Fruit tarts- A beautiful new homebaked dessert, just in time for Thanksgiving!

Full-size 9inch tart, with assorted fresh fruit

There’s something charming about home-made goodies. The sugary smells fill the house, and the end result is a tasty treat, made from scratch.
The difference between home-made desserts and store-bought ones is all in the ingredients. Even high-quality bake shops tend to cut corners with cheaper ingredients, substituting butter for shortening or oils, and perhaps not using the same quality of produce that you would use at home. Besides being able to use better quality ingredients, making your own desserts also means that you are able to control the amount of sugar used in the recipe, as well as adjust flavours and spices to your liking. The end result is a home-made, signature dessert that you can show off to family and friends.
I love making tarts. Tarts are essentially pies, reinvented. They have a base of pastry and either a sweet or savoury filling, but are open-faced so the entirety of the tart is visible. Especially when making fruit tarts, such as my recipe below, this allows for creativity and an artistic flair when decorating the tart. While you can choose to use only one type of fruit, such as apple, pear, berry, etc , I enjoy using a variety of fruits and arranging them nicely on top of the pastry cream. The secret to the glossy look of fruit on top of the tart is actually a commonly used baking product, known as apricot glaze. If you’ve never used apricot glaze before, just go by the directions on the package as it is a fairly straightforward product. If you can’t find apricot glaze in your local market, just use apricot jam (about 2 tbsp) and dilute it with the same amount of hot water.
These fruit tarts can be full-size, or can be made as miniature tartlettes instead. They are perfect for bringing to all types of parties, dinners or gatherings. I find with the larger tarts, berries such as strawberries and raspberries work well, and sliced fruit such as kiwi. Because the tartlettes are much smaller, I prefer using more petite fruits- my particular favourites are blueberries and little balls of melon. Strawberries work well in tartlettes also, but need to be sliced.
The best way to make the sweet pastry crust is in a tart pan. A tart pan is a ring, with a removable bottom (so the tart shell is easily popped out after it’s baked). Lay the dough in the pan, and poke little dents with a fork evenly over the entire surface. This is called docking, and is necessary so that the steam can escape while baking, which would cause the crust to puff up. Sweet pastry can be difficult and time consuming to make, so in a pinch a pie crust (either home-made or store bought) works just as well. However, if you choose to make the sweet pastry, it will be well worth the trouble.
Whether making a large tart, or mini tartlettes, everyone will love the home-baked effort– and these sweet desserts.

two-bite fruit tartlettes, with assorted slices of fresh fruit

To make the tart:

1. Once the pastry (recipe below) has cooled, fill with pastry cream (recipe below).
2. Using any fruit you wish, slice evenly (I usually halve my strawberries for big tarts, or slice them into wedges for tartlettes), and place decoratively over entire tart.
3. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush apricot glaze over the entire tart. This will create a glossy shine on the fruit.
Some fruit suggestions:
Strawberries, sliced in half, or into wedges
Blueberries and raspberries, whole
Kiwis, sliced
Cantaloupe, made into tiny balls with a melon baller
Pear or apple slices
** Try to diversify the colours and shapes of the various fruits used, to make a more interesting looking tart!
 Pastry Cream
You will need:
½ tbsp cornstarch
3 oz sugar
1 ¼ cup Half and Half, or whole milk
1 egg, plus 1 yolk
½ oz butter
1 tsp vanilla
Method:
1. Dilute the cornstarch and half the sugar with ¼ cup of cold milk.
2. Bring the remaining milk and sugar to a boil.
3. Blend the cornstarch mixture with the hot milk gradually, stirring constantly.
4. Cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly, until thickened.
5. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in butter and vanilla. Transfer the mixture to a clean bowl.
6. Lightly grease a large piece of plastic wrap with butter, and place over the cooled pastry cream so no skin forms. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Sweet Pastry Crust
You will need:
1 ½ cups pastry flour
Pinch of salt
½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ cup sugar
1 large egg, plus 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
Method:
1. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour with salt.
2. In a separate bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until smooth and fluffy
3. Gradually add the beaten egg and yolk (about ½ tbsp a time), beating well in between additions.
4. Add the flour, and mix until well incorporated. Do not overmix.
5. Roll dough into a ball, and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Allow to rest in the fridge for at least half an hour.
6. Lightly grease a 9-inch tart pan, or 12 individual tartlette tins.
7. Preheat oven to 375 F.
8. Dust flour lightly onto a clean countertop, as well as a rolling pin.
9. Roll out the dough, rotating it 90 degrees every two to three rolls to maintain evenness. The dough should not stick to the pin or the counter! If it does, add more flour and continue to roll.
10. Roll until dough is even, and ¼ inch thick.
11. Place dough gently over greased tart tin, and press down to set it in place.
12. Using a fork (or a rolling docker, if you have it!), gently poke holes evenly over the entire crust.
13. Place in oven for about 20 minutes, until crust is golden brown.
14. Remove from oven and allow to cool fully before removing from pan.

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