Recipe of the Week: Strawberries & Cream Tart

By Cody Fitchett

This recipe is one that I’ll never forget. This was one of the four recipes that have changed my life forever. I made this tart at the SkillsUSA Virginia state baking competition back in April of this year. I finished first in the baking category and was honored to represent Virginia in the 50th national SkillsUSA competition.

This recipe is a simple one, as long as you follow it step by step. I hope this recipe gives you as much success as it has done for me.

Sweet Pastry Crust

Level of difficulty: Moderate
Yield: 8 -10 slices

1 ½ cups AP flour
1/8 tsp. salt
¼ cup sugar
1 egg (lightly beaten)
½ stick butter (room temp)

Pastry cream
2 cups milk
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
4 egg yolks
¼ cup cornstarch

1 container of fresh strawberries

Sweet Pastry Crust

In a separate bowl, whisk the flour with the salt. Place the butter in the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, and beat until soften, add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Gradually add the beaten egg, beating just until incorporated. Add the flour mixture all at once and mix just until it forms a ball. Flatten the pastry into a disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 15-30 minutes or just until firm.

Lightly butter and flour, or spray with a non-stick vegetable/flour cooking spray, an 8- or 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Once the pastry has chilled, evenly pat onto the bottom and up the sides of the tart pan. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F and place rack in center of oven. Lightly prick bottom of pastry crust with the tines of a fork (this will prevent the dough from puffing up as it bakes). Place tart pan on a larger baking pan and bake crust for 5 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F and continue to bake the crust for about 15 minutes or until crust is dry and lightly golden brown. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

Pastry cream
Place milk, ½ cup of the sugar, salt, and the vanilla in a medium sized pot and bring to a simmer, or until steam starts to rise from the top. Meanwhile in a medium sized bowl, mix together egg yolks, the remaining ½ cup of sugar and cornstarch until well blended.

Slowly pour 1/3 of the hot milk combination into the egg yolks and whisk constantly. (So you don’t end up with scrambled eggs) place the remaining hot milk back on the stove and bring to a medium high heat, add the egg yolks to the pot and stir slowly.

When the surface of the cream is bubble free and starts to thicken (3-6 minutes) bring to a boil and add the butter, whisk until smooth and pour into a medium sized bowl. Fill a lager bowl half way with ice to create an ice bath for the cream. Place the bowl of cream into the ice so it starts to cool down. Place plastic wrap directly on the cream, to prevent a skim from happening on the surface Let cool for 30-45 minuets

Assembling the tart
Grab a cutting board and start to cut the strawberries long ways (you should get 3-5 strips out of each strawberry). Once you have at least 40 strips of the fruit, put that to the side for later.

Make sure your crust and cream have cooled completely before doing the next steps.

Pour all of the pastry cream into the tart shell, and using a butter knife make an even layer on the bottom. Bring back the strawberries and start to fan them onto the tart, (starting with the outside first and making your way toward the center) .

Cody’s tip:
I always leave the biggest strawberry from the container and place in directly in the middle of the tart to act as a centerpiece for the whole dessert.

Cody Fitchett, of Fort Valley, is a recent graduate of Triplett Tech in Shenandoah County. He will start a four-year bachelor’s degree program in baking and pastry at the Culinary institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, in February. Email him at cookboy32@yahoo.com