This classic strawberry tart has a wonderful crumbly crust, filled with delicious Italian pastry cream, topped with fresh refreshing strawberries.
This strawberry custard tart is our favourite fruit dessert for spring and summer, celebrating delicious juicy strawberries coming into the market.
Looking like a dessert from an Italian pasticcieria, it is a perfect holiday dessert and makes a very elegant centrepiece. You could also serve it with coffee or tea for a refreshing midday snack.
The crust is shortcrust pastry which is soft, light and crumbly, filled with a lemony Italian pastry cream (similar to a French crème pâtissière), a lightly sweetened, thick, lemon flavoured custard.
This strawberry custard tart recipe forms part of a collection of strawberry desserts which includes my strawberry frozen yogurt, easy strawberry coulis, chocolate dipped strawberries, and strawberry sundae.
The crust is made with shortcrust pastry, which is a type of pastry usually used for the base of a tart, pie or quiche.
Shortness in pastry refers to how tender the texture is. This comes about from the amount of fat in the dough, so the higher the fat content, the more tender the pastry will be.
A good shortcrust pastry should be soft, light and crumbly. For best results keep these three points in mind:
- use room temperature eggs for easy incorporation with other ingredients, and cold butter to bind well with the flour, slowing the production of gluten from forming which would make the pastry tough.
- do not overwork the dough or it will become tough
- chill the dough before baking
Use a round loose bottom greased baking dish to prepare the tart so it can be removed easily before serving.
When transferring the pastry to the baking dish, don’t worry if the pastry rips a little as it can be patched it up with some leftover dough. After baking, once the pastry cream is poured in, no one will notice.
Once the dough is in the baking dish, place plastic wrap directly over the pastry and chill for at least 30 minutes to prevent greasiness developing and shrinkage.
The pastry needs to be blind baked before filling with pastry cream. Blind baking is the process of baking the pastry before adding an unbaked filling, so in the case of this fruit tart recipe, it is the only baking required.
The pastry cream
After the tart crust has cooled, it is filled with a delicious lemon flavoured, rich and creamy Italian pastry cream.
This pastry cream is actually a custard and it’s an easy 20 minute recipe, made with milk, egg yolks, sugar, vanilla, lemon zest and rice flour or cornstarch.
More information on Italian pastry cream, how to store it and it’s uses, can be found through the link above.
The quick version
For a quick version of this fruit tart, prepare the pastry cream a day in advance and use a 20 cm/9-inch pre-prepared pie tart or a roll of ready made shortcrust pastry dough.
A glaze adds a lovely sheen and flavour, and prevents the fruit from drying out.
To make the glaze, choose a smooth apricot or strawberry jam rather than one with chunks of fruit.
I like to use lemon juice for the glaze as it adds a tanginess which balances the sweetness of the jam, but you could also just use water.
Prepare the glaze to a light syrupy consistency, then allow it to cool slightly before using a brush to dab it on the fruit. Note that the glaze will thicken as it cools.
If it becomes too thick, you will need to stir in a few drops of hot water to loosen it up or it will not brush on smoothly, creating a gloopy mess on the fruit.
It used to be that delicious strawberries were only available in the warmer months (read about eating seasonally), but these days juicy sweet strawberries can be found all the year round.
Select fresh firm strawberries with a good colour, rinsed well and dried before slicing and arranging over the pastry cream.
Brush the glaze over the strawberries and allow a few minutes for it to dry.
This fruit custard pie can be served immediately or for best results, cover and chill for around an hour. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.
To make ahead
The crust and pastry cream may be prepared a day in advance and stored in the fridge.
Both can be used directly from the fridge and there is no need to first bring either to room temperature. The pastry cream will have thickened slightly in the fridge so whisk it briefly to loosen it up before filling the tart.
Cover the tart with plastic wrap and store in the fridge for 3-4 days. I don’t recommend freezing as this will make it soggy.
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Strawberry Custard Tart
- 500 g whole milk 2 cups
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ tablepoon finely grated lemon zest unwaxed lemon
- 5 large egg yolks at room temperature
- 120 g granulated sugar ½ cup
- 40 g rice flour or cornflour/cornstarch/potato starch ⅓ cup
- 250 g plain flour 1½ cups
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 113 g cold butter* ½ cup cut into small cubes or grated
- 1 large egg at room temperature
- 150 g powdered/icing sugar 1 cup
- 400 g fresh strawberries 1 pound, washed, dried and sliced
- 16 g powdered/confectioners/icing sugar 2 tablespoons
- 120 g smooth apricot or strawberry jam ½ cup
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice or water
- Place a medium size glass bowl in the freezer to chill.
- In a small saucepan, heat the milk with the vanilla and lemon zest till steam rises, then remove from the heat and set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, whisk yolks with sugar, then add the rice flour, whisking till smooth and thick.
- Pour the warmed milk slowly into the egg mixture while stirring constantly. Mix till fully combined then turn on the heat to medium low. Continue stirring till the mixture thickens (around 5 minutes), making sure it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan, then remove from the heat.
- Pour the custard into the chilled bowl and whisk quickly to cool it down. Place plastic wrap over the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming, then leave to cool on the counter before chilling.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C Fan/380°F. Grease a 20cm/9-inch round loose-bottomed baking dish with butter.
- In a medium bowl, sieve together the flour and baking powder, then rub in the butter till you get a fine crumb, and set aside.
- In a larger mixing bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar and pour into the flour mixture.
- Mix together till a soft dough comes together and form a smooth ball. Take care not to overwork the dough.
- Roll out the chilled pastry dough with uniform ½ cm/¼ inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Then lift the dough onto the greased dish pressing into the edges, allowing the excess to hang off the sides. Roll or pinch the edges of the crust and use a fork to make holes in the bottom of the crust.
- Place some plastic wrap over the top and chill the dough for around 30 minutes.
- Remove from the fridge, scrunch up some parchment paper then unfold it and place over the dough, then fill with ceramic baking beans or dried beans.
- Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the beans and parchment paper and bake for a further 5 minutes till light golden brown. Set aside to cool before adding the filling.
- In a medium saucepan melt the jam with the lemon juice on medium heat stirring constantly, till the sauce thickens to a light syrupy consistency (around 5 minutes). Set aside to cool.
Assemble the tart
- Remove the pastry cream from the fridge and whisk briefly to loosen it up. Pour into the crust, smoothing it down then add the topping.
- Cut the strawberries into thin slices and arrange in a pattern over custard.
- Brush the strawberries with the glaze and allow to dry before dusting with powdered sugar.
- Pastry Cream – The milk should only be warmed till steam rises. Do not bring it to a boil as hot milk will cook the eggs.
- While zesting the lemon take care not to shave away any of the bitter white pith from under the skin.
- Crust – Use cold butter for a light, soft and crumbly crust.
- If using unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt, but skip the salt if using salted butter.
- Take care not to overwork the dough or it will turn out dense and tough.
- Lightly flour the surface before rolling out the dough. Too much flour could dry out the dough.
- Line the greased pie dish with pastry dough, pressing into the edges and allow it to hang off the sides.
- Cover and chill the pastry dough for 30 minutes for a tender crust.
- Scrunching up the parchment paper first allows it to fit more securely over the pastry.
- Serve – This strawberry tart may be served immediately but for best results, serve it chilled.
- Store – Cover and store in the fridge for 3-4 days. Do not freeze.