In honor of Julia Child’s 100th birthday, I’m sharing my take on a classic French tart. My custard tart is a little over-the-top maybe, but it’s definitely worth the multiple steps and extra ingredients. ;)
My Summers with Julia
When I was a kid in the 90s and home all summer, I would often watch PBS during the day. That was in the days when Baking with Julia was on repeat and I could watch Mary Ann Esposito make fantastic homemade Italian dishes that had my mouthwatering. To make a long story short, I stayed close to home during the summers because my parents both worked and I looked after my younger sisters. Those summers were spent doing a lot of experimenting in the kitchen. I loved those days I spent watching Julia and her guests make beautiful desserts and pastries. I’m sure they even made a custard tart or two.
The other night I hopped onto the PBS website and watched an episode of Baking With Julia. Her guest was another of my favorite chefs, Michel Richard. They were making puff pastry from scratch. That’s something I’ve never done. As I watched it though, I realized I’ve come along way since the first time I watched that episode as a kid. It didn’t look quite as challenging as it once did. (I’m saying that as someone who’s never made it. I know it’s not an easy thing to master.)
That’s what I’ve loved about this process of learning how to cook and bake. I was interested in food, but my real love was science. I read a lot of books about biology and earth science. I excelled in my science classes in school. I had plans of becoming a doctor. It’s funny how plans can change in such a drastic way. I never would have imagined that I would give up that dream for a very different one – cooking, baking, and food photography. (Edit: 7/10/2019 – I’m going back to school to be a doctor! Fingers crossed!)
Now I pour over cookbooks and other books trying to absorb as much knowledge as I can about ingredients and techniques. I’ve become really interested in nutrition. And I guess this all still falls under the umbrella of science, doesn’t it? Baking and cooking are essentially really tasty scientific experiments and reactions. :)
Ask anyone who has talked to me for more than a few minutes and the conversation always turns to food. I can’t help myself. I’m a total food nerd. It’s my life. It’s what I do. It’s what I think about. (It’s practically all I think about.)
Well, this wasn’t supposed to be about me, so I’ll get back to Julia.
It’s her 100th birthday today and I think of her fondly. I remember her with the kind of fondness I remember my grandmother who passed away about the same time Julia did. Though I didn’t know her, I really do owe a lot of who I’ve become to her –directly and indirectly.
Happy Birthday, Julia! Thanks for everything!
I love that there are so many people out there cooking and baking. When I first starting blogging in early 2006, there were just a handful of food bloggers. Now I’m guessing there are hundreds of thousands. These are all men and women (children even) who have decided to get back into the kitchen and cook, and not rely on the drive-thru for their dinner.
I imagine Julia Child would have appreciated the resurgence of the home cook because that was what her aim was – make fancy, gourmet French cooking available to the masses. Make it approachable and do-able. Create fabulous, well-planned menus. Fancy and delicious didn’t have to be reserved for a pricey restaurant. (At least that’s what I think she was trying to do.)
I hope in some small way I’m doing the same thing. That’s why I keep coming back to blogging after all of the times I’ve thrown my hands up and said “I quit!” I like sharing recipes with you. I like trying new things and inspiring you to do the same. I love the journey and the discovery. I love you, my readers and that we’ve become friends through this blog.
I also hope that Julia is smiling down on all of us today as we celebrate her life and legacy. What a powerhouse she was.
Now About This Custard Tart…
Yes, it’s another tart. What else am I supposed to do with all of the fruit I’ve pillaged from my neighbors’ trees? I’m a little enthusiastic about summer fruit and when I can pick it myself, ripe off the tree or bush, even better. My neighbors are so generous.
I’ve been waiting for the tasty, sweet plums from the tree in my front yard for two summers. It’s one of those every-other-year trees. And it’s definitely worth the wait. The peel is very tart and the flesh is honey-sweet and floral. The best plums ever, I tell you.
My sweet friend, Marjan, who lives up the street told me I could come pick as many peaches as I want from her tree. I am basking in the glory of all this fantastic fruit!
Utah raspberries are another summer treat I am fond of. My husband stopped by a fruit stand to pick up fresh corn and he called and asked if I was interested in raspberries. (YES. The answer is always a resounding and enthusiastic YES.) They are grown in the next town over.
Anyway, it had been awhile since I’ve made a tart of any kind, and especially a custard tart. My daughter has been begging me to make a pie or tart. When she saw the finished tart, she jumped up and down with excitement. When I said we should probably share it with someone, my husband quietly replied, “That won’t be necessary.” :)
I infused the milk for the pastry cream with cardamom because 1) I love cardamom, and 2) I love cardamom with raspberries and stone fruit. I had forgotten that I needed some jelly for a glaze…and then I quickly remembered about the Rose Petal Jelly I bought at Williams-Sonoma a few months ago. (I’m still enjoying that gift card I won!) The fruit with the cardamom cream and almond crust, glazed with rose jelly is absolute perfection.
- For crust:
- 1 cup all-purpose gluten free flour or all-purpose unbleached flour
- ½ cup ground almonds
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- ½ tsp. salt
- 8 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 1 large egg yolk
- For the cardamom pastry cream:
- 2 cups whole milk
- ½ cup sugar, divided
- 4 green cardamom pods
- 6 Tbsp. cornstarch
- 2 large eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
- pinch salt
- 3 Tbsp. cold butter
- For fruit topping:
- 1-2 large, ripe, but firm peaches, peeled and cut into wedges
- 5 or more fresh plums, cut into small wedges
- 1 pint fresh raspberries
- ¼ cup rose jelly* (or apricot), melted
- For crust: Place flour, almonds, powdered sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until combined.
- Scatter butter over the surface of the dry ingredients. Replace lid and pulse again until the butter is in small pieces with some larger ones. Pulse on low speed while drizzling the egg yolk through the feed hole. Continue pulsing until the dough comes together.
- For easier handling, wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill until very cold.
- Butter the bottom and sides of a tart pan. Press the dough evenly onto the bottom and up the sides. Chill until very cold.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prick the tart dough with a fork. Blind bake the tart shell by pressing a piece of parchment paper against the dough and filling it with pie weights or dry beans to prevent the dough from shrinking or puffing up. Bake for 15-20 minutes and remove the pie weights and parchment paper. Continue baking until golden brown. A total of 30-35 minutes.
- Let crust cool completely.
- For the cardamom pastry cream: In a 2-3 quart saucepan, heat milk with ¼ cup of the sugar and the 4 cardamom pods until it is very hot to the though, but not boiling. Remove from heat and let steep for at least 30 minutes. Reheat the milk until very hot.
- While cardamom is steeping in the milk, beat the eggs and egg yolks, salt and remaining ¼ cup sugar on medium-high speed with an electric hand mixer until very thick and pale yellow. Sift the cornstarch over the top of the eggs/sugar. Continue beating. Remove cardamom pods from the milk. Drizzle the hot milk into the egg/sugar/cornstarch mixture. Pour everything back into the pan and cook over medium heat until the mixture starts to thicken and bubble. Whisk constantly and cook for another minute. Remove from heat and whisk in the cold butter.
- Transfer to a clean bowl and cover with press plastic wrap on the surface of the pastry cream. Chill until very cold. Whisk to loosen it before filling the tart.
- For assembly: Spread the pastry cream evenly in the baked tart shell. Arrange the fruit in a decorative way on top of the pastry cream. Brush the top of the fruit with the melted rose jelly.
- Chill for about 30 minutes before serving for easier slicing. Keeps for about 2 days in the fridge.