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Colorful Mini Fruit Tarts to Brighten Your Day!

Posted on Feb 12, 2012

HEAVENLY TREATS
 I suppose I should have called these semi-homemade fruit tarts.  Yes, I admit it – found these adorable buttery mini tart shells at Fresh Market and couldn’t resist.  They’re a bit crisper than your usual pate sucree, but taste delish, and oh what a friend to keep on hand for a last minute dessert!
Tired of dreary winter?   Try these colorful cuties – they’ve got spring written all over them!
If you want to make a traditional pate sucree, you’ll find a good one at Grace’s Sweet Life, as well as a pastry cream recipe which I adapted slightly for these bites of sunshine.
These tarts look like you slaved all day, but no one would guess that it took you all of 10 minutes to make the pastry cream, then chill it for an hour or so before using.  The secret ingredient (a little vanilla whipped cream) added to the filling makes it lighter and absolutely luscious.  And though most recipes suggest using apricot or a similar flavor jam for the glaze – I used a blood orange spread because it complements the berries so beautifully.  Raspberry would also be quite nice.

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Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream
1 cup whole milk
1 vanilla bean
1/4 cup  + 1 tablespoon superfine sugar, divided
3 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1/2 cup heavy organic whipping cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
pinch of vanilla powder (optional but delish)
*Split vanilla bean and scrape out seeds.  An easy way to do this is place a piece of waxed paper on your cutting board, split the vanilla bean lengthwise with a small sharp knife, then use the dull side of your knife to scrape the seeds out.  The seeds will be scrape right off of the waxed paper.
*In a small saucepan combine the milk, vanilla bean and seeds, and 1/4 cup superfine sugar.  Whisk over medium heat until sugar dissolves, then stir occasionally just until milk comes to a boil.
 
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and remaining tablespoon of superfine sugar until pale.  Sift cornstarch and flour over the egg yolks and whisk until smooth.
Remove the vanilla bean from the milk mixture.  Pour the hot milk mixture very slowly over the egg mixture, whisking constantly until well combined.  (This will help avoid curdling the eggs).
Pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve back into the saucepan.  Bring it to a boil, whisking constantly, over medium heat.  Continue to boil, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens – about 2 minutes.
Remove from heat and pour the mixture into a small bowl.  Lightly press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming.  Allow to cool slightly, then refrigerate until completely cool – about an hour.
Pour heavy cream into a small bowl, and beat on medium speed with a hand held mixer until it begins to thicken.  Add the powdered sugar and vanilla powder (if using) and beat on low speed until combined then beat on high speed until somewhat firm peaks form.
Fold 1/3 of whipped cream into cooled pastry cream to lighten it, then fold in remaining cream 1/3 at a time until incorporated. The pastry cream will keep, covered for 3 days in the refrigerator, if you’re not using it right away.
To assemble fruit tarts
 
Mini fruit tart shells
Your choice of assorted berries and kiwi
Blood orange spread for glaze (I found some at Whole Foods)
Mint for garnish if desired
If you’re adding a decorative flower – make sure they’re edible!  I happened to have johnny-jump-ups on hand (aka violas).  For some suggestions see:  edible flowers
In a small saucepan, heat about 1/3 cup of blood orange spread, stirring until melted.  Add about 1 tablespoon of water and stir until desired consistency for glaze.  Sit aside to cool slightly.
Add a teaspoon or so of pastry cream to each tart shell, then smooth the top and spread almost to edges with an offset spatula.
Top each tart with fruit as desired, then gently brush on glaze with a pastry brush.  Add mint if desired.  A sprinkle of Valrhona chocolate pearls or chocolate covered cocoa nibs is fabulous with these too.
Refrigerate the fruit tarts if not using right away.  These taste best when eaten the same day they’re assembled.  Enjoy!

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