Californian Farmer’s Markets come once a week, and they sell ripe, delicious produce to regular people. In France, their markets open multiple times throughout the week, and both townspeople and restaurant chefs buy from the same vendors. So that whole-wheat artisan bread we smelled in the morning as we bought some carrots showed up on our table in a restaurant’s bread basket later that night.
Which means that French menus are constantly changing. In the US, only the restaurant’s special tends to vary and depends on the fresh produce or catch of the day. But across the Atlantic, chefs adjust their salad toppings, side dishes, and especially their desserts according to what they bought earlier in the day.
It was slightly disappointing that the chocolate-pear tart I wanted wasn’t offered at the restaurant that evening, but they presented us with a gorgeous strawberry custard alternative, made with the sweetest, juiciest strawberries I ate during the entire trip. So I just had to try to recreate it back home, it was that good!
Strawberry Custard Tarts
The separate components are easy to prepare ahead of time, and simply assemble them just before serving. Couldn’t be easier!
¼ c. flour
2 tbsp shortening
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
1-2 tsp cold water
2 tbsp sugar
½ tbsp cornstarch
½ c. milk
½ tsp vanilla
4-6 strawberries, sliced thinly
- To prepare the dough, add the flour, shortening, salt, and sugar to a small bowl. Smash the shortening into the dry ingredients using the back of a fork until the mixture resembles small peas. Mix in the water, a tiny bit at a time, until a dough forms. Separate into two small balls, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 min.
- Preheat the oven to 350°.
- Lightly flour a clean, dry workspace. Flour your hands and a rolling pin as well. Working with one portion of dough at a time, roll it out until it’s ¼ to ⅛ inch thick, or until the diameter of the dough circle is 2 inches larger than a mini-tart pan (should be 5-6 inches across). Gently place the dough in the tart pan, and repeat with the second portion of dough.
- Prick the dough all over with a fork. Bake at 350° for 11-13 minutes, or until crust turns a light golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool completely.
- To prepare the filling, whisk the sugar, cornstarch, salt, and milk in a medium pot. Stir constantly over medium-low heat until the mixture thickens. Continue stirring for another 2-3 min. Pour the mixture into a bowl, stir in the vanilla, and allow to cool on the countertop for 10 minutes. Cover the top with plastic wrap, being sure that the plastic wrap touches the custard, and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Spoon half of the custard into one tart shell, and top with half of the strawberries. Repeat with the remaining shell, custard, and strawberries.