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Makes 6 individual tarts, one 9.5-inch tart, or one rectangular 4-x-14-inch tart
½ recipe Pâte Sucrée (recipe below)
2 recipes Vanilla Pastry Cream (recipe below)
4 cups (500 grams) mixed berries


Prepare the vanilla pastry cream and pâte sucrée dough. When ready to assemble, blind bake the tart dough as directed in the recipe, using a 9.5-inch (24-centimeter) round tart pan, or a 4-x-14-inch (10-x-35.5-centimeter) rectangular tart pan.

Remove from the oven and let the crust cool completely. Push up the removable base to detach the crust from the mold. Place on a serving platter. Give the cooled vanilla pastry cream a good whisk by hand for a nice smooth texture. Then, fill the tart crust with the vanilla pastry cream, smoothing it with an offset metal spatula or the back of a spoon.

To decorate, first assess your fruit and pull out several of the showstoppers. These, you’ll place on the top as a garnish (this usually includes the cute little strawberries with their tops still on). Set them aside and then randomly place the largest of the remaining fruit (usually strawberries) on top of the pastry cream. This will act as your base. I usually add just about all of the strawberries, some cut in half and quarters and others left whole (it’s nice to have a mix) in various angles to add dimension. Then, fill in with the other berries, finishing with the reserved showstoppers.

STORAGE: Keep chilled. Lasts 2 days.

MAKE AHEAD: Follow the pastry cream and pâte sucrée make ahead instructions. The tart dough can be precooked and kept at room temperature for up to a week in an airtight container before assembling.

Pâte Sucrée


Makes enough for two 9- to 9.5-inch (23- to 24-centimeter) tart shells or twelve 4-inch (10-centimeter) individual tart shells
2⅔ cups (340 grams) all-purpose flour
1 cup (120 grams) powdered sugar
⅓ cup (30 grams) almond flour or meal
¼ teaspoon salt
14 tablespoons (1½ sticks + 2 tablespoons [200 grams]) unsalted butter, cold, cubed
1 large egg
1½ teaspoon (scant 8 millimeters) vanilla extract
1 teaspoon water (see Variation if working with pastry or cake flour)


You can mix the dough together in a stand mixer or by hand.

IN A STAND MIXER: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, powdered sugar, almond flour, salt, and cold cubed butter, and mix them together on low speed until the mixture looks sandy, about 5 minutes.

This is called sablage, meaning “sand” in French. Watch carefully as once it reaches this state, you want to stop the mixer so the butter doesn’t get warm and form a dough all on its own.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, vanilla, and water and then add to the mixer. Mix on low speed, watching closely, until it comes together as a dough.

As soon as this happens, turn off the mixer to prevent the dough from overmixing and shrinking when baked.

If there are a few crumbly bits left on the bottom of the bowl that didn’t mix in, press those into the rest of the dough with a spatula. The dough might be slightly sticky.

TO MIX BY HAND: In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, vanilla, and water and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, powdered sugar, almond flour, and salt. Mix together briefly with a whisk or clean hand.

Add the cold cubed butter and toss to coat with the flour mixture. Incorporate the butter, working it in by hand until it is in small pieces. The motion you’ll make is what one of my chef instructors called “show me the money”: Scoop up the mixture with both palms facing up, and then press the butter pieces with your thumb moving along slightly open fingertips. This motion smears and presses the butter, breaking it into smaller pieces and mixing it with the dry ingredients.

Work fast. If the butter starts to become too warm and melts, it will form a dough before the liquid is added. The end result won’t be the same—so, if needed, place the whole bowl in the refrigerator or freezer for 10 to 15 minutes, to chill the butter before continuing. Aim for having mostly all small pieces. Several larger pieces are fine as well, as everything will be brought together later.

Pour in the egg mixture and mix in well with a fork or one finger to avoid the rest of your hand getting super messy. Empty out into a mound on a clean surface. Using the bottom part of your palm (closest to your wrist) and starting at the top of the pile, farthest from you, press and smear the dough forward and away from you in multiple strokes, streaking the mixture across the work surface (this is called “fraisage”).

Once you’ve worked your way through all of the dough, scrape it together into a pile (a plastic dough scraper is great for this) and start again, repeating until the dough comes together. The amount of times you will have to do this depends on the temperature of your ingredients and kitchen. The dough might be a little sticky.

Divide in half and wrap each piece in plastic wrap. Press flat to form a disk (this helps it cool more quickly and more evenly), and chill in the refrigerator for at least 45 minutes before rolling out and shaping to the mold.

Before starting to roll out your dough, check its temperature. You want it to be cold but pliable (normally, freshly made dough hits this point after chilling in the refrigerator for 45 minutes).

Test this by seeing how much of an indentation you can make in the top with a finger. Press on both the sides and the center to make sure the temperature is even throughout. No indentation means it’s far too cold to attempt to roll. A very easy, deep indentation means it’s too warm and will be too soft to work with. You’re aiming for something in between: cold and firm, but still able to make a fairly easy indentation at all points across the top of the dough.

If your dough is very cold, let it sit on your kitchen countertop for 5 to 10 minutes (or more) before working with it. The amount of time it takes depends on the temperature of your kitchen and the starting temperature of the dough.

The best method for rolling out any dough is to move it frequently on a lightly floured surface. This prevents sticking as the bottom is always coated with flour even as it expands, but also works the dough more evenly. Start gently with the pressure, as being forceful with a cold dough can cause cracks. Concentrate the motion in front of you, turning the dough to access different areas. I will make two or three rolls, then pick up the dough and swish it around on my surface, giving it a 90-degree turn to resume rolling a new section of dough. As the dough warms up with the friction of the rolling pin, it will be easier to roll. Add more flour as needed.

There is no need to grease a tart pan as there is so much butter in the crust, it won’t stick. To make sure you have enough dough to fill the mold, place the pan on top of the dough. Ensure you have about a 2-inch (5-centimeter) margin and then cut away any excess.

For smaller molds: Simply pick up the circle of dough and place it on top of the mold.

For larger molds: Either fold the dough in half, pick it up with both hands, fingers outstretched, place in the mold and unfold; or, if you are rolling out on a nonstick mat or parchment paper, place a hand on top of the rolled-out dough, flip and set it on top of the mold, peeling away the mat or paper.

If it is not easy to remove, your dough is too warm. Don’t force it; instead chill the rolled-out dough for 10 minutes and try again. Bring the dough up with your hands so the middle of the dough is touching the bottom of the pan and the edges are up around the sides of the pan.

Hold the excess dough with your less dominant hand so it is supported, and help it down the sides. Then, with your dominant hand, press the dough into the corners around the edge. I do this with my index finger curled up like a hook—it’s the perfect angle.

Cut off excess dough by rolling across the top of the mold with a rolling pin. Then, pinch around the edges one last time to press the dough back flush against the sides, as an air bubble is created by rolling across the top.

After lining the tart shell(s), prick all over the bottom with a fork (this is called “docking”). This helps prevent the dough from rising in the middle when baking. Chill completely in the fridge (20 to 30 minutes) or freezer (15 minutes) before baking. If it is well chilled before baking, you don’t need to use pie weights or baking beans!

To blind bake (bake the shell completely without a filling), preheat your oven to 325°F (165°C) and then bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the whole surface is evenly golden brown. If the center of the crust rises during baking, open the oven and gently press it down, using a dry tea towel or oven mitt.

If using a pan with a removable bottom, simply press up on the bottom and the tart crust will pop up while the ring will slide down your arm. You can remove the pan’s base or leave it on. For small tartlet pans without a removable bottom, place a hand on top and flip for the tart crust to slide out. If the tart crust is stuck, look for where the crust is over the sides of the mold attaching itself to the pan. Loosen this carefully with a knife and then try again.

MAKE AHEAD: The tart dough can be made 3 days in advance and kept in the fridge. Store in the freezer for 1 month, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and placed in a freezer bag. Thaw at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes or overnight in the fridge.

Vanilla Pastry Cream


Makes 1½ cups (360 milliliters)
3 egg yolks
¼ cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons (15 grams) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon (10 grams) cornstarch
¼ cup (60 milliliters) whole milk
1 cup (240 milliliters) whole milk
1 tablespoon (14 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature, cubed
2 teaspoons (10 grams) granulated sugar
Either ½ tablespoon vanilla paste, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract or ½–1 vanilla bean (scrape the seeds out and add seeds and pod to the pot)


In a medium-sized bowl, start by vigorously whisking together the egg yolks and ¼ cup (50 grams) of granulated sugar for 30 seconds, or until the mixture slightly lightens in color. This is referred to as “blanching.” Next, whisk in the flour and cornstarch, then, carefully, ¼ cup (60 milliliters) of milk. This will loosen up the mixture, making it easier to incorporate with the pastry cream liquids later. Adding the ingredients in this order will prevent lumps.

In a medium-sized saucepan, combine the 1 cup (240 milliliters) of milk, butter, 2 teaspoons (10 grams) of sugar, and your choice of vanilla flavoring. The small amount of sugar will keep the milk from scalding. Heat over medium heat. Whisk once or twice to help the sugar dissolve, but otherwise, simply wait until the mixture slowly heats, coming to a simmer. The gradual rise in temperature allows for better flavor infusion of the vanilla. Don’t let it bubble away for long or some of the delicious flavor can be lost.

When the milk just comes to a simmer, turn off the heat. Slowly pour into the egg yolk mixture while whisking.

Return everything to the saucepan. (One fell swoop! No slow pouring, or it will spill!) Increase the heat to medium-high and whisk strongly for several minutes. When the mixture thickens and boils, whisk for an additional 30 seconds. Sometimes it’s hard to see the boil unless you stop whisking for a couple of seconds to look for the big plops coming to the surface. It is very important to whisk while the mixture boils for 30 seconds, or your pastry cream might not set.

The finished texture will be smooth and thick like pudding. Pour into a clean bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, touching the surface of the pastry cream. This helps it cool faster and prevents a skin from forming on top. Chill until cold, about 1 hour.

When you’re ready to use the cooled pastry cream, you’ll find the texture is like jelly. Whisk by hand just until it’s smooth—this only takes a minute. Whisk too long and you can loosen the firm structure too much and it might start to get runny.

MAKE AHEAD: Pastry cream can be made 3 to 5 days in advance, depending on the expiration date of your milk. If made with super-fresh milk, it will last for 5 days, no problem.

From French Pastry Made Simple: Foolproof Recipes for Éclairs, Tarts, Macarons and More by Molly Wilkinson. Reprinted by permission of Page Street Publishing.

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