once upon a chef

Classic French Fruit Tart


– 1 recipe pâte sucrée (sweet tart dough) – 2 cups whole milk (do not substitute low-fat or skim milk) – ½ cup sugar – 3 tablespoons cornstarch – 1 large egg – 2 large egg yolks – 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces – 2 teaspoons vanilla extract – About 4 cups fresh mixed berries of choice, plus other fruits, such as sliced kiwi or mango (see note) – ¼ cup apricot jam

This classic French fruit tart combines three equally delicious elements: a crisp, buttery shortbread crust (or pâte sucrée), a creamy vanilla custard (or crême pâtissière), and heaps of fresh fruit. The recipe comes together easily but looks like it came straight out of a French pâtisserie window, and it tastes even better than it looks.


Prepare the Crust Prepare the pâte sucrée recipe through baking and cooling. A pâte sucrée is a crisp yet tender pastry crust that is slightly sweet. (In French, pâte means dough and sucrée means sweet.) The dough maintains its shortbread-like texture even when chilled, which makes it ideal for tarts that require refrigeration.


Make the Pastry Cream Pastry cream, or crême pâtissière, is a sweet, vanilla pudding-like custard that is used in many desserts, like cream puffs, éclairs, and fruit tarts. To make it, begin by heating the milk in a medium pot until just boiling. Remove the pot from heat.


Add the sugar, egg, egg yolks, and cornstarch to a heat-proof mixing bowl.


Whisk until the mixture is very smooth and has lightened in color, about 2 minutes. Whisking constantly, add about a quarter of the hot milk into the egg mixture.


Pour the milk-tempered egg mixture into the pot of the remaining milk. Whisk to combine. Return the pot to the heat and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly to prevent “scrambled eggs,” especially on the sides and bottom, until the pastry cream thickens, about 2 minutes. A flat whisk is ideal for this task. Stir in the butter and vanilla.


Cook one minute more, whisking constantly. The pastry cream should make thick, lazy bubbles. Pour the thickened pastry cream into a clean, shallow bowl. Cover it with plastic wrap and push it down in the bowl so it sits directly on the surface of the pastry cream. This prevents a skin from forming on top. Chill until cold, a few hours or up to 2 days.


Assemble the Fruit Tart Remove the tart ring and transfer the tart shell to a serving platter. Whisk the chilled pastry cream until smooth, then spread it evenly into the tart shell using an offset spatula.


Arrange a generous amount of fruit over the pastry cream in your desired design. As mentioned above, you can do a more traditional French design of concentric circles of arranged fruit (see bottom of post for an example), a free-form fruit pattern, or a mix. Be sure to be generous with the fruit and cover the pastry cream completely.


If you’d like to do a mango or kiwi slice rosette in the center, leave a space in the middle of the tart. Start from the outside and work your way to the center, overlapping each slice a little on top of the next.