Friday, July 25, 2008

Easy Fresh Fruit Tart

A fresh fruit tart—glistening, ripe summer fruit nestled atop smooth pastry cream and a buttery pastry crust—seems like the perfect dessert, until you try to make one from scratch. From baking the crust to making the perfect pastry cream to arranging the berries with precision, this recipe just didn’t seem like a lot of fun. We reengineered this classic summer dessert to make it much simpler.

Test Kitchen Discoveries

Instead of making our own homemade pastry, we used frozen puff pastry — it proved strong enough to hold the filling, and folding in the edges of the pastry before baking created a barrier to keep the fruit in place.

We replaced the homemade pastry cream with softened cream cheese thinned with strawberry jelly—this gave us the silky texture of pastry cream and a sweet berry flavor.

To keep the bottom of the pastry shell from becoming soggy under the weight of our “pastry cream,” we sprinkled sugar over the pastry before baking. This formed a moisture barrier that kept the crust nice and crisp.

STEP BY STEP

Turning Puff Pastry into a Tart Shell

1. Brush a 1/2-inch border along the edges of the pastry with water. Fold the long edges of the pastry over by 1/2 inch, then fold the short edges over by 1/2 inch.

2. Working lengthwise, lightly score the outer edge of all folded edges of the tart shell with a paring knife.

3. To prevent the center of the tart from puffing up in the oven, poke the dough repeatedly with a fork.

Serves 4 to 6

Turbinado, a coarse raw sugar, works especially well in place of the granulated sugar sprinkled on the pastry. Although we liked a mix of berries, virtually any ripe fruit—alone or in combination—will work here. Smooth jelly (rather than chunky jam or preserves) is a must for this recipe.

1 (9 1/2 by 9-inch) sheet puff pastry , thawed overnight in refrigerator
2 teaspoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 ounces cream cheese , softened
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons strawberry jelly
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups fresh berries

1. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Unfold thawed pastry onto baking sheet and, following photos at right, prepare pastry shell.

2. Combine sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle mixture over inside of tart shell. Transfer to oven and bake until pastry and sugar are deep golden brown, 15 to 22 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and let cool at least 1 hour.

3. While crust is baking, stir softened cream cheese, 2 tablespoons jelly, and vanilla in bowl until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use. (Mixture can be made up to 2 days in advance; stir well before using.)

4. Spread cream cheese mixture over inside of cooled tart shell. Place remaining jelly in large microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high power until jelly melts, about 30 seconds. Add berries to bowl and toss gently until coated with jelly. Spoon berries over cream cheese mixture and refrigerate until jelly is set, at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Serve.

Cook's Illustrated recipe.

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