Debbie Allen, Desserts, Pie

Classic French Berry Tart with Chocolate Shortbread Crust

2 pints fresh raspberries, blueberries, blackberries or strawberries, or an assortment of berries
1/3 cup red currant jelly mixed with 1 teaspoon water, for glazing
1-1/2 cups Pastry Cream (see below)
1-9 inch pie shell made from Chocolate Shortbread Crust (see below)

Pastry Cream
2 cups whole milk
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 large egg yolks
3-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted

In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil.

Meanwhile in a medium saucepan (without turning on the heat), whisk the yolks together with the sugar and cornstarch until thick and well blended. Still whisking, drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk — this will temper, or warm, the yolks so they won’t curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remainder of the milk.

Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously, constantly and thoroughly (making sure to get into the edges of the pot), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.

Whisk in the vanilla extract. Let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in the bits of butter, stirring until they are fully incorporated and the pastry cream is smooth and silky.

Scrape the cream into a bowl. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the cream to create an airtight seal and refrigerate the pastry cream until cold.

Chocolate Shortbread Crust
1-1/4 cups flour
1 stick plus l tablespoon (9 tablespoons) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg yolk

Put the flour, cocoa, confectioners’ sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in — you should have pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas.

Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses—about 10 seconds each—until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms dumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and very lightly and sparingly knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.

Butter a 9 inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and sides of the pan. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes.

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and press the foil, buttered side down, onto the crust. Place the tart pan onto a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust is puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Bake for another 8 minutes or until the crust is firm and golden brown. Transfer the tart pan to a rack and cool to room temperature before filling.

Assembling the Tart

Smooth the pastry cream by giving it a couple of strong turns with a whisk. Spoon enough of the pastry cream into the tart crust to come almost to the rim, then even the surface with a rubber spatula.

Carefully lay the fruit on the cream, arranging them in any pattern that pleases you. If you are using strawberries, either halve them from top to bottom or slice them.

Bring the jelly and the water to a boil in a microwave oven or on the stovetop. Working with a pastry brush or pastry feather, dab each berry with a spot of jelly.

Or, if you like, you can glaze the entire surface of the tart, including the bit of pastry cream that peeks through the berries.