Thursday, January 5, 2012

Strawberry Passion Fruit Tart

I think it’s time I share with you my life plan.  It is a plan that I formulated in high school with my best friend, Alice.  Alice is my food soul mate (she is the only person that enjoys talking about food as much as I do) and we decided around the age of sixteen that we would someday open a restaurant together. 

In the ten years since we made that decision, our dedication to realizing this goal has been unwavering.  We have both moved back and forth across the country, and we are both pursuing careers that have nothing to do with food (me= law school, Alice= master’s in public health).  But despite all of the complications and distractions, I know that at some point in our lives, we will open that restaurant together and it will be a success! 

How do I know it will be a success?  Well, for one thing, Alice and I have done quite a bit of research over the years (research= eating out at delicious restaurants).  You see, the money we spend on pricey dinners is really an investment in our future restaurant.  We tirelessly try different eateries in order to perform our due diligence. 

The other reason I know that the restaurant will be a success is Liz, Alice’s mom.  Liz is the first person I encountered who is a truly talented chef.  I feel so lucky to have spent so much time in her kitchen during my formative teenage years.  Her mentorship fueled my emerging enthusiasm for food and I also trust her opinion more than any other food critic (if you need a suggestion for an excellent restaurant in almost any city in the world, ask Liz).

I would never have collected the requisite courage to attempt Thomas Keller’s daunting herb gnocchi had I not watched Liz prepare it each summer for Alice’s birthday dinner.  Liz also graciously allowed Alice and I to make elaborate (and usually extremely messy) food concoctions in her gourmet kitchen when we were in high school.  She was always conveniently available to save us with subtle redirection when we neared the brink of disaster.  Somehow I have a feeling that this guidance will continue when Alice and I make messes in our restaurant kitchen as well.  Liz also happens to be an artist with an impeccable eye for interior design, so don’t worry- our restaurant will have excellent style. 

The tart that I am sharing today is from one of the Laduree cookbooks that Liz generously gave me for Christmas this year.  Not only are the cookbooks beautiful works of art, they also contain the keys to all of Laduree’s masterpieces (including the chocolate chaud that I was just raving about!).  This is Alice’s favorite tart, and it just so happens that I am in Maui right now so I had to take advantage of the local fruit (known as liliko’i on the island).  The tart is supposed to be topped with raspberries but since they are not currently in season on Maui, I elected to use local Kula strawberries instead.  I am not a talented baker (too much precise measuring), but this tart was actually relatively easy to make!  Especially because I had my mom in the kitchen with me so she did most of the measuring...and cleaning. 

I know that most of my readers probably don’t have access to passion fruit right now, but Alice has informed me that you can order it from Amazon.  The flavors are incredible, and if you have a special occasion I highly recommend you go through the effort to get your hands on some.  Also, try not to pay too much attention to the amount of butter that goes into this.  What was I just saying about the cinnamon rolls?  If I am going to spend the calories on something, I want it to be good- and this is GOOD.

TARTE PASSION FRAISE (Strawberry Passion Fruit Tart)
serves 8 peopleFrom Ladurée Sucré Recipes
Click here to print

PASSION FRUIT CREAM 1 cup + 1 ½ tablespoon unsalted butter*, room temperature
2 gelatin sheets or ½ tablespoon powdered gelatin (I used the latter)
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2/3 cup passion fruit puree
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Prepare the cream one day ahead.  Bring the butter to room temperature to soften.  If using, place the gelatin sheets in a small bowl of very cold water and allow to soften for 10 minutes then drain the sheets, squeezing hard to remove all excess liquids.
In a medium saucepan, mix the eggs, egg yolk, sugar, and cornstarch.  Incorporate the passion fruit puree and lemon juice.  Cook the egg mixture over low heat, stirring with a spatula until it simmers, allowing the cream to thicken (about 10-15 minutes).  Remove from heat and incorporate the drained gelatin or gelatin powder. 
Allow to cool slightly for approximately 10 minutes.  Put the mixture in a blender or food processor along with the butter and blend until combined.  Pour into an airtight container and refrigerate for a minimum of 12 hours until firm. 

SWEET ALMOND PASTRY½ cup unsalted butter, very cold
½ cup + 1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar
¼ cup ground almonds (almond flour- look for it in the bulk food section of your grocery store)
1 pinch of fleur de sel or coarse sea salt
A few drops of vanilla extract
1 egg
1 2/3 cups cake flour
Extra butter for the tart pan
Extra flour for rolling out the dough

Sift the confectioner’s sugar (I skipped this step).  Cut the butter into small pieces and place in a bowl.  Stir the butter with a large wooden spoon until it becomes homogenized and then add the following ingredients, one by one, making sure to fully incorporate each into the mixture before the next addition: confectioner’s sugar, ground almonds, fleur de sel, vanilla, egg, and flour.  Combine ingredients until the dough comes together; do not overwork the dough.  This will give the pastry its desired crumbly texture.
Form the dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours before using.  If possible, it is better to prepare it one day ahead; the dough will be easier to roll out. 
Butter the tart pan.  On a floured work surface, roll out the dough to 1/10 inch thickness and press into the buttered pan.  Refrigerate for 1 hour.  Preheat the oven to 340 degrees.  Remove the tart shell from the refrigerator.  Using a fork, prick the surface of the dough to keep it from puffing up during baking.  Fit a round piece of parchment paper over the dough, carefully pressing into the corners and working up the sides so it will stay in place in the oven.  Place dried beans or pie weights on top, spreading them out in an even layer. 
Bake for approximately 20 minutes until lightly colored.  Take tart shell out of the oven and remove dried beans and parchment paper.  If the pastry is still pale, return to oven uncovered, just long enough to finish baking and to color slightly.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.

ASSEMBLYPassion Fruit cream
Sweet almost pastry shell
3 ½ cups strawberries, cut in half

Fill the cooled baked tart shell with passion fruit cream and arrange the strawberries in a decorative pattern on top.  Keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve.  Wait until right before serving before adding the fruit as they will be more flavorful.  (Note- I added a glaze to my tart using a mixture of strawberry jam and water- completely optional). 

*some of the measurements and oven temperatures are a bit odd because they have been converted from metric measurements (the cookbook includes both). 

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