The perfect fruit tart recipe

Published June 15, 2010 1:01AM (EDT)


Tart shells

  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 ½  teaspoons sugar
  • 6 ounces (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, chilled
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 teaspoons water
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 ½ finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Pastry cream

  • 2 cups milk
  • ½ vanilla bean OR
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened butter


  • Amounts vary depending on the size of the tart or tarts you are making, your choice of fruit, and how generously you want to decorate your tart. Do not use any fruit that browns easily when cut (such as apples or pears), nor any that release huge amounts of juice when cut (such as oranges), nor those not sweet enough to be eaten alone (such as cranberries). Good choices include blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, pineapple and kiwis.


  • ½ cup apricot jam
  • 6 tablespoons water


Tart shells

  1. Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Cut the butter into small cubes, add to the flour, and rub the butter into the flour with your fingers until the mixture forms lumps the size of small peas.
  3. Combine the remaining ingredients in another bowl, then add them to the flour and butter mixture.
  4. Toss the mixture lightly until just combined. Pour the mixture onto a floured surface and knead lightly until everything is uniformly combined. Do not overwork.
  5. Shape the dough into a flat rectangle, wrap in plastic, and chill for at least half an hour before shaping.
  6. When the dough is chilled, divide it into portions to line your tart molds: Each portion should be enough to form an even ¼-inch layer on the bottom and sides of each mold; exact amounts will depend on the size of the molds. Roll out each portion to fit the mold; press firmly onto the bottom and sides of each mold. Put the dough-lined molds in the freezer to harden for at least half an hour before baking.
  7. Place the now-frozen tart shells in their molds on a baking sheet; prick the tart shells several times with a fork, and bake in a preheated 400 degree oven until lightly browned.
  8. Line the baked shells with chocolate. Lazy way: When the shells come out of the oven, immediately put into each enough chocolate chips to cover just under 2/3 of the bottom of each shell. When the chocolate has softened (about 3 minutes), spread it over the bottom and halfway up the sides of the shells with a small offset spatula. Fancy way: Wait until the shells have cooled completely. Then, melt the chocolate gently over a water bath; once the chocolate has completely melted, use a small offset spatula to spread into each shell just enough of the chocolate to coat the bottom and lower part of the sides completely. In either case, make sure the chocolate has completely cooled and hardened before adding the filling.
  9. In principle, the lazy method runs the risk of trapping steam in the shells, causing them to toughen. But the tart shells I've made this way have still turned out pleasantly flaky.

Pastry cream

  1. Put the milk and half the sugar into a small saucepan. Scrape the insides of the vanilla bean (if using) into the milk; add the scraped bean to the milk as well. Cook over medium heat until it steams.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, remaining sugar, corn starch and vanilla extract (if using).
  3. When milk is hot, pour a about ¼ cup into the egg mixture and whisk until combined. Gradually add the rest of the milk while whisking continuously.
  4. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and return to heat. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking continuously, until the mixture is thick and starts to bubble. Be mindful to hit the corners of the saucepan consistently when whisking; the mixture will start to thicken and cook there first.
  5. When the mixture is thick enough that the tracks of a whisk pulled through it stay in place, take it off the heat and pour it into a mixing bowl. Add the butter and whisk until the butter is fully melted and incorporated.
  6. Put the mixing bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and continue whisking until the mixture is cool. Store the finished pastry cream in a covered container until you're ready to assemble the tarts.


  1. Combine the jam and water in a small saucepan; whisk together over low heat until combined. Pass mixture through a strainer. Return the glaze to the saucepan and keep over low heat until ready to use.


  1. Using a pastry bag or a spoon, fill each tart shell with an even layer of pastry cream.
  2. Now the fun part: top the pastry cream with cut fruit or whole small berries in any decorative pattern you wish.
  3. Gently dab warm glaze over the fruit with a clean pastry brush.
  4. Enjoy the tarts, and serious bragging rights, as soon after assembly as possible. If not serving the tarts immediately, store them covered in the refrigerator.

By Felicia Lee

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