Some show-stopper desserts can only be pulled off by expert bakers, but this strawberry tart looks impressive without being an impossible diva. A vanilla-citrus pastry cream is piled inside a crunchy, buttery crust, and strawberries are layered in a simple pattern on top. The shell and the pastry cream can be made a day ahead so the tart can be assembled at the last minute for a fresh dinner-party dessert.
Special equipment: You’ll need a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom for this recipe.
Game plan: Don’t be tempted to assemble the entire tart ahead of time, as it tastes and looks best when put together just before serving. Instead, prepare the tart shell and pastry cream, and wash and dry the strawberries, up to a day in advance. When you’re ready to serve, slice the strawberries and finish assembling the tart.
- 1Combine the butter, sugar, and salt in a large bowl and stir until evenly incorporated. Add the measured flour and stir until just combined and a soft dough forms.
- 2Sprinkle the dough over the bottom of a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Using a measuring cup or your fingers, evenly press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the pan (flour the bottom of the cup occasionally to prevent sticking).
- 3Cover the tart shell with plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make the citrus pastry cream.
For the citrus pastry cream:
- 1Place the milk, vanilla pod, and vanilla seeds in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the milk just comes to a simmer. Remove from the heat.
- 2Meanwhile, place the sugar and egg yolks in a medium heatproof bowl and mix until incorporated. Set a fine-mesh strainer over the egg mixture. Place the cornstarch and flour in the strainer and sift them into the egg mixture. Stir to combine. Wash and dry the strainer and place it over a second medium heatproof bowl; set aside.
- 3Remove and discard the vanilla pod from the milk. While whisking constantly, slowly add all of the milk to the egg mixture.
- 4Return the mixture to the saucepan and place it over medium-low heat. While whisking constantly, cook until the mixture thickens and when the whisk is scraped across the bottom of the pan, it leaves a clear line, about 2 to 3 minutes. (Be sure to whisk constantly, scraping the bottom of the pan with the whisk, or the eggs will curdle.) Immediately remove from the heat.
- 5Using a rubber spatula, transfer the pastry cream to the strainer and stir until completely strained, leaving any solids behind. Scrape the cream clinging to the underside of the strainer into the bowl and discard any solids left inside. Add the butter and stir until melted and smooth. Stir in the citrus zests and salt.
- 6To prevent a skin from forming, press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pastry cream. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours. Meanwhile, finish the tart crust.
To finish the crust and assemble:
- 1Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle.
- 2Prick the shell all over with a fork and bake until golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove to a wire rack and let cool completely before filling. Meanwhile, wash and dry the strawberries thoroughly; set aside.
- 3Just before assembling, hull the strawberries and slice them 1/4 inch thick. Remove the pastry cream from the refrigerator, whisk until smooth, and spread into an even layer in the cooled crust. Starting from the outside and working your way to the center of the tart, evenly shingle the strawberries, pointed ends angling slightly up, in an overlapping circular pattern. Serve immediately.