Strawberry & Fresh Cream Custard Crostata

Strawberry & Fresh Cream Custard TartRachael from pizzarossa was our lovely June 2013 Daring Bakers’ host and she had us whipping up delicious pies in our kitchens! Cream pies, fruit pies, chocolate pies, even crack pies! There’s nothing like pie!

This is my first Daring Bakers’ challenge and I am trilled to now be a member of this adventurous and supportive community. I’m afraid this post has gone up a little later than planned as I am currently in the process of moving from Stockholm to Leeds in the UK for the summer. This involves lugging 130kg of luggage (not exaggerating), including half my kitchen utensils, a very large frying pan, the edited highlights of a my spice collection (in matching jars), a Thermomix, industrial juicer and 2kg of praline that I just couldn’t bear to throw away. Leopold is not amused.

I decided to go for my own version of an Italian crostata. I started with a pastry recipe kindly supplied by Rachael from the blog pizzarossa who hosted this month’s challenge which involved making a kind of Italian sweet pastry I haven’t made before. I had some lovely, sweet Swedish strawberries waiting to be eaten and I regularly have the urge to turn desserts into a version of crème brûlée, so I decided to make a kind of rich custard and fresh strawberry tart. It was really lovely and summery! And fruity, creamy, buttery, vanilla-y….

Crostata With Icing Sugar

Pasta Frolla

Have never made pastry in this manner before, creaming the butter and sugar together first, so was excited to give it a try. The pastry tasted lovely and buttery and I particularly liked the addition of the lemon zest to the pastry – will repeat this in the future.

However, I got a little unstuck when rolling it out. I tried rolling it out between two pieces of baking paper (which may not have been non-stick) and it stuck spectacularly, causing me a good half an hour of barely-contained fury during which I came very close to throwing the whole thing in the bin. However, I persevered and after freezing the pastry for a while was able to painstakingly peel the paper off bit by bit. I think next time, I’ll stick with the traditional way of rolling out this pastry, using just a pin and floured worktop. If anyone knows what I did wrong, please let me know!

Makes enough for one 24cm tart

  • 150g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 75g sugar (I used vanilla-scented white sugar & Demerara)
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (I used homemade vanilla pod extract)
  • 1 lemon, zest only
  • 225g plain flour
  • pinch of salt (I used Indian ‘black salt’ which matches strawberries)

Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy (2-5 minutes) – the longer you beat this mixture, the lighter, but more fragile, the dough will be. One at a time, add the egg, vanilla & lemon zest, mixing thoroughly after each addition. Add the flour and salt, then mix until it just comes together – do not over mix, as the texture of the pastry will suffer. Remove the pastry from the mixer and push it into a ball. Wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes.

Half an hour before you want to use the pastry, remove it from the fridge. Lightly grease the inside of a 24cm tart tin (I used cooking spray). Divide the pastry into two pieces, one with 2/3 of the pastry and the other with 1/3. Roll the larger piece out as thinly as possible and fit into the tart tin. Trim the pastry overhang so there is only about 1-2cm extra, then fold that into the tin to make a thicker pastry edge for the lattice detail to sit on. Prick all over the base with a fork and chill for a further 30 minutes. Preheat the oven and bake the pastry blind (lined with baking paper and weights) at 180c for about 15 minutes, until the pastry is set. Remove the baking paper and weights and cool on a wire rack.

Because I decided to make a tart with a very delicate egg custard filling, I chose to bake the lattice separately. The custard needs to be baked at a very low 130c, which is much too low for the pastry to cook properly. To make the lattice decoration, roll out the other 1/3 of the pastry and cut out whatever shapes you choose with a biscuit/cookie cutter. Bake on a baking tray between two pieces of baking paper held down with some light weights (I used other biscuit/cookie cutters) until lightly and evenly browned. Cool on a wire rack.

Custard Filling

This recipe is adapted from the filling of Marcus Wareing’s Custard Tart and I used this FoodPairing website to find a subtle flavouring (mace) that would go well with both the custard and strawberry flavours. This custard is heavy on egg yolks and contains fresh cream and vanilla pod, so I thought just a thin layer would be sufficient with the strawberries. However, if you would like the crust to be completely filled with custard, double the amount below.

Fills a 24cm tart about 1cm deep (see note above)

  • 280ml double/heavy cream
  • 2 pinches mace (it goes particularly well with strawberries)
  • 1/2 vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped out
  • pinch salt (helps counteract a slight bitterness in the vanilla)
  • 40g sugar
  • 5 yolks (one white also reserved)

Preheat the oven (or reduce the heat) to 130c. Bring the cream, mace, vanilla (seeds and pod) and salt to the boil over medium heat. While the cream is heating (watch it does not boil over!), whisk the sugar and the yolks together (I used a stand mixer) until well combined and just a little lightened. When the cream is ready, slowly whisk it into the sugar and yolks – you do not want to add a lot of air to the mixture, but it should all be thoroughly combined. Return the mixture to the pan and heat to 82c, stirring constantly. If you do not have a thermometer, heat until the custard is lightly thickened – do not let the eggs scramble! Pass the mixture through a sieve into a jug, to ensure any lumps are removed.

Brush the whole inside of the pastry case with some egg white thinned with a little water and bake for about 5 minutes until dried. This will help keep the pastry underneath the custard from becoming soggy.

With the pastry case still in the oven, pour in the custard. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the custard is set, but not too firm – it should still have some jiggle. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

To Decorate

Make sure to smell and taste your strawberries before you buy them for this tart as it will taste much better with ripe, sweet, fragrant strawberries than with sour, hard, unripe, out-of-season supermarket strawberries!

Instead of dusting with icing sugar, another delicious option is to cover the strawberries and custard in a thin layer of Demerara sugar and brûlée the sugar with a blow torch, leaving you with Strawberry Crème Brûlée Tart. I tried this and the strawberries stand up well to the heat of the flame. I didn’t take any pictures of that version, but it was magnificent!!

  • 200g strawberries (or other berries), hulled and sliced in half
  • pre-baked lattice decoration
  • icing sugar to dust (optional)

Arrange the halved strawberries as you fancy on top of the set custard. Arrange the pre-baked lattice decorations of top of the strawberries. I like to refrigerate my custard for a few hours until it is thoroughly chilled, but if you like yours warm or room temperature, go for it! When you are ready to serve, dust the whole thing very lightly with icing sugar. Serve!

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  1. says

    Nancy, that is possibly the prettiest tart I have ever seen! I will definitely be making one over the summer! Thanks so much for baking with me this month 🙂

    • Ramsons and Bramble says

      That is so kind! And thank you for all the hard work you put in to bring us this challenge – there was lots of choice and it was great fun!