I know what you’re thinking: “What? Another strawberry dessert?”. You’re right, I feel like there’s a slight strawberry addiction manifesting. But it’s not my fault, really! It’s just that I cannot resist the bright colors and amazing smells of ripe fruit, especially on hot and humid days like we’ve been having the past weeks.
A few weeks ago, I explained how thrilled I was about summer fruits returning to the market stalls. My excitement resulted in this summer fruit pavlova with Greek yoghurt and mint. Ever since then I have been on an anything-berry kick (though, fragrant honeydew melons have also been on the shopping list plenty of times).
Some people had been asking why this blog is lacking in the dessert department (nobody seemed to care that the ‘salad’ section is still under construction, though) and as I admitted in my pavlova post it is because I still need a lot of practice in baking. But, their questioning seemed like the perfect excuse to practice some more, don’t you agree? Since I needed to test my practice-baked goods on someone I had to think of something that was easy to transfer and easy to hand out. And that’s how these strawberry tarts came into being… twice on the same day.
On my first bake, I lined the tart shells with baking paper and filled them with rice (I don’t have baking beans, obviously) and baked them covered like this for 10 minutes before removing the paper and rice and returning them to the oven for another 15 minutes. While the tarts turned out great, I found cutting out little circles of paper and sprinkling tiny grains of rice and removing them again mid-baking a bit of a hassle. I also may have had to eat one of the half-baked shells after dropping it and breaking it whilst trying to remove the hot grains of rice…
That’s why, on my second trial, I merely pricked the bottoms of the tart shells with a fork and baked them uncovered for 25 minutes. They turned out a tad chewier and slightly more browned than the first batch, and the middle part of the tart shells bubbled up ever so slightly… but they were great! Apart from sparing you the time and hassle, the slightly chewier texture of the shells also meant they held up amazingly well for up to 3 days after being filled with the cream. Sounds like a win-win situation to me. So, if you’re like me and you’d like to spare yourself the struggle, don’t bother with the baking paper.
The people I forced to taste the tarts were specifically pleased with the texture of the pastry as well. There’s just something deeply satisfying in taking a big bite out of these tarts with their chewy, yet buttery and slightly toasty (thanks to the brown sugar) pastry shell, their velvety soft and thick crème infused with fragrant basil and lemon zest, and tart, fresh strawberries on top.
Now, why the basil you ask me? Do I really need to add basil? Well, no. You don’t. You can be vanilla and opt for a standard vanilla crème by adding about half of a vanilla bean to the milk instead of basil leaves. But strawberries really go so well with all kinds of aromatics: black pepper, thyme, mint, basil! And I just wanted to add a little something extra to these already well-known classic tarts. It’s nice to experiment with different flavors and surprise people a little, no?
Strawberry Tarts with Basil and Lemon Cream
- For the custard:
- 400ml whole milk
- 3 large egg yolks
- 120g caster sugar
- 20g all-purpose flour
- 20g cornstarch
- Zest of one lemon
- 6 large basil leaves
- For the pastry shells:
- 300g all-purpose flour
- 200g butter, cubed
- 150g light brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- Pinch of salt
- 12 small strawberries, plus 6 large ones thinly sliced
- Confectioners' sugar for dusting
- In a bowl, mix the egg yolks, 120g sugar, flour and cornstarch until it forms a thick paste.
- Pour milk in a small pan and add the zest of one lemon and the basil leaves. Heat up the milk on low heat until just under boiling point.
- Take the milk off the heat and take out the basil. Slowly pour half of the heated milk in the bowl with the egg yolk mixture. Stir until well combined. Then pour the mixture back into the pan with the remaining milk.
- Return the pan to the heat and keep stirring until the mixture starts to thicken. Be careful not to burn the mixture.
- When your custard is thick enough transfer it to a bowl, cover with cling film and let it cool in the refrigerator.
- In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, butter, egg and a pinch of salt until it forms a thick dough. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 190°C.
- After the dough has rested divide it into 12 equal pieces and roll them out slightly. Butter the tart pans and line them with the dough (flatten a bit with your fingers, clean up the edges with a butter knife). With a fork, prick little holes in the base of the tarts. Bake for 25 minutes until the pastry starts to brown. Set aside to cool before removing the baked shells from the pans.
- When the pastry shells have cooled, fill them with the crème and place sliced strawberries on top. Dust with confectioners’ sugar.