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Classic French Fruit Tart

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

Classy and elegant; this fruit tart features a buttery and flaky French Pâte Sucrée (sweet tart crust) and homemade pastry cream. Then it is finished with any fresh fruits of your choice. I definitely wanted to get as much color as possible and show off the brightness of the fruit that is in season here in Germany. To make this dessert even better I made three different French macarons to compliment some of the fruit flavors that are featured in this tart: Strawberry cheesecake, blackberry mascarpone and lemon with a homemade lemon curd filling.

For years I was terrified of making a gluten free fruit tart. I thought they are so incredibly delicate and sophisticated; that it must be truly difficult to bake. I do not recommend this for an absolute beginner. However, if you are confident in baking pies with homemade pie dough then you definitely can master a sweet tart crust.

After thinking I could never make this fancy dessert I ended up making two within one week!

Here is my second fruit tart

Days after I made my first French fruit tart, my friend asked me to make one for her birthday. She said that fruit tarts are her favorite and if she had the choice she would have had a fruit tart as her wedding cake. I was more than happy to oblige. She however wanted a more strawberry focused tart. Who could blame her?!? The strawberries right now are SO fresh and naturally sweet.

She was thrilled and wrote me later, ' It was the best tart I have ever tasted. Seriously UNREAL. I have zero suggestions. I'm in love!!!'

This comment brought me tears of joy.

I want to be able to share this recipe and break down the steps so that anyone can make this classic fruit tart at home. Gluten free or not, I have both recipes for you!

In this post I will break down the 3 parts and give you a few tips along the way to help save you some time.

Let's talk about the actual 'Work' in this dessert. It has three components:

Sweet Tart Crust a.k.a. Pâte Sucrée: the dough itself takes less than 5 minutes to make before it goes into the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Then you roll it out, put it in your tart pan, freeze for an additional 30ish minutes and then bake... that's it.

French Pastry Cream: The technique used for making homemade pastry cream is very similar to making homemade vanilla pudding. The ingredients and their measurements differ slightly but you temper the eggs the same. Making pastry cream takes about 5 minutes. Yes! 5 minutes! You do need to let it cool in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and you can't spread it onto your sweet tart crust until the dough has baked and of course cooled. However, this makes this step even better. Why? Because you can make the pastry cream ahead of time. Make it 1-2 days in advance if you like. Just keep it in the refrigerator until about 30 minutes prior to spreading it into your tart crust.

Fresh Fruit Assembly: There is no right or wrong way to assemble your fruit, as you can see from the two fruit tarts featured above. They both look heavenly! Make any design that you like. Use whichever fruit is fresh, in season and if possible, local. It is very traditional to use canned mandarin oranges in addition to strawberries and other berries. To get that lovely shine or glimmer on top of your tart it is SO simple you will laugh. Take about a 1/2 cup of apricot jam. Heat it up for about 30 seconds in the microwave or in a small saucepan until the jam really melts. Then use a pastry brush or any sort of kitchen brush to brush the melted jam directly on top of the fruit. It doesn't change the taste of the fruit at all but once it dries it adds this extra glazed sparkle to your fruit tart.

Total active work time really is around 45 minutes. I honestly spent more time doing dishes and slicing fruit so that they would all be equal in size than I spent doing any other step.

Let's go through each step. You can start with either the pastry cream or the crust. It is up to you. I started with the pastry cream.

Tempering eggs does not have to be hard. I always start with a small bowl that contains my egg yolks and cornstarch. Once my liquid reaches a simmer I add it into my bowl with the eggs whisking vigorously. I only add about a 1/3 cup at a time using my ladle to add it to my egg mixture. This ensures that the eggs slowly become warm to hot and therefore do not start to look like scrambled eggs. You do not want any 'chunks' in your pastry cream. You want it to look like this.

You want it to thicken up just enough so that it coats the back of a wooden spoon. You want it to be creamy and spreadable. It will also thicken up more once it cools so keep that in mind.

What makes this different from vanilla pudding is the addition of butter. We add butter to the mixture after it has already thickened and we just stir it in until it melts. The addition of butter really makes this pastry cream... well... creamy!

While it is still hot transfer it to a heat proof bowl and cover it with some plastic cling wrap. Really press that plastic wrap directly on top of the pastry cream. If you leave any space (air) between the pastry cream and the plastic wrap your pastry cream will create what we call in the baking world a 'skin,' which is a gross thin hard layer on top of your pastry cream. Gross. We don't want that!

Put that into the refrigerator and onto our next step:

The French Pâte Sucrée (sweet tart crust). I thought this would be SO hard. I have no idea why. The technique is a bit different than how you would make a typical American pie crust, but I honestly found it to be easier and faster.

To do this you do need a food processor fitted with the blade at the bottom. Normally for an American pie crust you just use a normal bowl and then use a pastry cutter or two knives to add the butter to the dough and then use a fork to add in the milk. It is pretty messy (at least for me) and I always end up getting pie dough everywhere on my kitchen island. Not with this sweet tart crust. Everything goes into the food processor and the blade does ALL the work!

Here you can see, all the dry ingredients blended together. Then you add ALL that butter. Then pulse it about 15 times. If you look closely, you can see the small pieces of butter evenly distributed into the flour mixture.

Then you add your egg and your milk and within 30 seconds your mixture becomes a perfect dough!

I let it mix for another 10-15 seconds and it came together beautifully. It was soft and pliable, which is exactly the texture we are looking for. Now we need to wrap it in some plastic cling wrap.

You want to wrap it nice and tight and squish it down a bit so that it is the shape of a disk.

And it goes directly into the refrigerator to set for at least 1 hour. However, this step can be done 1-2 days in advance.

Once your dough has chilled, take it out of the refrigerator and give it about 5-10 minutes before you roll it out.

For this step make sure you have a large clean surface. You also want to have two sheets of baking parchment paper. You are going to roll out your dough in between the two sheets. Make sure that bottom of the parchment paper is well floured because this dough will stick. If you are making this gluten free it will probably stick and break more than a normal gluten filled dough so work with caution and lots of extra flour sprinkled everywhere!

I use this method also when making American pie dough crusts. It helps to transfer the dough onto your dish all in one piece. Many people roll their dough onto to their rolling pin to transfer it. This is a great method for normal or gluten filled dough but for gluten free the dough is too fragile and will break.

I rolled it out in the best circle that I could, making sure that it was about 1 inch bigger than my tart pan.

Now comes the transfering part. You need to peel off the top layer of parchment paper. If the dough sticks it means that you did not use enough flour. Scrape it all back into a ball and start over with more flour. It is not the end of the world. This actually happened to me the first time I rolled it out. I underestimated how much flour I needed. If you feel like your dough is getting to soft and sticky that means your butter is melting. Pop the dough back into the refrigerator to harden up the butter. It's ok to mess up this step a few times until it works. This part is very forgiving.

Once you peel off your parchment paper you want to either slip your hand under the bottom layer of parchment paper (the dough should be sitting on top) and you are going to flip or invert the paper onto your tart dish.

It's more than ok if some parts hang off or some parts of your dish did not get covered. Carefully peel off the parchment paper.

Now don't tell anyone but it is more than fine to have lots of gaps and wonky areas. We are working with a gluten free tart crust and it is MUCH harder to keep in one piece than its gluten filled counterparts.

We just do some simple patch work. Take any extra dough and fill in the spaces. Just press it directly into the pan. You want your dough to be thin and even a bit translucent is acceptable. Once you have filled in all the nooks and crannies use a fork to poke holes everywhere along the bottom. Now don't bake yet. We have to put the unbaked tart shell into the freezer for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Now it is time to bake. You should cover it all with aluminum foil and use pie weights here which are like little heavy balls that are oven safe. Pie weights help to keep the bottom of the dough from rising during the bake. Instead you can use dried beans or like I did... dried lentils.

I was a little nervous because half way through the bake I noticed the smell of baking lentils. It wasn't too strong but it was definitely there. No need to fear. As soon as the tart shell came out of the oven the lentil smell disappeared and didn't infuse itself into the shell itself.

Can you see how delicate and flaky this crust is?

Once it cooled it came out of the tart pan so easily, with barely any effort at all. I do have a tart pan that has a removable bottom. I definitely recommend buying one with a removable bottom if you have the option.

Once you are ready to assemble just make sure that your tart crust has fully cooled. If it is still warm it will melt your pastry cream. Then all you do is spoon in the pastry cream and spread it around with a spatula. You do want it as even as possible but you will cover the pastry cream with fruit so don't fret.

Then I brushed all the fruit with melted apricot jam, just to get that shine and sparkle that everyone looks for in a fruit tart.

I made this fruit tart for Mother's Day... really just for me and one other friend who is also a mom like me. I wanted to celebrate us. Our hard work and dedication. Our awesomeness. We did let our husbands and kids have a slice or two. And our kids popped macarons into their mouths like they were gummy bears. If only they knew how expensive macarons are in real shops! (Anywhere from 1.50-2.50€ a piece)

The weather was fabulous and we planned a Mother's Day brunch picnic and a hike from one vineyard estate to another.

It was picture perfect. Like out of a fairy tale. Here I am standing at the foot of the vineyards right outside Schloss Johannisberg.

Fun fact: Schloss Johannisberg has been producing wine for over 900 years!

We had such a wonderful family day and after our first picnic (we may or may not have done two picnics) we started our hike... with several bottles of wine in our backpacks.

If this isn't vineyard living at it's best then I don't know what is?!?

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