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Strawberry tartlets

(Sally Pasley Vargas for The Boston Globe)
June 15, 2011

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Makes 10

These dainty tartlets are worthy of a fine pastry shop. If you have trouble rolling the dough, do it between sheets of plastic wrap.

DOUGH

1 1/4 cups flour
6 tablespoons ( 3/4 stick) cold, unsalted butter, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
Flour (for rolling)

1. Have on hand 10 tartlet pans (3 inches wide, 1/2 inch deep), a 4-inch-round cutter, a large rimmed baking sheet, and beans or pie weights for baking. Cut 10 squares, each 4 inches, of parchment paper.

2. In a food processor, combine the flour, butter, sugar, and salt. Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the egg and pulse in short bursts until the mixture forms large clumps. On a floured counter, press the dough into a flat rectangle. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

3. Set the oven at 350 degrees. On a lightly floured counter, roll the dough into a rectangle about 10-by-12-inches. Set the dough on a baking sheet and freeze for 10 minutes. Use the cutter to cut the dough into six 4-inch circles. Gather the scraps together, reroll, and cut out 4 more circles. Line the tartlet pans with the pastry and set them on a baking sheet. Top each tart with a parchment square and fill with dried beans or pie weights.

4. Bake the pastry for 15 minutes. Lift off the parchment and beans. Continue baking for 15 minutes or until golden brown. (Total baking time is 30 minutes.) Let the pans cool on the baking sheet.

FILLING

1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Pinch of salt
1 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 egg plus 1 extra yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 pints or 1 1/2 quarts fresh strawberries, hulled
1/2 cup apricot jam
2 tablespoons water

1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, stir the sugar, butter, salt, and 3/4 cup of the milk until the butter melts. Remove from heat.

2. In a bowl, whisk the remaining 1/4 cup milk and cornstarch until smooth. Stir in the egg and egg yolk. Stirring constantly with the whisk, gradually add the hot milk mixture to the eggs. Return the custard to the saucepan.

3. Return to medium heat and cook, whisking constantly, until the custard thickens and boils. Whisk vigorously from time to time to prevent lumps from forming. Stir in the vanilla and transfer the custard to a bowl. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard. Refrigerate for 2 hours or until cold.

4. Spread 2 tablespoons of the pastry cream over the bottom of each shell. Set a whole strawberry, hulled ends down, upright in the centers. Cut the remaining strawberries in half lengthwise and place them around the central berries, angling the tops toward the center to cover the top of each tart.

5. In a small saucepan on medium heat, stir the jam and water until it melts to a pouring consistency. If it is lumpy, strain it. With a pastry brush, generously brush the tops of the berries with the glaze. Serve within 6 hours.

Sally Pasley Vargas