There’s something great about the simplicity of a well-made fruit tart. The components are preciously few – a crust, maybe a light filling, and fresh fruit – but that’s all you really need. There’s a lot to mess up with such a simple dish, so make sure each item is prepared with care. Above all, use the best fruit you can find or don’t make a tart at all.
Underneath all those beautiful cherries are my go-to base recipes for a fruit tart. The fruit cream I developed for this recipe is super versatile, working with any fruit puree and only little adjustments to the sugar depending on how sweet the fruit you’re working with is and stabilizer depending on water content.
I’ve never really loved more traditional fruit mousses, which generally call for a lot of Italian meringue and/or whipped cream. All of that fat and sugar blankets the bright, acidic notes that make fruit, fruit. So I’ve formulated this fruit mousse (which I call a fruit cream because it really isn’t a mousse) to be a little brighter and cleaner in flavor, bringing out more “fresh” fruit notes by utilizing cornstarch and a little gelatin as a stabilizer which means less whipped cream is needed (and no Italian meringue).
The fruit cream does call for fruit puree, which you can purchase or make yourself. To make it, simply take fresh fruit and puree it. Yup, that’s it. You can add a bit of sugar (usually not more than 3% by weight) and some citric acid/lemon juice to keep it bright. I usually start with a blender or food processor to break the fruit down and then switch to a hand blender to smooth the fruit further.
This recipe calls for gelatin, and in any situation with gelatin I use the sheet variety. Powdered gelatin is more widely available, but I prefer the sheet gelatin just because it’s easier to use. I’ve included the bloom strength for the gelatin I use too – 160 – which is also known as “silver” grade. I’m putting together a whole big post on the subject, so for now the last thing I’ll say is that whenever gelatin is in a recipe, the first step is to rehydrate it. Powdered gelatin has a specific ratio of water to add, while sheet gelatin just needs at least five times its weight. And make sure the water is cold!
For any tart, I almost exclusively use pate a foncer dough. Sweet dough, another common crust dough, is often too brittle, making it a pain to cut cleanly and easily soggy. Pate a foncer, on the other hand, which is really just a tight pie dough, is tender, very flavorful, holds well with moisture and is a great texture balance to the bite of fresh fruit and cream.
pate a foncer
20g egg yolks approx. 1 egg
320g pastry flour
Before you get started, chill the water until very cold and reserve it in the fridge.
Combine and cream the cold butter, salt and sugar with a paddle attachment in a stand mixer.
Add the egg yolks and mix until fully emulsified.
Add all of the remaining ingredients (don’t forget the cold water!) and mix until the dough comes together.
Wrap the dough up and rest it for 4-24hr before using. If you plan to use the dough in the distant future, you can freeze it.
When you’re ready, prep a tart ring with a small amount of butter, just lightly greasing the inside of the ring.
Lightly flour your rolling surface and the top of your dough and roll it out to 1/8”/ .3cm.
Place your tart ring in the center of your rolled dough, and cut a circle of dough out around the ring that is just wider than the height of the ring.
Loosely set the dough into the ring and trim off any excess dough if it’s giving you trouble.
To set the dough in the ring, start by gently pushing the dough all the way down into the bottom corner of the ring. Continue to press the dough into the corner of the ring creating a crease. Then, still gently, press the dough up the side of the ring, eliminating any trapped air bubbles. Strike off the excess dough along the edge of the tart ring with a paring knife.
Let the dough sit in the fridge, uncovered, for at least and hour and up to overnight. This will let excess moisture evaporate from the dough and will keep it from shrinking too much when it bakes.
Because you’ll be adding a no-bake filling, you need to blind bake the shell. Blind baking just means baking a tart or pie shell without the filling. To blind bake the dough, first set cheesecloth into the shell. Fill the shell with baking beans (actually, rice is my personal favorite medium for blind baking. It’s pretty heavy and because it’s small, gets into all of the little cracks).
Bake the dough at 350F for 40min. Remove the cheese cloth and rice and finish baking the shell for another 10min or so, or until it’s nice and golden. Keep the tart shell out at room temperature for later.
500g fruit puree
8g gelatin 160 bloom
300g heavy cream
Chill a bowl of water with an ice cube or two, and then add your sheet gelatin, one sheet at a time. Throwing it all in at once creates a semi-gelatinized block with crispy gelatin inside, which sounds delicious but actually isn’t. Gelatin can technically only hold up to 5x its weight in water, so as long as you have at least that much in your bowl, you’ll be able to hydrate (or bloom as we say in the biz) the gelatin just fine. Let it sit, submerged in water, for 5 to 10 min. and reserve it for later.
Add the heavy cream to a stand mixing bowl with a whip attachment and whisk the heavy cream until it forms just the hint of soft peaks. Reserve the heavy cream in the cooler for later.
Combine the cornstarch and sugar, giving it a whisk to thoroughly combine the two. Add the cherry puree to a sauce pot and whisk the cornstarch mixture into the cherry puree while it’s cold.
Bring the puree to a boil over medium heat while whisking frequently. Let the puree boil for 30 seconds to remove any starch flavor. Ready for the gelatin! Squeeze any excess water from your gelatin and add it to the puree, whisking it in thoroughly.
Whisk the thickened puree over an ice bath until it has cooled but is still just warm to the touch.
Give the whipped cream a last beating with a whisk to stiffen it to soft peaks and fold it into the fruit puree in two stages.
Cast into the baked tart shell immediately, before it starts to set up. I give the shell a little shake back and forth to settle the cream. Then throw it (figuratively) into the fridge to set firm.
Cut the cherries in half and pull the pits. You can use a cherry pitter if you’d like, but it does a lot of damage to the cherry and that doesn’t look very purdy on top of the shell. Keep the cherries in lemon water while your working to prevent them from oxidizing and turning brown.
Spread the cherries out in a ring around the outer edge of the tart, shingled onto each other. Work towards the center with each new ring of fruit until the tart is covered.
At this point you’re pretty much done – so simple! – but you can also coat the cherries in a basic fruit glaze to give them a little more cosmetic shelf life. I’ve put the recipe for that in the recipe card below.
This fruit tart recipe will work for any fruit you might have available, which is part of why I love it so much! Your picnic game has just been elevated.