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4th of July Tart

Saturday, July 4, 2009
Tart with Mixed Berries and Frangipane Cream

The first time I came to the US I was 12 year old, it was summertime and I stayed one month with a host family in Detroit. There I spent my first 4th of July; apparently we were on a boat watching the fireworks, but the only thing I remember is that I got really sick because I had eaten too much caramel popcorn.
When they invited me to a barbecue for Independence Day few weeks ago, I couldn't make up my mind on what to bring. All I could think of were huge colored bins, with overflowing popcorn in white, red and blue.

Finally yesterday I had a sudden inspiration and I literally ran to buy all the ingredients. Even if all sorts of accidents happened during the work in progress (I forgot the milk on the stove while making the pastry cream, the electric mixer sized up on me out of spite, the electricity decided to stop working right when I had the tart in the oven), eventually I made it and I was able to get rid of the popcorn ghosts.
Happy Fourth of July!

Mixed Berry Tart
with Frangipane Cream

for a 9" diameter tart pan

For the Tart Dough
flour 250 gr.
sugar 100 gr.
butter 100 gr.
eggs 1
baking powder 7 gr.
a pinch of salt

I always make the tart dough using the recipe from the Simili Sisters (in Italy they are like the rock stars of anything kneaded, two sweet twin ladies that holds baking classes all over Europe). And even this time that I wanted to try the more tender version, which is better as a base for cream and fruit tarts, they did not fail.
Sift flour and baking powder on the table. Take butter out of the fridge, cut it in small pieces and rub it with the flour using your fingers, until you get a crumbly dough.
Make a dwell in the middle and put sugar, egg and salt. Beat lightly with a fork, then start mixing them with the flour using a spatula. Work the dough until it gets smooth, trying to be as quick as possible so that it won't get warm. Wrap in plastic and let it rest in the fridge for at least two hours before using it.

For the Frangipane Cream
butter 80 gr.
sugar 100 gr.
almond flour 100 gr.
eggs 2
flour 40 gr.
almond extract 1 tablespoon

Beat eggs with sugar until they get fluffy, add butter cut in small pieces and keep mixing at high speed. Add flour, almond flour and extract and mix until the cream is smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use it.

For the Pastry Cream
(Recipe by Pierre Hermé)
milk 500 gr.
egg yolks 4
sugar 75 gr.
corn starch 3 tablespoons
half vanilla stick

Warm the milk with the vanilla stick, after opening it in half and scratching out the seeds. Turn off the heat and let it soak for at least half hour. When you are ready to use it, bring the milk back to boiling point.
In the meantime, beat yolks with sugar and corn starch until fluffy. Temper the egg mixture with a couple of spoons of hot milk, whisking quickly so that eggs won't cook. Slowly add remaining milk, and keep stirring. Strain the cream back in the pan, and discard any lump. Cook at medium heat and keep stirring until it starts boiling. Keep cooking for another 2 minutes, then turn the heat off and cool it off quickly by putting the pan over a bed of ice. Keep stirring until completely cold, it will take about 5-6 minutes. Cover with plastic and keep it in the fridge until ready to use.

To Finish
mixed berries
(strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries)

apricot jam, powdered sugar

When you are ready to bake, roll out the dough and place it in the baking pan, cover with parchment paper and put ceramic weights on top (you can also use some dried beans instead), so that the crust won't rise as much while baking. Bake for 15 minutes at 350, take out the weights and parchment paper and cover the crust shell with a thick layer of frangipane cream. Put back in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes more, until crust and cream turn a nice golden color.
Let it cool completely, then spread a layer of pastry cream and arrange the berries on top, creating circles of alternating colors.
In a saucepan, heat some apricot jam with a couple of spoons of water. When the jam is hot, brush it on top of the berries to make them shine. Finally, sprinkle the tart with a little powdered sugar.
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