People think we’re crazy, to have an au pair living here and a former au pair too. But Joy is a ridiculously awesome human being, and has spent her school break hanging out with all of us and making life more fun and more delicious. For example, tonight she made us dinner. Uh huh. Don’t you wish you knew Joy?! The light pasta salad with tomatoes, olives, basil and mozzarella was great, but I’m pretty sure we all forgot about it when she walked in with dessert.
Crostata di frutta (Italian Fruit Tart)
Custard can be tricky the first time you do it, but if you follow the instructions closely and make it at least twice, you'll get the hang of it. It always impresses, and works in a number of different desserts! This one is fresh and delicate. The recipe(s) that follow look long, but won't take all day. Once you've done it, you'll realize this could be the showstopper house special you've always wanted to put your name on. Give it a try when you're not in a panic, and you can enjoy mastering a gorgeous, year round masterpiece.
- 1 3/4 cups milk
- 1 whole vanilla bean
- 4 yolks
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup flour
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 2 TB sugar
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 6 drops lemon or orange extract
- 1 egg, large
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- various fruits for topping: banana, kiwi, peaches, berries, etc. The more colorful the better. If using banana slices, dip in lemon juice so they don't brown.
- 1 packet of gelatin powder
- 3-4 tsp sugar
- 1 cup water
- Step 1 FOR THE CUSTARD: Pour the milk for the custard into a medium pot over low heat. Slice open the vanilla bean with a sharp knife, making sure every dark speck of flavor makes it into the milk. Use the tip of the knife to scrape the seeds into the milk, then toss the whole bean in there too. Simmer for five minutes. Let the milk cool to just warmer than room temperature or so (too hot and it can cook the eggs). Remove the vanilla bean and discard.
- Step 2 Beat the yolks and the sugar together until creamy. Add the flour. Add a small amount of the milk to the egg mixture with the mixer on medium. Continue to add milk, slowly at first and then in a stream.
- Step 3 Pour the mixture back into the pot over low heat, and whisk incessantly until it thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. If you’re not sure if it’s thick enough, keep going. This is the tricky part! If the stove is too high, you’ll cook the eggs. If you pull it too soon, you’ll have a delicious cream sauce but not custard. Patience will be rewarded here!
- Step 4 When it coats the spoon and is more pudding than sauce, you’re almost home. Give it one more minute to be safe. Then pull it from the heat, and whisk another minute or two until it cools a bit. Cover with plastic wrap until ready to use, letting the plastic wrap sit right on the surface of the custard so it doesn’t form a skin. Refrigerate if not using right away.
- Step 5 FOR THE CRUST: Preheat oven to 415 F. Mix the sugar, powdered sugar, lemon extract, egg, butter and baking powder. Add the flour when well blended, until incorporated. Don’t overbeat. The batter should be smooth.
- Step 6 Butter and flour a 10 inch tart or cake pan. Pour the batter into the mold. (You could also do small tarts in smaller molds. If so, shorten the cooking time and keep a close eye on your tarts! They’ll cook faster.)
- Step 7 Cook for around 15 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool completely and set on serving plate.
- Step 8 Pour the custard onto the crust and spread evenly to the edges.
- Step 9 Wash, slice and choose a pattern for the fruit that will top the custard. Set the pieces down gently so they don’t fall into the custard. Larger slices will be easier to place.
- Step 10 FOR THE GELEE: Mix the packet of gelatin powder with sugar and water. Sprinkle the granules over the surface. If you dump them in, you’ll end up with a gross clump instead of a pourable liquid.-Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes. Heat gently, stirring until dissolved. It’s done when no granules of gelatin stick to the spoon. Brush the gelatin generously over the fruit.
- Step 11 Refrigerate the finished tart and eat within 24 hours. It’s totally inappropriate yet delicious for breakfast the next day. Just saying.