Fruit Tarts

In regards to my limited skill as a baker – if I didn’t learn it from my mother I learned it from Pastry chef Elizabeth Prueitt and her husband, renowned baker Chad Robertson. They are both the co-owners of Tartine Bakery in San Francisco. They both trained in the Culinary Arts at the Baking and Pastry schools of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Elisabeth and her husband Chad traveled, trained and cooked in France and upon their return opened Bay Village Bakery in Point Reyes Station, California, which eventually turned into Tartine Bakery. Tartine Bakery has been rated in the Zagat Survey as Best Bakery and Best Breakfast in San Francisco. Elisabeth and Chad were nominees for the 2006 James Beard Outstanding Pastry Chefs, National award.

Many people have asked me to post my fruit tart recipe. The recipe that I use is from Tartine by Elisabeth and Chad. It follows. The pictures in this post are of my tarts, taken during my countless experiments.

I would like to note that although this recipe looks a bit daunting on paper it really isn’t. Just take it one step at a time, and have fun with it.

Fresh Fruit Tart

The fresh fruit tart, the most basic of bakery tarts-a sweet pastry shell filled with pastry cream and topped with seasonal fruit.

Fully baked and cooled sweet tart dough- recipe follows

Pastry cream, cold- recipe follows

2 to 4 cups of fruit, sliced or whole, depending on the type

3 Tbsp Apple jelly or apricot jam

Kitchen notes: Pick the ripest and most gorgeous fruit that you can find. It is best to use soft fruits that will easily give to the bite, such as peaches, certain tropical fruits, and berries, rather than crisp plums or apples. The fruits that make the most compelling looking tarts deliver variety in their shape, color, and texture. Finally one way to finish a berry tart beautifully when you don’t want to glaze it is to drizzle honey lightly from a spoon. The honey will pool into tiny beads and sit on the fruit like morning dewdrops, or dust with confectioners sugar.

Have a tart shell ready for filling. Spoon the pastry cream into the tart shell and smooth the surface with a rubber spatula. You may need all of the pastry cream. The amount you need will depend on the depth of the shell and how much fruit you are using. You don’t want to fill the shell to the top, as the weight of the fruit can cause the pastry cream to overflow the rim, making slicing difficult. The shell should be about three-fourths full. Top with the fruit.

Glaze the fruit is using cut fruit. In a small saucepan, warm the jelly or jam over low heat just until it is liquid to make a glaze, and then strain through a medium- mesh sieve if using jam. Brush the glaze over the fruit. The tart can be eaten right away, or you can store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. If it is kept longer than that, the filling will eventually make the pastry shell soft. Serve it cool.

Sweet Tart Dough

Yield four 9 – inch tart shells or twelve 4 – inch tartlet shells

This recipe is used for most of the tart shells made at Tartine in San Francisco. It is from a bakery in the south of France where Chad Robertson and his wife Elisabeth Prueitt worked. This is the same recipe that just about every cooking-school student learns in France, and what most pastry shops and restaurants use, with minor variations. Like so many recipes in baking, there are few secrets here. Rather it is in the individual baker’s touch that makes each product unique.


1 cup + 2 Tbsp Unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

1/4 tsp salt

2 Large eggs, at room temperature

3 1/2 cups All-purpose flour

Egg wash (optional)

1 large egg

A pinch of salt

This is also a dough that a baker would say “behaves well,” meaning that it can be rolled very thin, it is easy to handle, and it bakes beautifully, holding its shape without slumping down into the tart pan like some doughs do. It also may be rolled out multiple times without losing its quality. One trick that we employ at the bakery is to brush egg wash lightly on the bottom and sides of partially baked shells. This thin coating seals the shell, creating a barrier that will keep the crust crisp longer.

Kitchen notes: Eggs can be brought to room temperature quickly by placing the in a bowl and running lukewarm water over them for about 5 minutes. Any leftover dough can be used as a simple cookie dough. This dough keeps exceptionally well, so make some for use now and freeze the rest for future use (it will keep for up to 3 weeks), either in disks or in rolled out rounds. If you roll out all the rounds to freeze for future use place a sheet of parchment or waxed paper between them to prevent them from sticking to one another when you thaw them.

Use a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, sugar, and salt and mix on medium speed until smooth. Mix in 1 egg. Add the remaining egg and mix until smooth. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the flour all at once and mix on low speed just until incorporated.

On a lightly floured work surface, divide the dough into 4 equal balls and shape each ball into a disk 1/2 inch thick. Wrap well in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.

To line a tart pan, place a dough disk on a lightly floured surface and roll out 1/8 inch thick, rolling from the center toward the edge in all directions. Lift and rotate the dough a quarter turn after every few strokes, dusting underneath as necessary to discourage sticking, and work quickly to prevent the dough from becoming warm. Cut out a circle 2 inches larger than the pan. If the dough is still cool, carefully transfer the circle to the pan, easing it into the bottom and sides and then pressing gently int place. Do not stretch the dough, or the sides will shrink during baking. If the dough has become too soft to work with, put it in the refrigerator for a few minutes to firm up before transferring it to the pan. If the dough develops any tears, just patch with a little extra dough, pressing firmly to adhere. Trim the dough level with the top of the pan with a sharp knife. Place the pastry shell in the refrigerator or freezer until it is firm, about 15 minutes.

If you are making tartlet shells, roll out the dough in the same way, cut out circles according to the size of your pans, and line the pans. The rest of the dough, including the scrapes, can be frozen for future use.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Dock (make small holes in) the bottom of the tart shell or tartlet shells with a fork or the tip of a knife, making tiny holes 2 inches apart. Place in the oven and bake for 7 to 10 minutes for a partially baked large shell or 5 to 7 minutes for tartlet shells. The pastry should be lightly colored and look dry and opaque. Check the shell(s) during baking and rotate the pans if necessary for even color. If you want to brush the shell(s) with a glaze,  beat the egg with the salt in a small bowl. A minute or two before the desired color is reached, remove the shell(s) from the oven and lightly brush the bottom and sides with the glaze. Return the shell(s) to the oven and bake until the desired color is reached and the glaze is set.

For a fully baked shell, proceed as directed for a partially baked shell, but bake until golden brown, about 5 minutes longer.

Let cool completely on wire racks. The pastry shells will keep, well wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.

Pastry Cream- yields 2 1/2 cups

This recipe calls for whole eggs, which makes a lighter cream than some traditional French versions that call for only egg yolks. Ig you like a richer cream, use 4 yokes instead of the 2 whole eggs in this recipe.


2 cups Whole milk

1/2 vanilla bean

1/4 t salt

3 to 4 Tbsp of Cornstarch

1/2 + 1 Tbsp sugar

2 Large eggs

4 Tbsp Unsalted butter

Kitchen Notes:

While the milk is heating, the milk solids want to adhere to the bottom of the pan, so make sure to whisk or stir the milk well every now and again. If any burn spots appear on the bottom of the pan, they can flavor the entire batch of milk. Taste the milk if you see any spots and discard it if it has an acrid flavor. There is no rescuing burned milk. The biggest concern when making pastry cream is to keep the eggs from curdling. There is a fine line between when the pastry cream has cooked long enough to be properly thick and a moment later when it has cooked too long and the eggs have developed a grainy, curdled look. If the cream is only slightly grainy, use an immersion blender or a countertop blender, although this solution doesn’t always save the batch. Never use an aluminum pan for pastry cream. The yolks react with the metal and turn the cream gray. Have a lightly dampened kitchen towel on hand to help stabilize the bowl of eggs as you whisk the milk into it, freeing both of your hands for pouring and whisking.

Have a bowl ready for cooling the pastry cream with a fine- mesh sieve resting in the rim.

Pour the milk into a heavy saucepan. Split the vanilla bean half lengthwise and use the tip of a sharp knife to scrape the seeds from the pod halves into the milk. Add the salt, place over medium- high heat, and bring to just under a boil, stirring occasionally and making sure that the milk solids are not sticking to the bottom of the pan. The larger the batch, the more careful you need to be.

Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and sugar. Use the larger amount of cornstarch for a firmer pastry cream. Add the eggs and whisk until smooth.

When the milk is ready, slowly ladle about one-third of the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Pour the egg-milk mixture back into the hot milk and continue whisking over medium heat until the custard is as thick as lightly whipped cream, about 2 minutes. In order for the cornstarch to cook and thicken fully, the mixture must come just to the boiling point. You want to see a few slow bubbles. However, if the cream is allowed to boil vigorously, you will curdle the pastry cream. Remove from heat and immediately pour through the sieve into the bowl. (If the custard stays in the hot pot, it will continue to cook). Let cool for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to release the heat and prevent a skim from forming on top.

Cut the butter into 1 Tablespoon pieces. When the pastry cream is ready (it should be about 140 degrees F), whisk the butter into the pastry cream 1 tablespoon at a time, always whisking until smooth before adding the next tablespoon.

To cool the cream, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap directly onto the top of the cream (the plastic wrap prevents a skin from forming on the surface). To cool it very quickly, place it in a shallow dish and press plastic wrap on top. Be careful whisking the cream once it is cold. Over mixing will break down the starch and thin the cream. Pastry cream will keep, well covered, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.


One thought on “Fruit Tarts

  1. yay! Thanks for posting the recipe! I can’t wait to try it. Now, what type of tartlet pans should I purchase and where?

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