I love to bake, mostly because I love to eat the results, but also because it reminds me of baking with my grandmother (widely regarded as an amazing baker) and my mom (who was vaguely overlooked in this department but stealthily quite great). My own (amateur) baking career has been fairly successful, though I’ve scared a few chemistry-geek friends, who quake when I barely measure ingredients or otherwise go off the reservation, which I sometimes do. Well, I mostly do.
But when I read any of Nick Malgieri‘s many baking books, I feel immediately like a jumpy student just dying to become the teacher’s pet. His recipes make me want to do everything by the book, follow his instructions to a perfectly frosted T, have someone (him) gaze approvingly at my flawless finished fruit tart and move me to the head of the class. His latest book, Nick Malgieri’s Pastry, is no different; and this tart recipe jumped out at me for several reasons.
1. It’s beautiful. I mean, Wow. 2. It’s doable. It’s not beautiful in that intimidating, I’d-have-to-study-pastry-in-Europe-to-make-something-that-looks-like-this kind of way. Plus, Malgieri, former executive pastry chef at Windows on the World and current pastry savant, explains everything so even a rogue baker like me can follow directions. 3. Berries were in abundance at the farmers market on Saturday; and despite the fall chill in the air these mornings, I’m not ready to let go of summer just yet. Finally, I happen to have a motherlode of mint on my back deck and want to be able to say I used it in something besides cocktails. Sort of.
“While I hate the indiscriminate use of mint leaves as a decoration for desserts in general, the flavor of mint in moderation is wonderful with berries,” Nick Malgieri says. “Right before serving this tart, I like to scatter tiny mint leaves on it, then lightly dust it with confectioners’ sugar. If you only have large mint leaves, then stack them and cut them into fine ribbons.”
I do, and I did. No going rogue for me.
- One 10-inch tart crust made from French-Style Cookie Dough spread with (almond) nut biscuit batter (recipe below), fully baked
- Pastry cream
- ¾ cup whole milk
- ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
- ¼ cup sugar
- 3 large egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 pint tiny height-of-season strawberries, rinsed and hulled
- 2 half-pint baskets fresh raspberries, picked over but not washed
- 3 tablespoons tiny mint leaves or larger leaves stacked and cut into thin ribbons
- Confectioners’ sugar for finishing
- For the pastry cream, combine the milk, cream, and half of the sugar in a small saucepan and whisk. Place the pan over low heat and bring it to a full boil. Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk the yolks and then whisk in the remaining sugar. Sift the flour over the yolk mixture and whisk it in.
- When the milk mixture boils, whisk it into the yolk mixture. Strain it back into the pan and place it over medium heat. Use a small, pointed-end whisk to stir constantly, being sure to reach into the corners of the pan, until the cream comes to a full boil and thickens. Continue to cook, whisking constantly, for 30 seconds. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the vanilla.
- Scrape the cream into a glass or stainless-steel bowl and press plastic wrap directly against the surface. Chill it thoroughly.
- No more than 4 hours before you intend to serve the tart, unmold the cooled, baked tart crust and slide it onto a platter. Spread the cold pastry cream into the crust.
- Arrange the strawberries and raspberries on the pastry cream in concentric rings, gently pressing them so they adhere, and covering the cream completely.
- Immediately before serving, sprinkle the tart with the mint leaves, followed by a light dusting of confectioners’ sugar.
Makes enough for 2 large tarts
- 2 cups / 270g unbleached all-purpose flour (spoon into dry-measure cup and level)
- 1 cup / 112g finely ground blanched almonds, sifted
- 12 tablespoons /1 ¾ sticks / 170g unsalted butter, slightly softened
- 1 cup / 112g confectioners’ sugar, sifted after measuring
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon lemon extract
- optional 2 large egg yolks
- Stir the flour and ground almonds together and set them aside.
- Beat the butter and confectioners’ sugar on the lowest speed in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until well mixed, then increase the speed to medium and beat until lightened, about 3 minutes
- Add the extracts, then the egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition until the mixture is smooth.
- Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the bowl and beater and beat in the flour mixture on the lowest speed.
- Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and gently knead it together 3 or 4 times to make it smooth.
- Divide the dough into 2 pieces, form them into disks, and wrap each one in plastic. Chill the dough for a couple of hours before rolling.