Nothing says 'Summer Time' like these little Strawberry Tartlets with Pastry Cream Filling. The crispy Sweet Pastry Crust filled with creamy Vanilla Custard and topped with fresh Strawberries is great for dinner parties, barbecues or afternoon tea parties!
Don't you just love Strawberry Tartlets in summer? It is the kind of dessert that pleases everyone - kids included! It does require a little bit of work, but the final result is always spectacular. A great way to impress your guests at the end of a meal!
These Mini Strawberry Tarts are made out of three elements:
- The Tartlet Pastry - an Sweet Shortcrust Pastry here
- A Creamy Filling - a Vanilla Crème Pâtissière (aka Pastry Cream)
- Fresh Fruits - the deliciously sweet Strawberries
The Tartlet Crust is made from an 'Almond Pate Sucrée', which is best translated as a Sweet Almond Shortcrust Pastry. To make the pastry for these Strawberry Tartlets with Pastry Cream, you will need (see below for quantities):
- Almond Meal (or Blanched Ground Almond)
- Plain / All-Purpose Flour
- Powdered Sugar (or Icing Sugar)
- Unsalted Butter
The filling for the French Fruit Tart is another big classic: the Crème Patissiere (aka Pastry Cream... or Vanilla Custard). It is made from:
- Milk (can also be a mix of Milk and Cream)
- Caster Sugar
- Egg Yolks
- Cornstarch (can be replaced by Plain Flour)
- Vanilla - either Bean, Paste or Essence.
- Butter - optional
How to make Strawberry Custard Tarts
To make the Mini Fruit Tarts with Custard, you will first need to make the Tart Pastry, chill it and blind bake it.
While the tartlet shells are cooling, you will then start to make the Custard Filling and fill the pastry cases with it.
Finally, you will be able to place the fresh Strawberries over the cream.
Sweet Shortcrust Pastry
I know that a lot of people feel intimidated about making their own pastries and pie crusts but with a little bit of practice, it really isn't that complicated!
The most important thing is to give your pastry plenty of time to rest and chill, every time you handle it.
Here is how I make my Sweet Shortcrust Pastry:
- Place all the Dry Ingredients in the bowl of my mixer. Add the Butter at room temperature and cut into small cubes. With the paddle attachment of your mixer on, turn on low to medium speed to mix all of the ingredients together. The texture should be crumbly, thick sand-like.
- Beat the Egg in a small separate bowl and add it to the rest of the ingredients. Beat it in for a few seconds only, or until the dough starts to come together.
- Place the pastry dough between two sheets of lightly floured Baking Paper and roll into the desired thickness. Place in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- Line your pastry rings - I used 10 cm / 4 inch Perforated Pastry Rings - and prick the bottom with a small fork.
See this great video on how to "foncer" (line) tartlet rings if needed
- Turn your oven on 160'C/325'F. While it is pre-heating, place your filled pastry rings (or tins) in the freezer.
- Blind bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until fully baked.
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool down completely.
You are now ready for part 2 of your Berry Custard Tart!
Note that this recipe used the "sanding" technique - meaning that we mixed cold butter and flour first before adding the Egg. You can read about an alternative technique called "creaming" in my full article on this Sweet Shortcrust Pastry!
Vanilla Crème Patissière (Custard Filling)
Another element that could sound a bit scary to make but is actually quite quick and easy! I always make my own Tart Custard Filling with a Pastry Cream recipe, but you can always use a store-bought packet one if you do not want to attempt to make your own.
To make Crème Pâtissière:
- Heat up the Milk in a small pot on low heat with the Vanilla.
Make sure to keep an eye on it as it will start to boil quite quickly.
- In the meantime, whisk together the Caster Sugar and Egg Yolks. Then add the Cornstarch and whisk until incorporated.
- When the Milk is boiling, move it away from the stove and pour in the Sugar/Yolk mixture. Mix well then place back on the heat source. Keep whisking until thick and shinny then remove transfer into a clean bowl.
- If you want to add Butter, do it now away from the heat. Whisk until combined.
- Cover with plastic wrap touching the surface and place in the fridge to cool.
Pastry Cream Tip: How to know that your custard is cooked and ready?
As a general rule, it should be cooked for 1 minute per 1 litre of milk once it starts boiling again after adding the sugar/yolk. For this recipe, you will need 250ml of Milk so the custard should be cooked for another 15 seconds after it starts to boil again.
Putting together the Strawberry Cream Tarts
The last step is to put all of the elements together to create the most delicious little summer Strawberry Tartlets with Custard!
First, check that the Custard's temperature went back down to Room Temperature. You want it still fluid to be able to pour it into the tart crusts, but not hot. If it seems to have set, simply loosen it with a whisk.
Pour the Custard into each Tartlet Crust and use a small Offset Spatula to smooth the top. Set aside.
Wash your Strawberries and cut off the stems. With a small knife, slice the strawberries into thin strips then poke them into your Custard filling.
How to store these Pastries
Depending on which steps your are at, you will need to store the elements of these fresh fruit tarts differently.
Just the Pastry Crusts: they can be kept in an air-tight container at room temperature for a couple of days. Otherwise, they can be frozen (see below for tips on how to freeze pastry).
The Custard: it should always be stored in the fridge as it contains Eggs, and covered with a plastic wrap touching the surface.
This will avoid the creation of a thick film over the cream. Pastry Cream or Custard can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days.
How long does a fruit tart last in the fridge once put together: I recommend to eat them within 2 days so that the curst stays flakey and crunchy.
Can you make these Mini Tarts ahead?
Basically all elements of these tartlets can be made in advance, but once put together they are better eaten fresh.
The Tartlet Crusts can be made and blind baked about 2 days in advance, and kept at room temperature in an air-tight container.
The Custard can be made up to three days ahead (if eaten straight away after 3 days) and kept in the fridge with a plastic wrap touching the surface.
When ready to be assembled, vigorously whisk the cream to loosen it. You may need to re-heat it a little bit so that you can pour it into the tart shells, but make sure not to burn it!
The finished Strawberry Tartlets should be eaten fresh within 24 hours, but can be kept for up to 48 hours in the fridge when made with fresh Custard.
Can I freeze them?
I do not recommend freezing these Mini Strawberry Tarts once they are assembled, but you can freeze the Pastry Crust.
To freeze pastry, I find it easier to pre-fill the pastry rings or tins and freeze them in the desired shape. To do so, make, roll, chill, line the tins and poke the pastry as needed then place them on a baking tray and freeze.
Once fully frozen, you can remove the tartlet rings/tins and carefully transfer them into a freezer-friendly container.
To bake them, place the rings back around the tartlets and bake as instructed, adding about 5 minutes for them to thaw.
More French Tarts Recipes:
- Easy French Apple Tart
- French Triple Chocolate Tart
- Pear Tarte Tatin
- White Peach Frangipane Tart
- Apricot Tarte Tatin
- Plum Vanilla Custard Tart
- Puff Pastry Apple Tartlets
Fresh Strawberry Tartlets with Vanilla Custard
Sweet Shortcrust Pastry (Almond Pate Sucrée)
- 120 gr (1/2 cup) Butter - soft, at room temperature
- 15 gr (2 tbsp) Powdered Sugar - or Icing Sugar
- 40 gr (1/3 cup + 2 tbsp) Almond Meal
- 1 Egg
- 1 pinch Salt
- 200 gr (1 1/3 cup) Plain / All-Purpose Flour
- 250 ml (1 cup) Full Cream Milk
- 1/2 teasp. Vanilla Paste - Or Extract
- 2 Egg Yolks
- 15 gr (1 tablesp.) Caster Sugar
- 15 gr (2 tablesp.) Cornstarch
- 250 gr (9 oz) Fresh Strawberries
- Icing Sugar to finish the tarts; to taste - optional
Sweet Shortcrust Pastry (Almond Pate Sucrée)
- Place the very soft Butter and Powdered Sugar in the bowl of your mixer and cream together for 2 to 3 minutes, or until pale and fluffy. Add the Egg, Almond Meal and Salt and mix until combined.
- Add the Flour and mix it in on the lowest speed. Stop as soon as the dough starts to come together to avoid overworking the pastry.
- Transfer the pastry between two sheets of lightly floured Baking Paper. Thinly Roll into the desired thickness (about 2 to 3mm or 1/10 inch), then place in the fridge to rest for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- Line your Pastry Rings (or Tartlet Pans) with the Pastry and prick the bottom with a small fork. Place back in the fridge to rest for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- Turn your oven on 160'C/325'F. While the oven is pre-heating, place your filled pastry rings (or tins) in the freezer on a baking tray.
- Blind bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until fully baked (see note 1). Remove from the oven and leave to cool down completely.
- Heat up the Milk and Vanilla in a small pot on low heat. In a separate bowl, whisk together the Sugar and Egg Yolks. Add the Cornstarch and whisk until smooth.
- When the Milk starts to simmer, pour it over the Sugar/Egg/Cornstarch while whisking, then tranfer it all back into the pot (see note 2). Keep whisking on low heat until the cream starts to thicken. Once it reaches a boil, whisk for an additional 30 seconds then remove from the stove.
Assembling the Strawberry Tartlets
- Pour the Pastry Cream (you can also use a piping bag with round nozzle for more precision) into each Tartlet Shell and smooth the top with an offset spatula.
- Wash your Strawberries and remove the stem. Slice them into strips and poke them into the Custard to almost completely cover it (see note 3).
- Keep inthe fridge for up to 2 days.
- I did not use weights or baking beads here - if the pastry has rested and chilled enough, it should not move or shrink when baked. If you are scared it might shrink, you can always add a little bit of baking paper over the lined pastry shells and add beads or weights. Remove the about half-way through the baking so that the bottom is fully baked too.
- This is to temper all the ingredients and insure the eggs don't cook too fast in the pot and burn/curdle. Always work with low temperature for Pastry Cream - it will take longer to thicken but it is the best way to insure you don't get lumps or burn part of the cream.
- There are many other ways to decorate/finish the tartlets so it is really up to you! I like the 'unorganised, messy' look but you can also go for a more simple, arranged finish.