Saturday, March 15, 2014

mini blueberry tarts

If you are not reading this on President's Day, please omit the first four sentences, not including this one. Well President's Day is here again. How many of you know why we have that holiday? And you call yourself an American.* Well it doesn't really matter why we celebrate it as to what we'll be doing with it, and you know what I'll be doing, eating Blueberry Tarts. It's true, these tarts are a labor of love. First you have to make a crust, then pastry cream, and then macerate blueberries, it's a lot of work. But it's so worth it. The combination of buttery crust, smooth thick cream and sweet berries, I don't think there is a better pie/tart filling combination. Well tied with bananas and cream and cookies and cream but they're all close firsts. Anyways, besides being super tasty, these aren't half bad to look at either. So I hope you guys check this one out, scroll down so you can learn how to be the envy at this year's President's Day party. Just a reminder, all of the ingredients for this and all my other chow-fections can be found at the bottom of the posts. :)

Pate Sucree

Pate Sucree is just a fancy way to say we're making a sweet pastry dough. Pate meaning paste, and sucree meaning sweet. The more you know, or should I say chow. 

Anyways, to begin we're going to pulse together flour, sugar, and salt in a large food processor. This way we don't have to waste another step sifting. You know how much I hate sifting. Using COLD, ice cold, frozen butter, pulse on and off until most of the flour has disappeared and course pea sized pieces begin to form. Add in an egg and pulse in long strides.

You don't want the butter to start to melt. Dump the crumbs onto a square of plastic wrap and pack it into a disc. If some of the flour is still visible just lightly knead the dough out. Chill the disc for a minimum of two hours but I left mine in the fridge over night.

Now it's time to prep the baking pan. I know a lot of you do not have this particular tart mold, in fact I don't even think this is a tart mold, maybe it's meant for mini banana breads, whatever. I'm using it for tarts, but if you have a pan that you want to use feel free, the recipe is the same from here on. Take aluminum foil and fold it so that it comfortably fits the bottom of the pan. You're basically making a sleeve that allows you to easily lift the tart shell out of the pan after it's baked. I call this technique the Pastry Quicker Picker Upper™. So clever. Spray with non-stick and set aside.

 I'm gonna take my dough disc and divide it into eighths (cause I have eight molds). While you're rolling out one of the crusts try to leave the rest in the freezer or the fridge cause you don't want anything to melt too much. Flour a clean work surface (I thought I had to say clean. You know some people just aren't that keen.) and roll it out to 1/4 of an inch thick, that's about the width of a pencil, a little thinner than that. Don't worry if something rips while you're fitting the dough into the mold, you can just patch it up with scraps. When everything is firmly pressed against all the sides and corners, take a knife and cut away the excess hanging over the sides. If you have a large enough freezer I suggest putting the entire mold into it just to keep them cold while you continue with the rest of the batch. It's cumbersome I know, but that's the price for deliciousness. 

Keep Going You're So Close

When all is said and done it's not, because you still need to freeze the tarts for at least 30 minutes, an hour would be even better, before you can bake them. 

In the meantime take aluminum foil (again I'm not sure what other foils you can find in the stores) and lubricate it well with butter. When the tarts are ready to go into the oven, tightly fit the foil, buttered side down against the crust. This will prevent any major browning and allow the crust to fully cook without getting too dark. 

Bake at 375 on the middle rack of your oven for 20 minutos. After 20 minutes remove the foil and slide it back in for another ten. At this point you want to just watch it. Do not worry if the sides get too dark. What you really want to see is the bottom to be golden because a pale crust is a flavorless one. Let them cool for a minute and using your Pastry Quicker Picker Upper™ sleeves, transfer to a wire rack. 

Pastry Cream

Now let's talk fillings. Pastry Cream is one of those classic French things that any pastry or dessert chef should know. And rightfully so cause it's "snap your fingers" easy to make. 

Take milk and vanilla and heat it on medium over a saucepan. Vanilla bean would be ideal but since those are expensive and the donations have been pretty slow this month I'm just going to use vanilla extract. Heat it just until it reaches a roiling boil and take it off. In a separate bowl whisk together egg yolks and sugar. Next sift in equal measurements of cornstarch and flour. Whisk till smooth and wait till your milk boils. Next comes the tempering of the eggs. This just means you want to slowly incorporate the hot stuff into the eggs while whisking. Drizzle in a little milk and whisk. A little more and whisk. A little more and whisk. Until the eggs are about the same temperature as the milk, then you can just dump the whole thing in. If it wasn't clear enough, you have to whisk all the time. You don't want the eggs to scramble. 

Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook, while whisking, until the mixture begins to boil. At the second it begins to boil an amazing thing will happen. The cornstarch and flour will do it's magic and the cream will thicken up oh so beautifully. When this happens you want to continue to cook it for another 30 seconds. Whisk, whisk, whisk! You don't want the bottom to burn. Another danger you can have is over cooking it. If the cream gets too thick, when it cools it'll be so thick you won't be able to spread it into your tarts. A Chef Chow tip to you. When something cools it gets stiffer. You should always remember this if your final product should be eaten room temp or cold. 

 Using proper plastic wrapping technique, which is pressing the plastic to the surface of the cream so it doesn't form a skin, refrigerate until cold. Now I'm one of those guys who admittedly likes the crust on a tart more than the stuff inside, but this pastry cream is definitely doing something right. It's not overly sweet, nor is it too rich and you get that slight hint of vanilla, it's just perfect. Or what Goldilocks would say, Just Right. 

 On to the last part of the pastry which are the berries. Really you could use any type of berry you wanted. I chose blueberries because personally they are my favorite, well besides its slightly more expensive cousin the raspberry. The point is you could use any berry you wanted, the recipe is the same. So all we're going to do is macerate our berries with a teeny tiny drop of lemon juice, and a tablespoon of sugar. To macerate, for all those SAT prep students out there, means to soften or become softened in a liquid. Which, translated into foodie terms means it makes the berries sweeter and shinier. So we're just going to let that do it's thing while we fill our shells. 

 I don't know if any of you have noticed but, my piping skills aren't the best, which is what is traditionally done when filling tarts. So instead of making another kitchen related disaster, I let my little handy ice cream scoop do the work for me. Three scoops, give or take, and using a knife spreading it to all corners of the crust. Next scatter the blueberries, and top with powdered sugar. 

So basically half of your day is over now. But at least now you have Blueberry Tarts which will, and should be the envy of the community. Unless someone brings a Buche de Noel, then you're screwed. But seriously these tarts are really one of the best pastries we've made on this blog to date and hope you all give it a shot. I know Valentine's Day just passed but no one's gonna hate on you if you made these anyways. I mean if you gave me this I would be down for anything. So please look pass all the hard tedious work and just picture the reward. Thank you all for getting the end, I hope you have a wonderful *George Washington's Birthday Day (President's Day). And as always, 



For Pate Sucree

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg

For Pastry Cream
1 1/4 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch

For Macerated Blueberries
1 pint of blueberries
1 tablespoon sugar

1 drop lemon juice

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