It was five degrees here last week. It was five degrees this week, too. And although I truly appreciate bright sun and beautiful blue skies, there is something cruel about them when the temperature is so low. Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled that I don't have to shovel anything and that I can wear my cute-but-not-waterproof boots for a change, but really, can't it just be spring already?
In addition to lamenting the cold, I have been seeking ways to keep my spirits up. The trip to Louisiana, of course, helped. Parking my car in the sun and rocking the greenhouse effect does, too. I also pulled out my summer baker bag of tricks. Okay, I don't have a literal bag of summer baker tricks, but I think I want one. It would be super cute and full of cool and fresh recipes. Cupcakes in bikinis on the side, perhaps?
But I digress.
I had a request from one of my best customers for a dessert for her women's group meeting. She wanted something that at least gave the illusion of healthiness. I wanted to do something fun and not cakey. The solution: a fruit tart!
As much as I love chocolate, there is a very special place in my heart for a fruit tart. I love pastry cream. And shortbread. And fruit. Here's how I make mine...
Start with a standard shortbread cookie recipe. I always use the Barefoot Contessa's. (It makes enough for two. Or one and some cookies. Or one and some little baby tarts.) Roll out or press into a 9-10 inch tart pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until light golden brown.
Make pastry cream. Have I ever told you how to make pastry cream? No? Shame on me. I don't have the recipe at my immediate disposal, but I'll look it up for you. I promise. And I'll include some of the fun variations I've tried. For the sake of moving along, let's assume you know what to do.
Once both the pastry cream and shell have cooled, spread about two cups of the former in the latter.
Arrange pretty fruit on top. Although the spirit of summer is in my soul, the bounty of summer is not in my grocery store. The strawberries looked decent, so I got them, a peach, and two kiwis. Canned mandarin orange slices (well drained) and frozen raspberries (the individually frozen ones, thawed on a paper towel) work nicely, too. Melt a couple of tablespoons of jam in the microwave. I like to use apricot because it's pretty clear and won't discolor the fruit. Brush over the tart. This will make everything shiny and pretty.
If you were smart enough to make baby tart shells you made with the excess dough, fill them with whatever you have leftover.
I used a muffin tin to bake the shells. At that size, you could eat one with no guilt, two with the tiniest of twinges. Or you could eat three. I, um, wouldn't know about that.
It will be a couple of months before the sandals come out and even longer before the local berries appear. That's no reason not to feel springy. Put a little love in your heart, some sweet in your tart, and no matter the weather...
Keep it sweet.