We just had a supermoon; when the orbit of the full moon comes its closest to the earth. The full moon appears even brighter and fuller and lights up the night sky. Here in California, June’s supermoon is called a Strawberry moon.
According to the Farmer’s Almanac, “The name Strawberry moon comes from June marking the beginning of summer in North America when strawberries would be harvested. In Europe, the June full moon was referred to as the rose moon, as it coincided with rose bushes blooming.”
Now that the strawberries have been bathed in the moon’s glow for the past two nights, maybe it is the perfect time to make a strawberry tart or your favorite rendition of the sweet berry. Why not throw in some Italian Crema Pasticcera just to sweeten the deal?
Certain combinations of words can get the mouth watering and the taste buds screaming. Words like – Italian pastry creme, strawberry jam, or short-crust pastry. Right?
This recipe is a bit advanced, but each of the required skills can be applied again and again to countless fabulous desserts. For example, blind baking a tart shell, mixing and rolling pasta frolla dough, or making Italian pastry creme. With these techniques under your belt, an entire world of desserts opens to you.
I learned how to make crema pasticcera, Italian pastry creme, while attending a cooking school in Salerno, Italy. Our master chef, Espedito, taught us this very simple recipe using egg yolks, sugar, milk, and flour. We made little tartlets with pasta frolla dough (short-crust) and filled them with crema pasticcera. The most satisfying part of the experience was stopping for an espresso and a cream-filled cornetto or Millefogli before class and then learning to make the very same cream from an Italian chef. Life is very very good!
Pasta Frolla or in French, Pâte Sucrée, is a sweet short-crust pastry dough used for many Italian desserts such as tarts, ricotta pies and fruit-filled crostati. The recipe uses chilled butter and the success of the dough and resulting flakey crust rely on keeping the dough very cold all the way through until right before throwing the tart shell in the oven. I find this dough very challenging and would say I turn out a stunning crust about 80% of the time. Some days my tarts might crack, be a bit tough, or bake for too long. But one thing is for sure, no matter what my tart shells look like, they ALWAYS taste so good. If I end up with a not-so-pretty crust, I will simply break it into chunks and eat it with ice cream or by itself just like a buttery cookie. Keep practicing!
Summertime means strawberries, plain and simple. Once you have your Crema Pasticerra and your Pasta Frolla, any fruit will do for an amazing filling. For this recipe, the strawberry is the star.
Strawberry-moon Tart with Crema Pasticcera
- 9-inch tart pan
Pasta Frolla – enough for 2 tarts
- 350 grams (2 ½ cups) all-purpose flour
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 100 grams (½ cup) sugar
- 225 grams (1 cup) unsalted butter, kept chilled, cut into cubes
- 1 large egg, slightly beaten
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 lb. hard, dried beans of any kind, for blind baking
Strawberry Filling for 1 tart (double for 2)
- 14 ounce fresh strawberries, washed, cored, and cut in fourths.
- zest of 1 lemon
- ¼ cup sugar
- 2 tbsp. strawberry jam, warmed
Crema Pasticcera – enough for 2 tarts
- 500 ml milk
- 160 grams sugar + a bit more for sprinkling
- 50 grams all-purpose flour
- 6 egg yolks
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- whipped cream for garnish
Pasta Frolla – Sweet Tart dough – For two 9-inch tart shells
- Make the dough: Dump the flour and salt onto a large board or smooth kitchen countertop, and make a well in the center. Put the cubed butter and the sugar into the center. Use your fingers to smoosh the sugar and butter together. Making sure the sides of the flour well are intact, add the egg and vanilla into the center with the butter and sugar, Using your hands and a bench scraper or spatula, incorporate the flour into the butter/sugar/egg mixture. Cut the ingredients together so that the flour begins to turn yellow from the butter. The mixture will be chunky. Gather it all together into a ball.Use the fraisage technique. The fraisage is used to make sure the butter is well incorporated into the flour so the tart will cook evenly. If there are big chunks of butter, they will melt during baking a create a hole in the tart crust. Fraisage- using the heel of your hand, start at the top (12’o’clock position of the pile of dough and smear the dough away from you. Continue to fraisage the dough from top to bottom, working through all the dough until it is smooth and homogenous. Cut the dough into two equal pieces. Flatten them into 3-inch disks, cover in plastic, and place in the fridge for 30 minutes or the freezer for 10 minutes. (If you want to use it later, frozen dough will keep in the freezer for one month.)
- To roll the dough: Unwrap one disk of dough and place on a lightly floured board. Begin to roll the dough with a rolling pin. It might be stiff at first as it has been chilled. Keep rolling until you get an 11-inch circle that is a scant ¼ inch thick. Dust will flour as needed as you roll to prevent dough from sticking to the board. To blind bake: ( to cook the tart shell before adding fresh fillings)Preheat the oven to 350 ° F.Roll the dough onto the rolling pin, and then unroll it onto the tart pan letting the extra dough hang over the sides. Gently push the dough down into the corners of the tart shell. Use the rolling pin to smooth off the extra dough around the edges.. Poke the bottom of the dough with a fork a few times and place in the freezer for 10 minutes. (I like to use extra dough trimmings to make decorative shapes. Cut little leaves or flowers and bake separately.) Line the raw dough with a piece of parchment paper and fill it with dried beans. The beans will prevent the dough from bubbling up while baking. Be sure to use enough beans to completely fill the tart shell. Place tart pan, beans, and all into the oven. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and then take out the beans and parchment. Return the tart pan to the oven and cook for another 10 minutes until the bottom crust is just turning golden brown. Remove and cool. Congratulations! Your tart crust is now ready for filling!
- Mix strawberries, lemon zest, and sugar in a bowl. Mix well and set aside to macerate (the sugar will pull some of the juice out of the strawberries, creating a natural syrup.) When ready to top the tart with strawberries, warm the strawberry jam and drizzle over the top of the strawberries for a shiny glaze.
Filling – Crema Pasticcera
- Put egg yolks into a small bowl and whisk. Add the sugar and stir to combine. Set aside.In a separate bowl, add flour and vanilla and mix. ( Can substitute the zest of 1 lemon for the vanilla.)Heat the milk over the stove, bringing it just to a boil. Reduce heat and slowly add the egg yolks and sugar to the heated milk, whisk vigorously. Remove from heat. A few tablespoons at a time, whisk in the flour until fully incorporated. Whisk vigorously until the consistency is creamy and luscious. Remove from heat and place in a bowl. (The creme will continue to cook in a hot pot, so it is important to transfer it to a bowl right away.)Using an ungreased cookie sheet, spread the crème pasticcera out with a spatula. It doesn’t have to be pretty, you are just cooling off the crème pasticcera. Sprinkle it with a few healthy pinches of sugar. Cover and set in the fridge to cool until ready to use.
Filling the tart shell
- Once the crèma pasticcera is cool, use a pastry bag or spatula to fill the bottom of the cooled tart shell. Add the strawberries and paint the warmed strawberry jam over the strawberries. Optional: dollop with whipped cream or gelato.