In April and May, the green grocers and outdoor markets in Paris are brimming with the new season blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. In June, tree ripe apricots, cherries and peaches will start flooding the market, and later in the summer and early fall there will be a flood of plump fresh plums: Reine Claude, quetsche, mirabelles, to name just a few.
During these warmer months when meals are casual and outdoors, I like to take advantage of all the beauty and abundance of ripe, juicy fruit to make fruit tarts. Not only is this one of the simplest (and most delicious) desserts you can make, but with a little creativity it’s a real showstopper!
The crisp pecan pastry has a cookie-like texture. It’s easy to work with and very forgiving. It has a melt-in-your-mouth crumb, but it is sturdy enough to hold the maple flavored mascarpone and yogurt filling and loads of fresh fruit. And best of all, it’s a dessert that can be prepped ahead of time, ready to assemble at the last minute – perfect for summer entertaining.
A tart is typically made in a tart pan with shallow sides and a removable bottom and is unmolded before serving. Pin tins, pie dishes or pie plates make an excellent tart pan substitute.
For the tart crust:
½ cup (50 g) pecan halves
3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 cup (140 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
Pinch of sea salt
2 ½ ounces (75 g) chilled unsalted butter, cubed
1 egg, beaten
Maple mascarpone filling:
8.8 ounces (250 g) Mascarpone
4 1/4 ounces (150 g) Greek yogurt
6 tbsp maple syrup
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste or fresh seeds scraped out of a pod
10 to 12 ounces (300 g) blueberries, raspberries, blackberries or other fruit
13 x 5 inch (35 x 11 cm) removable bottom, rectangular tart pan or 8-inch (20 cm) removable bottom, round tart pan
Parchment paper and pie weights (or you can use rice or dried beans)
Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Roast nuts for 5 minutes. Remove and let cool completely.
Place cooled nuts and confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Add the flour and a pinch of salt; process to combine. Add the cubed butter and pulse until you get a breadcrumb texture. Stop. Remove the mixture to a medium size bowl. Make a well in the middle of the ingredients and add the egg. Using a knife or a pastry cutter, mix in the egg and then bring the pastry together with your hands. Flatten into a disc, wrap with cling film and chill for 30 minutes.
Line the base of the tart shell with parchment paper. Roll out pastry on lightly floured surface. Line the tart shell with the pastry, pressing into the sides and bottom and patching in places if needed. Trim the edges and then prick all over with a fork. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or the freezer for 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375° F (200° C). Line the chilled pastry with parchment paper, covering the edges of the pan (crumpling the paper makes it easier), and then fill with the pie weights and cook for 15 to 18 minutes. Remove from the oven and gently lift out the parchment and weights. Return the pastry to the oven and continue baking another 5 minutes. The sides and base should be cooked through and golden. Cool completely before filling.
While the tart shell cools, put all the ingredients for the filling in a medium size bowl and whisk together by hand or with an electric mixer.
When ready to assemble, spoon the cream into the cooled pastry case and top with berries. Slice and serve.
Note: The tart is best when eaten within 1 to 2 hours of filling the shell.
Charlotte Puckette is a Grand Diplôme graduate of Paris’s Le Cordon Bleu, co-author of The Ethnic Paris Cookbook, as well as a private chef, caterer, cooking instructor, food consultant, and hostess.