it again!

Fresh Fruit Tart with Vanilla Pastry Cream
For the tart dough:
1 large egg yolk
1 tbsp. heavy cream
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
8 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

For the pastry cream:
2 cups half-and-half
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch salt
5 large egg yolks
3 tbsp. cornstarch
4 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the topping:
2 large kiwis, peeled, halved lengthwise and sliced
6-9 oz. raspberries
1/2-1 cup blueberries
Apple jelly, for glazing

To make the tart shell, whisk together the egg yolk, cream and vanilla in a small bowl; set aside.  Place the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor.  Process briefly to combine.  Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture; process to cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about fifteen 1-second pulses.  With the machine running, add the egg mixture and process until the dough just comes together, about 12 seconds.  Turn the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and press into a 6-inch dish.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 48 hours. 

Remove the dough from the refrigerator.  (If refrigerated for more than an hour, let stand at room temperature until malleable.)  Unwrap and roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to a 13-inch round.  Transfer the dough to a 9-inch tart pan.  Mold the dough to the sides of the tart pan and remove the excess off the top.  Set the dough-lined tart pan on a large plate and freeze for 30 minutes.  

Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to middle position.  Preheat the oven to 375° F.  Set the dough-lined tart pan on a baking sheet, press a 12-inch square of foil into the frozen shell and over the edge, and fill with pie weights.  Bake for 30 minutes, rotating halfway through the baking time.  Remove from the oven and carefully remove the foil and weights.  Continue to bake until deep golden brown, 5-8 minutes longer.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool. 

To make the pastry cream, heat the half-and-half, 6 tablespoons of the sugar, and the salt in a saucepan over medium-high heat until simmering, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.  Meanwhile, combine the egg yolks and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in a medium bowl and whisk until the sugar has begun to dissolve and the mixture is creamy, about 15 seconds.  Whisk in the cornstarch until combined and the mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 30 seconds.

When the half-and-half mixture has reached a simmer, slowly add it to the egg yolk mixture to temper, whisking constantly.  Return the mixture to the saucepan, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Return the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until a few bubbles burst on the surface and the mixture is thickened and glossy, about 30 seconds.  Off the heat, whisk in the butter and vanilla.  Strain the pastry cream through a  fine mesh sieve set over a medium bowl.  Press plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until cold and set, at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.

To assemble the tart, spread the cold pastry cream evenly over the bottom of the tart shell.  Arrange the fruit on top of the pastry cream as desired.  Heat the jelly in the microwave for 20-30 seconds, just until slightly melted and easy to stir.  Using a pastry brush, paint a light layer of jelly over the fresh fruit.  Serve.

Source: adapted from Baking Illustrated