When we were in France for the Whitsun holiday, we spent probably more time than we should in delightful patisseries. I don't think we have anything quite like them in the UK. Yes, we have bakeries and cake shops but they are somehow don't really have anything the same as the beautiful desserts that the French put out on display in their patisseries. Some are so pretty you hardly dare damage them by sinking your teeth them; it seems such a shame. You can find yourself wonder too, how you will ever get them home without squashing them. But, they are, of course, carefully packed into pretty little boxes and tied up with ribbon and then handed over to you in such a way as you end up feeling that you have just been given a special gift rather than having made a purchase.
One of the hardest parts of any trip to a patisserie is deciding what to have when faced with these lovely choices. However, it quickly becomes clear that each of us has some sort of leaning towards a particular dessert. My husband often seeks out a tart aux citron or something else lemon flavoured. I'm more a choux pastry person myself. One daughter will always choose something chocolaty and the other will go for whatever has the biggest portion of fruit on it, such is her love for fruit. For her, strawberry tarts are a must.
Now that the strawberry harvest is upon us, I wondered about making my daughter a strawberry tart to rival the French ones she had enjoyed. The only thing is, the custard-like stuff that fills the tart (creme patisserie to give it its proper name), is something of a faff to make. The French like faff - have you ever read recipes for making croissants from scratch? Anyway, at this time of year, when the garden demands so much of my attention for fruit picking and that fruit needs dealing with too, I really don't have time for faff. So I decided to make a simpler version of a strawberry tart that could be whipped up easily from odds and ends whilst doing other things. I was, in fact, making a treacle tart anyway so used up the leftover shortcrust pastry for that making these little tartlets, and the not-quite-a-jar-full bit of strawberry jam leftover from yesterday proved used too.
So after dinner, I served up 3 beautiful strawberry tarts. They went down a treat so I asked my daughter how they compared to the French ones. They couldn't be compared, she said, because they were quite different but nonetheless delicious and definitely worth making again - soon! Given that they were so easy to make, I really don't mind making them again soon.
Strawberry Tarts (makes 3)
Shortcrust pastry - this can be made using plain flour, margarine and caster sugar. 8 oz flour, 4 oz margarine and 1 oz sugar will make enough pastry for one large tart and 3 little strawberry tart so you may wish to scale it down if only making the strawberry tarts.
2 fl oz double cream
1 tablespoon creme fraiche
1 teaspoon icing sugar
A few drops of vanilla extract
8-12 strawberries (depending on their size)
1 dessert spoon of strawberry jam
A dash of hot water
Preheat oven to 180°C, gas 4 and grease 3 small tart dishes. Roll out the pastry and cut to fit 3 dishes. Place greaseproof paper into each pastry case and weight down with rice or baking beans and blind bake the pastry for 10-15 minutes until cooked. Allow to cool completely. Mix together the cream, creme fraiche, icing sugar and vanilla and then whisk until nice and thick. Dollop the creamy mixture evenly between pastry cases then place in the fridge to chill for about half an hour. In the meantime, slice the strawberries. Put the jam into a bowl and add a little hot water to make it runny. Put the strawberries into the bowl with the jam and stir until they are coated. Spoon this mixture over the creamy mixture and then return the tarts to the fridge to chill again until ready to serve.