Strawberry Tart with Chocolate Ganache, Creme Patissiere and a Port Wine Balsamico Glaze

16 Jul

Strawberry TartIts the end of exam time for Angel Kitten and Ezril, and I wanted to make them something that would be a celebration. I have a real thing for tarts (a natural affinity, shall we say), and strawberries are on my mind. The organic strawberries are just gorgeous – lush, ripe, juicy, and that glowing red that only strawberries can glow. So a strawberry tart it was, but I wanted to make it even more of a celebration. Each and every part of this tart had to be sublime. So I went with a crumbling sweet cookie crust, that is surprisingly easy to make, and, as long as you freeze it, easy to bake too! No pie weights and all that nonsense. Then, hidden between crust and creme, a lick of dark chocolate. This actually is very useful because it waterproofs the crust from the creme that goes on top. And the creme patissiere? Sweet, but not too sweet, studded with vanilla bean, creamy and yet not overwhelmingly so. Perfection. And then the stars of the show – red, ripe strawberries, glazed with a port wine balsamico reduction that just highlights their sweet-tart-juicy-tang.

For me, the key to this tart is there is a lot of resting and waiting. It seems like a lot of work, but it isnt really. The tart dough comes together in minutes, as do all the other components. The important thing is they all need to rest, cool, freeze, calm down and meld together before you go on with the next step. This is a tart to bake over the course of an afternoon (3 or 4 hours) when you have a good book to read, or a dvd to watch. Its fun because the sum is so much more than the parts – but the parts themselves are pretty delightful!

Crust

For a 10 inch pie plate, you will need:

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 9 tablespoons very cold butter
  • 1 large egg

In a large bowl, combine the flour, caster sugar and salt. Mix well and make sure there are no lumps. Take the butter out of the fridge, and grate into the flour mixture. I do this in two stages, grating about half, then putting the butter back in the fridge, then using my fingers to mix the grated butter into the flour, and then repeating. Once the butter has been mixed into the flour, it should look crumbly, almost like oatmeal. Make a well in the centre of the flour butter mixture, and in a separate small bowl, beat the egg lightly. Pour the egg into the well, and using your hands or a large spoon, lightly mix all together. As you turn the mixture upon itself, it should become a dough. Dont overmix. Dont knead. Just get it bound together as a dough. It will happen, I promise.

Centre your dough in your pie plate, and using floured fingers, gently roll out the dough to cover the entire pie plate. Make sure the dough is even, there are no bald spots, and that the dough comes up to over the edge of the plate. Prick with a fork all over, and freeze for at least half an hour or more.

While the dough is freezing, you can go on to do other things.

When youre about ready to bake the crust, preheat your oven to 190C.

Take the frozen dough out of the freezer and cover the dough with buttered tin foil, butter side down, pressing down quite strongly. Bake in the oven for about 20 – 25 minutes until lightly browned. Take out of the oven, remove the tin foil very gently. Put back into the oven to brown completely. You want a pretty dark brown crust, otherwise it will be flavourless and slightly doughy.

Once the crust has browned (about 5 minutes more), take out of the oven and leave to cool.

Chocolate Ganache

This is simple, easy and you can use it for many things – glazing a pie crust is but one life – you could drizzle it over vanilla ice cream, use it as a glaze for a cake, or even as the basis for a phenomenal hot chocolate. Im sure there are loads of other uses that you can imagine up.

  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup dark chocolate, in chunks

In a small saucepan, over low heat, combine cream and chocolate. As soon as the chocolate starts to melt, and the cream starts to bubble, take off the heat. Mix well, to ensure the chocolate melts into the cream and all is combined. Keep aside, and allow to cool.

Creme Patissiere

This is so yum. So easy, and so very subtle. I love the vanilla bean studded throughout, but if you dont have a vanilla bean, just use a couple tablespoons of vanilla extract. You can use this to for the basis of any cream fruit tart, and also to stuff eclairs. Simple and good.

  • 2 1/2 cups thick milk
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 – 6 tbsp caster sugar
  • 4 tbsp flour

By thick milk, I really mean milk that has been cut with a bit of cream to give it richness. You dont have to do this, you can definitely use just milk, but I prefer to add about half a cup of cream to 2 cups of milk in this recipe.

Pour the milk into a medium saucepan. Cut the vanilla bean in half, and using the tip of your knife or a small spoon, coax all the seeds out of the bean. Place both bean and seeds into the milk. Put over high heat, and allow the mixture to come just to the boil. Whisk to ensure that a skin doesnt form. Set aside, covered, to steep for about 15 minutes to half an hour.

Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks with the caster sugar until light yellow. By the way, the amount of caster sugar really just reflects how sweet you like your creme patissiere. If your strawberries are not that sweet, then use more sugar. Whisk in the flour. The mixture will become very thick and almost pudding-y.

Once the milk has come down to lukewarm, whisk about half a cup into the egg mixture, and then whisk this back into the remaining milk. Put saucepan over heat again, and cook until the creme just comes to the boil, about 5 minutes or so on medium heat. It must boil to become creme. It will get thicker as it cooks, just make sure you whisk constantly. Once the creme is to your consistency, pour into a bowl, and allow to cool, covered with a bit of greaseproof paper or plastic wrap. This will ensure no skin forms.

You can refrigerate the creme patissiere for up to two days. When you are ready to use it, fish out the vanilla bean stalks.

Port wine and balsamic glaze

  • 3/4 cup port wine
  • 3 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp very old balsamico

In a saucepan (just a note, I used the same saucepan for all these components! Just rewashed it over and over, saved on the cleanup!) combine the port wine, caster sugar and balsamico. Stir to ensure that the sugar has dissolved into the wine mixture. Over medium heat, boil the wine until it reduces by half and becomes very syrupy. It will eventually boil up – this is usually a clue that its reduced far enough. Pour into a heat proof bowl, and allow to cool.

Assembly

  • Baked and cooled tart shell
  • Chocolate ganache
  • Creme patissiere
  • 1lb/500 gm fresh strawberries (or more if you want), hulled, and sliced if you want or kept whole

You can assemble this pie up to 1 day before serving, but honestly, I think its better the day of serving, assembled a few hours before eating.

Using an icing spreader, or the back of a spoon, spread the chocolate ganache all over the cooled tart shell, including the sides. Use as much or as little of the ganache as you like. Any leftover can be used for a variety of delicious things! Place the chocolate covered tart shell in the fridge for at least half an hour to let the ganache solidify.

Once the ganache has hardened, take the tart out of the fridge, and spread the cooled creme patissiere over. Dont fill the pie right to the edge, as the strawberries will displace a bit of the creme.

YumArrange strawberries in a pretty pattern all over the creme patissiere, and brush them gently with the port wine glaze. Refrigerate for at least half an hour and up to a day.

Celebrate 🙂

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