Sunday, March 4, 2012

Strawberry Tid Bits and a Tart

I did it.  I ate all three baskets of strawberries I bought last Sunday at the farmer's market. 

By myself. 

It took me 6 days and three breakfasts of strawberries, yogurt and granola, one breakfast of berries with a Nutella scone, two desserts of strawberries dipped in Nutella and the finale was this strawberry tart.  And surprisingly, I am not sick of strawberries!  I am actually a little sad they are gone.  I might just be heading back to the farmer's market this week.

Storing Your Strawberries - Tip of the Day

I mentioned earlier this week, I've struggled in the past to store strawberries for more than a day or two without them growing mold or looking sad and sickly.  I've tried several methods which have all proven to be unsuccessful.  Some of these unsuccessful methods have included, storing them in the fruit drawer of the fridge in the packaging they come in; storing them in a cool, unrefrigerated, spot in the packaging they come in; washing the berries, removing the green tops, allowing them to fully dry and storing them in the fridge in a zip top bag with as much air removed as possible (this is the most successful of the unsuccessful methods).

Now that you know what doesn't work, I am happy to say I can now tell you what does work.  The lady who sold me the berries at the farmer's market shared her preferred method for storing these crimson beauties.  I tried her suggestion and I got 6 full days of beautiful berries.  I had eaten them all by day 6, but I have a feeling they could have gone at least another day or two, possibly more.  Here's the method:
  1. Don't wash the berries until you are ready to use them
  2. Remove any berries that are already soft or where the skin is broken and discard or set aside to eat (you could use these in a smoothie, strawberry sauce or strawberry puree)
  3. Place a paper towel on the bottom of a tupperware container (with a tight fitting lid) large enough to hold all your berries 
  4. Place the dry, unwashed, unblemished berries on top of the paper towel, in a single layer, preferably not allowing the berries to touch and top with another paper towel
  5. Layer paper towels and berries until all your berries are stored, finishing with a paper towel on top of the last layer and store the tupperware in the refrigerator
When you are ready to use your berries, simply wash them, pat them dry (or let them air dry on a towel) and use.  This storage method has by far, been the best I've tried to date.  If you have strawberry storage tips I would love to hear about them in the comments section below.

Strawberry Facts

Did you know....
  • 1 cup of strawberries has more vitamin C than an orange
  • Strawberries are high in fiber, potassium and anti-oxidants (all good things from what I'm told)
  • 1 cup of halved berries is approximately 50 calories and low in sugar
  • Strawberries can be used for beauty purposes too...make a strawberry face mask consisting of berries, heavy cream and honey....sounds a lot like dessert to me!
  • Strawberries are delicious (okay, this more my opinion than a fact)

Now let's talk tarts.  I pulled together two recipes I've had success with to come up with this personal sized strawberry tart (or you can also make one large 9 inch tart).  Back when I made these lemon tarts, I froze two mini tart crusts.  Figured it was about time to use them.  And remember the Boston cream pie I made late last year?  And how I RAVED about the pastry cream?  Yep, I made the vanilla pastry cream for this tart (though the chocolate pastry cream would be equally tasty). 

The sweet almond shortbread crust from the tart makes a great base to fill with thick, creamy vanilla custard.  It's like eating cookies and pudding.  Top it with fresh strawberries and you have a pretty irresistable dessert on your hands.

You can make this recipe over two days, making both the tart dough and pastry cream the day ahead.  You can either bake off the tart crust the day before and then wrap it in plastic wrap for filling the next day...or bake it the day you serve it.


Strawberry Tart
Yields 4 mini tarts or 1 nine inch tart

Note: If you make the entire recipe in the same day, start by making the pastry cream since it needs to chill for a few hours. 

For the vanilla pastry cream filling:
adapted from Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito's Baked Explorations

Note: Only half a recipe is needed to fill 1 large tart or 4 mini tarts. The full recipe is listed below. This custard is delicious all on its own so feel free to make the full recipe.  You could even dip berries in it.

7 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cornstarch
3 cups whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons light rum (I omitted)

Set aside a medium heatproof bowl and fine mesh strainer.

Whisk egg yolks, half of the sugar, salt and cornstarch in a medium bowl until the mixture is pale, thick and smooth.

Bring the milk and remaining half of sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Once the mixture boils remove the pan from the heat and very slowly whisk 1/3 of the hot mixture into the egg mixture, whisking continuously (you don't want scrambled eggs).  Slowly pour the tempered egg and milk mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining milk while continuously whisking.  Place the pan back on the stove over medium heat and continue to stir until mixture boils for 2 minutes (or until thick, like pudding).  Be careful not to overcook or burn the pastry cream or it will have a bitter aftertaste.

Remove the pan from the heat and strain the pastry cream into the medium bowl you previously set aside.  Stir in the butter and vanilla (and rum if using) until butter is melted and fully incorporated.  Allow the mixture to cool for 15 minutes and then place plastic wrap directly on the surface to keep a skin from forming on the pastry.  Refrigerate until fully chilled and set, about 4 hours or overnight.

For the tart dough:
adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours

1 ½ cups all purpose flour (or 1/4 finely ground almonds or another nut and 1 ¼ cups flour) - I used nuts and flour

½ cup confectioners’ sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 T) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
Place the flour (and ground nuts), sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Drop in pieces of cold butter and pulse until mixture has pea size lumps of butter.  Stir the yolk in small bowl and add it slowly to the flour mixture through the feeding tube, pulsing after each addition. Once the egg is in, hold the pulse button down for 10 seconds at time until the dough looks like curds.  Once you reach this point, turn the dough out onto a clean work surface.  Using your hands, knead the dough very lightly to incorporate all the dry ingredients.
Dorie recommends pressing the dough into a buttered 9-inch tart pan (or 4 mini tart pans) with a removable bottom, pressing the dough evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the pan.  Be gentle with pressing the dough into the pan allowing the pieces to just come together.  Prick the bottom of the crust several times with a fork.  Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes prior to baking. 

The method I used is to gently roll the dough to 1/4 thick between two pieces of waxed paper or parchment, laying the dough into the buttered pan(s).
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Use cooking spray or butter to coat the shiny side of aluminum foil and place it buttered side down, against the crust.   Place the tart pan(s) on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes for mini tarts and 25 minutes for a large tart.  Remove from oven and gently remove the foil.  If the crust puffs up just gently press it back down with the back of a spoon. Return to oven and cook for an additional 5 to 8 minutes or until set and golden brown.  Cool completely on a wire rack before filling.

For the strawberry topping:

3 cups of sweet, ripe, strawberries, washed, dried, hulled and sliced vertically into 1/8 - 1/4 inch slices.

Assemble the tart:

Wait until you are ready to serve your tart(s) before assembling so the crust does not get soggy.  Fill the tart(s) full with vanilla pastry cream.  Top the tart(s) with the sliced strawberries, in a circular pattern starting from the outside of the crust and working your way in, allowing the strawberries to overlap slightly.  Serve immediately.


  1. The tart looks delicious, thanks for the recipe. Great berry storing tips.

  2. your tart looks so yummy! :)

  3. This is a really pretty tart! Thanks for sharing your tips on properly storing strawberries. Really helpful...Excited to try this dessert recipe.

  4. I am so stoked about your strawberry tips, mine always seem to go bad before I can make my way through them and it's such a bummer. Strawberry season hasn't quite arrived here yet, but when it does I'll be stocking up :) Your tart is gorgeous, as are the photos!

  5. Strawberries and Nutella scones... yum! The tart looks beautiful.

  6. This does sound irresistible! Cookie crust, pastry cream, and strawberries--what's not to love? Thanks for the tips on the berry storage-I will use that method in future!

  7. Thank you for the tips. My strawberries are always a moldy mess after a few days. The tart is gorgeous.

  8. I knew about not washing them, but the rest was a mystery:) Thanks for sharing the secret, as I always feel bad when my beautiful berries turn moldy:(
    I am still a bit leery to buy strawberries, but the ones in your photos look perfect, not monstrous like they were throughout the winter:) I just want them to smell like strawberries of my childhood, still warm from the sun.
    Why are there no pick-your-own strawberry farms around? We are in SoCal! We supply the world with these beauties! Don't see the logic, but there will be more and more strawberries at the farmers' markets for us to enjoy.
    I hope to see you soon at one of the events!