Easy Berry Tart

There are two reasons this tart is so easy. First, the crust – made from frozen, all-butter puff pastry. Second the fruit: If you use blackberries, blueberries and raspberries – or any combination of them – no cutting, stemming or pitting is required. (Strawberries are great too, either on their own or included in the mix, but you will have to stem and halve, quarter or slice them.) For the mixed-berry tart shown, I used a small (6-ounce) box each of raspberries and blackberries and a large (pint) box of blueberries. It's ideal for entertaining, as you can make the pastry cream one to four days in advance and put the tart together in a jiff.

Dufour Classic Puff Pastry, available at well stocked supermarkets, works well for this recipe; the 14-ounce box contains one (folded) rectangular sheet. Trader Joe's also makes a very good – and much less expensive – all-butter frozen puff pastry but it is only available during the last quarter of the year, though the holidays. The Trader Joe's 18-ounce box contains two (rolled) rectangular sheets which are much smaller, so if you use one of those, you'll use a little more than half the berries.

I have found that the Dufour pastry puffs up enormously when it's baked, even if you prick it all over. Don't be alarmed if it's super high – even in the middle. Because you'll have scored the dough, you can gently press it down before spreading on the pastry cream.

Let the puff pastry defrost overnight in the fridge. In a pinch, you can also defrost it at room temperature, but keep an eye on it -- you want to make sure the dough is pliable but still chilled. If you want to make a smaller tart, cut the pastry in half and use half the berries, but you'll need to make the entire recipe of pastry cream; just save the remainder for another use (it keeps up to four days in the fridge). When you're ready to use it, just give it a few turns with a whisk to loosen it up.

Serves 8 to 12. 

Ingredients

1 box (14 ounces) frozen puff pastry, defrosted

Flour for dusting

Egg wash: 1 egg beaten with a teaspoon of water (optional)

20 ounces mixed blackberries, raspberries and blueberries

2 teaspoons orange liqueur (such as Grand Marnier or Cointreau)

1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups pastry cream (recipe below)

2 tablespoons red currant jelly

Instructions

1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Lightly flour a cutting board or pastry board, unfold the pastry onto the board and roll out the pastry gently so it is about an inch longer and wider than it was when it came out of the package. Transfer it to the baking sheet, then use a paring knife to score a line (without cutting all the way through) all the way around the perimeter about 3/4 inch from the edge. Use a fork to prick the inside of the rectangle all over. If you want nice glossy edges, use a pastry brush to paint the outside edge with egg wash. Bake 22 to 25 minutes, until the pastry is deep golden-brown. Remove from the oven and let cool.

2. Rinse the berries, put them in a medium bowl with the orange liqueur and toss gently to combine.

3. Give the pastry cream a few passes with a whisk or fork to loosen it, if necessary. If the pastry has puffed so the center is as tall or taller than the edges, gently press it down in the center, all the way to the scored edge. You may need to score with a knife once more in order to do this. Spread the pastry cream evenly inside the scored line. 

4. Spread the berries evenly over the pastry cream. Melt the red currant jelly in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, and brush it gently on top of the berries.

 

Variation: Strawberry tart

To make a strawberry tart, stem and slice strawberries and arrange them in overlapping layers on the pastry cream instead of mixed berries. Omit the red currant jelly glaze; dust the edges with powdered sugar, if desired.

 

 

 

 

 

Pastry Cream

This recipe makes about 2 1/2 cups, which is enough for a regular-size tart (recipe above) plus a smaller tart. 

Ingredients

1 whole egg plus 3 egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

2 cups whole milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

1. Place the egg, egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch in a medium bowl and whisk them together until the mixture is smooth. 

2. In a medium saucepan, bring the milk to a simmer over medium heat, then stir in the vanilla. Stir about half of the milk into the egg mixture, then pour the egg-and-milk mixture into the saucepan with the rest of the warm milk. Heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, over medium heat until it just comes to a boil and starts to thicken, which will happen very suddenly. Be sure, when you're stirring, to reach the corners of the pot. As soon as the mixture is thick, transfer it to a bowl. Cover it with a piece of parchment, pushing the parchment down to touch the surface, so it doesn't form a skin. Refrigerate until cool. (Some people use plastic wrap to do this, but I worry that it leaches plastic into the hot food. I know, I should never eat anything that's been cooked sous-vide!) The pastry cream keeps, refrigerated, up to four days. Give it a few passes with a whisk to loosen it up before using.