I developed this recipe for the April/May issue of The Whistle to celebrate the humble British strawberry, which comes into season around the start of May. We can buy strawberries all year around in the UK but it really is best to enjoy them between May and September when they’re usually British, fresh and beautifully sweet. The tart is made up of crisp shortcrust pastry, filled with rich vanilla crème pâtissière and topped with sweet and juicy strawberries – perfect as a centrepiece for a special occasion or simply with a cup of tea on a Sunday afternoon!
For this recipe I use a loose bottomed rectangular tart dish with fluted edges (approx. 350 x 110mm), but a large round flan dish works well too.
For the pastry:
- 200g plain flour
- 100g icing sugar
- 100g chilled unsalted butter, diced
- 2 large egg yolks
- 2 tbsp. cold water
For the crème pâtissière:
- 125g caster sugar
- 4 large free-range egg yolks
- 500ml whole milk
- 1 Madagascan vanilla pod, deseeded
- 45g cornflour
- 20g unsalted butter
- 400g British strawberries, quartered
- Fresh mint
- To make the pastry, rub the cold butter into the flour and icing sugar using your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and water then bring together to form a stiff dough. Wrap tightly in cling film and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile add the egg yolks and caster sugar to a large mixing bowl and whisk until the sugar has dissolved, then add the cornflour and whisk well.
- To make the crème pâtissière, add the milk and vanilla to a medium saucepan and heat until steam rises rapidly. Slowly pour the hot milk into the mixing bowl, whisking continuously, then pour the hot mixture back into the saucepan. Whisk constantly over a medium-high heat for a few minutes until the mixture forms a thick custard. Remove from the heat, whisk in the butter then pour into a large shallow dish and cover the surface with cling film. Allow to cool then place in the refrigerator.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (fan) / 200°C (electric). Lightly dust your surface with flour then roll out the pastry to roughly half a cm thick. Line the tin with the pastry and use a bit of excess dough to gently press the pastry into the grooves of the tin. Run a rolling pin over the tin to trim off the excess pastry. Chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
- Prick the base of the chilled pastry, line with greaseproof paper and fill with ceramic baking beans (or raw rice). Blind bake for 10 minutes, then remove the baking beans and return to the oven uncovered for a further 8 minutes until the pastry is a light golden colour. Chill in the tin for a few minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- To assemble the tart, fill the pastry case with the crème pâtissière, and top with the strawberries and mint leaves.