Fruit Tart with Crema Pasticciera and Shortbread Cookies
I am not in any of these pictures, I’m just happily observing and taking pictures. Dessert is my husband’s art and he makes some delicious dolci. I figured that even though I don’t have a sweet tooth, I should at least post a dolce a week to keep people interested, documenting my husbands work (though I make one hell of a peach cobbler, but that’s not terribly Italian).
This past weekend he made a fruit tart and with the shortbread dough that was left over we decided to make little fruit cookies, which I love. This was his first attempt at making shortbread and crema pasticciera, which is not an easy task. I must say that he did a great job and should really try it again next time we have people over for dinner.
Even though he is Italian he prefers to use cookbooks written in English, because they are so much more explicit than Italian cookbooks, I have to say that I couldn’t agree more. Italian cookbooks give you wonderful ideas, but they won’t tell you how to make anything! He took the shortbread recipe from The Joy of Cooking and the recipe for the pastry cream from our 2nd recipe bible Naples at Table, Cooking in Campania by Arthur Schwartz.
I feel like fruit tarts should be smothered in fresh berries, and I would probably just eat all of the fruit off of the top, scrape off the cream and eat the crust. I don’t really like sweet creamy things, unless they are ice cream or gelato. Unfortunately my husband is allergic to berries of all sorts, so he topped the tart with grapes, kiwi and bananas, which worked, but I am going to be in charge of fruit for the next tart!
With the leftover dough we made these beautiful little cookies with jams from our fridge smeared on top. They were wonderful and gone now, too easy to pop in your mouth.
Pasta Frolla (Shortbread) from The Joy of Cooking
- 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 tsp grated lemon zest (optional)
- ¼ tsp salt
- 8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened if working by hand, cut into 8 pieces
- 1 large egg yolk
Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease or butter the bottom, but not the sides of a 9-inch pie pan or 9½- or 10-inch two-piece tart pan. Dust the pan with flour, tilt to coat the bottom, then tap out the excess. (If using a tart pan, pop out the bottom, wedge it between your palms, and tap.)
Whisk together flour, sugar, lemon zest and salt in a bowl or process for 10 seconds in a food processor.
Add butter and mash with the back of a fork or process until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Add egg yolk and mix with spatula or process just until the dough comes together in a ball. If the dough is too soft and sticky to work with, refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days. Pat the dough evenly over the bottom and sides of the prepared pan, or roll it between sheets of wax paper and flip it into the pan. Do no attempt to crimp or flute the edge. Thoroughly prick the bottom and sides with a fork. Bake until deep golden brown, 18 to 22 minutes.
Crema Pasticciera (Thick Pastry Cream) from Naples at Table, Cooking in Campania
Makes 5 cups
- 1¾ cups all-purpose flour, sifted before measuring
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1 quart milk
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp vanilla
Set a clean, dry, nonreactive bowl and a sturdy rubber spatula near the stove. Put a large, fine strainer over a large bowl, ready to pour hot pastry cream through it.
In another bowl, mix the flour with 1 cup of the sugar. Whisk the eggs until smooth. The mixture will be very thick.
In a 2½- to 3-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan, mix the milk, the remaining cup of sugar, and the salt. Scald over medium heat, stirring frequently so it doesn’t scorch or form a skin. When the milk has a ring of small bubbles around the edge of the pan, remove it from the heat and, with a whisk, stir in 1 cup of the milk, a little at a time, into the flour and egg mixture. Whisk in another cup of hot milk, then pour the now-tempered flour and egg mixture into the saucepan with the remaining milk, whisking constantly. Still whisking constantly, but slowly, over medium to medium-low heat, cook the mixture until it thickens. Pull it off the heat at the first sign of a boil – as soon as the first bubble breaks on the surface. This will take about 5 minutes.
Immediately pour the hot pastry through a strainer and into the bowl, using the spatula to remove it all from the pan and to push it through the sieve. Stir in the vanilla.
Cover the very surface of the cream with wax paper or plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for at least several hours, or until chilled. Pastry cream can be kept refrigerated for several days, sometimes up to a week, depending on the efficiency of the refrigeration.