To my mind one of the most perfect summer tarts is made with strawberries, crème pâtissière and crisp buttery sweet pastry. Soho’s best pastry shop, Maison Bertaux, make individual ones, and I have served the dish at Frith Street on many occasions, but there is one drawback to making it at home: ‘blind baking’. Never has a culinary term been so accurate. The raw pastry shell is lined with foil or greaseproof paper and then filled with dried beans, which is then baked until the pastry has cooked. Unfortunately the cook has little idea what is going on under the beans and paper and often receives an unpleasant surprise when the results are exposed. ‘Blind baking’ is best left to professional pastry cooks; instead try this variation on strawberry shortbread. The pastry and cream must be prepared in advance or the assembly might be
Remove the pastry from the fridge and preheat the
From the cylinder of pastry slice 8 circles about
On four plates, place a tiny dollop of the cream in the centre. Place a pastry circle on each then put a heaped tbsp of the cream in the centre of each disc. Surround this little pinnacle of cream with strawberries. Place another pastry disc on top of each and dust lightly with icing sugar. More strawberries can be used as garnish if you wish.
If you substitute Chantilly cream for crème pâtissière, your work load will be reduced. Another fun variation is to replace the cream with vanilla ice-cream, though you will have to work quickly on the assembly line. Other summer berries can be substituted to good effect, particularly raspberries, or possibly best of all, a selection of summer fruit.
© 1999 Alastair Little. All rights reserved.