Fresh, colorful, and bursting with juicy fruit, rich pastry cream, a deliciously sweet pastry crust, and an easy fruit tart glaze, this French fruit tart recipe makes a showstopper dessert that is perfect for Spring & Summer!
French Fruit Tart
If you have ever been to Paris, chances are those stunning jewel-colored fruit tarts displayed in the windows of every patisserie (aka French pastry shops) caught your eye. As much as I love chocolate croissants, baguettes, macarons, and crepes, of all the foods I tried in France, it was their fruit tarts that were my favorite over anything else. The thing I’ve missed most back home.
French fruit tarts are a wonderful dessert idea for entertaining, especially with the upcoming berry season when fresh berries and other fruit are at their best!
How to Make an Authentic French Fruit Tart
A tart is a sweet or savory dish made from pastry dough with a firm, crumbly crust. Tarts are typically baked in a pan with shallow sides and a removable bottom since they only have a bottom crust, and are unmolded before serving.
There are 4 components to most classic French fruit tart recipes:
- A sweet pastry crust
- The vanilla pastry cream filling
- Juicy, fresh fruit
- A fruit tart glaze
You can use almost any fruit you like to create a French fruit tart!
In Paris, you will see strawberry tarts with whole strawberries standing on end, raspberry tarts with piles of delicious red or golden raspberries, or mixed fruit tarts like this one that I made with strawberries, blueberries, sliced kiwi fruit, mandarin oranges, and raspberries arranged in a decorative pattern over the vanilla pastry cream.
But blackberries, peaches, cherries, or almost any other fruit you can think of would be delicious with a sweet, shortcrust tart crust and creamy, silky pastry cream.
Don’t assemble your French fruit tart too early before serving as the pastry crumb will start to soak into the crust over time. I think it’s best when the tart is eaten within 1 to 2 hours of filling the tart shell. There is a work-around I saw where you can melt a little chocolate and spread that in the bottom of your baked tart shell, then let it set to create a barrier between the crust and the filling to keep it from getting soggy, but it’s not something I have tried myself.
However, since all of the components of the fruit tart can be made in advance, assembly is actually pretty quick and easy. It’s a great make-ahead dessert idea that is especially fun for entertaining because of how impressive and beautiful they look!
What is Pâte Sucrée (also known as a Sweet Pastry Crust or Shortcrust Pastry Dough)?
The tart crust recipe I use for my French fruit tart is called pâte sucrée in France. But don’t let the fancy name throw you! Pâte sucrée is just a sweet pastry crust that is actually easier to make than pie dough.
This buttery, sweet tart crust is actually more of a firm, crumbly shell with an almost cookie-like texture, as opposed to pie crust which is known for being flaky and light.
My sweet tart dough recipe calls for powdered sugar rather than granulated sugar, which gives it the unique, melt-in-your-mouth yet sturdy texture that really sets it apart and makes it the perfect vessel for holding the delicious vanilla pastry cream and loads of fresh fruit that we are going to fill it with.
How to Make a Tart Crust
- Combine the egg yolk, cream, and vanilla together in a small bowl and whisk together with a fork.
- Using a food processor, cut the butter into the flour, powdered sugar, and salt until it resembles coarse crumbs.
- Slowly pour the liquids into the flour mixture while the food processor is running and let it process until it begins to come together.
- Remove the tart dough and flatten it into a disc, then wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour in the fridge.
- When the dough has chilled, roll it out on a lightly-floured surface into a circle slightly larger than your tart pan (mine is a 9-inch pan but I think this could also probably fit a 10-inch pan), then gently lift it over the pan and press into the corners and fluted sides, running a rolling pin over the top to cut off any excess dough.
- Freeze the tart shell for 30 minutes, then press a double layer of foil into the tart shell and fill with pie weights. Here is a helpful resource with step-by-step pictures about how to blind bake a tart crust using pie weights.
- Bake for 30 minutes at 375 degrees before removing the pie weights and foil and baking for another 5 to 10 minutes, until golden.
What is Pastry Cream?
Pastry cream (also known as crème patissière) is a thick, creamy custard with a silky smooth texture that can be used for filling cakes, tarts, cream puffs, eclairs, and other desserts. It was actually the component of this dessert that I felt most intimidated by having attempted a few different pastry cream varieties in the past that were either too thick, too gummy, or just plain too bland.
That’s the tricky part about pastry cream – it needs to be tasty on it’s own, but it also needs to be a team player in this dessert so as not to override the brightness of the fresh fruit or sweet, buttery crust.
Pastry cream is made with milk, cream, sugar, salt, cornstarch, egg yolks, butter, and vanilla for flavoring (although you could use different extracts to change it up in other desserts).
I actually use Nielsen-Massey’s vanilla bean paste instead of plain vanilla because I love the flecks of vanilla bean in the pastry cream, although the same thing can be achieves by using actually vanilla beans and infusing them with the milk and cream at the start of the cooking process, then scraping out the seeds, or you can just use regular vanilla extract if that’s what you have on hand.
How to Make Pastry Cream
- Bring the milk and cream to a simmer in a medium saucepan with half of the sugar. It doesn’t need to boil and it doesn’t take long. Medium-high heat will do the trick in less than 5 minutes.
- While the milk mixture heats, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch in a bowl so that it is evenly combined. Then whisk in the egg yolks until the mixture is light and creamy.
- When the milk is hot, temper the egg yolks by slowly pouring half of the hot liquid in to the yolks, whisking constantly. This will keep the egg yolks from scrambling when added to the pan.
- Pour the tempered egg yolk mixture into the pan with the remaining liquid, reduce the heat, and continue to whisk constantly until the pastry cream is thick and a few bubbles start to pop on the surface, then remove from the heat.
- Stir in some cold butter and vanilla bean paste (or an equal amount of vanilla extract). And that’s it!
- Transfer to a shallow pan or a bowl and lay plastic wrap directly on top of the pastry cream so a skin doesn’t form while it cools. Then cool completely in a fridge for 3 hours before using.
Fruit Tart Glaze
This step is so easy, but a fruit tart glaze was missing from many of the fruit tart recipes I looked at when researching how to make this lovely French dessert.
I knew from my time in Paris that the tarts there absolutely glisten in the patisserie shop windows, so I had be sure my recreation of a French fruit tart had the same jewel-like quality. And really, all that is used to glaze a fruit tart is a warmed up, light colored jelly or jam that gets gently brushed on to make the fruit shine. Although I also like the extra little bit of flavor it adds as well.
Apple jelly or apricot preserves are my favorite options for a fruit tart glaze, although I’ve seen other sources call for red currant jelly.
You won’t use the full amount called for in the recipe, but I find it’s easiest to heat up half a cup of the preserves or jelly just until warm and stirring until it is smooth. Then just dip a pastry brush into it and dab it on the fruit decorating your tart.
More Sweet and Savory Tart Recipes You Will Love!
- Meyer Lemon Curd Tart with Fresh Blackberries
- Roasted Beet and Feta Tart
- Spring Vegetable Ricotta Tarts
- Raspberry Chocolate Tart
- Mixed Berry Tart with Lemon Pastry Cream
- Asparagus Tart
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup sugar, divided
- Pinch of salt
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 5 egg yolks
- 4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into chunks
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup powdered sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into chunks
- 3 kiwis, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced 3/8-inch thick
- 10-12 strawberries, hulled and sliced in half
- 1/2 cup mandarin oranges, drained
- 1/2 cup blueberries
- 1/4 cup raspberries
- 1/2 cup apple jelly or apricot preserves, warmed
- Combine the milk, cream, and half of the sugar in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the liquid comes to a simmer.
- As the liquid heats, whisk together the remaining sugar, salt, cornstarch, and egg yolks in a medium bowl until light and creamy.
- Once the milk mixture is hot, slowly whisk about 1 cup of the liquid into the egg mixture to temper the yolks. Pour the tempered egg mixture back into the saucepan with the hot milk mixture and reduce the heat to medium, continuing to cook while whisking constantly, until thickened and a few bubbled burst on the surface, about 30 seconds.
- Remove the pastry cream from the heat and whisk in the butter and vanilla, then transfer to a bowl and cover with a sheet of plastic wrap placed directly onto the surface of the pastry cream so a skin doesn't form. Refrigerate until chilled and firm, about 3 hours.
- Whisk together the egg yolk, cream, and vanilla in a small bowl.
- Combine the flour, powdered sugar, and salt in a food process and briefly process to combine. Add the cold butter pieces to the flour mixture and pulse to cut into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 15 pulses.
- While the food process is running, add the liquid through the feed tube and continue to process just until the dough comes together around the blade.
- Turn out the tart dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and flatten into a 6-inch disk, then wrap it tightly and refrigerate for 1 hour. Let sit out on the counter for 10 minutes to soften slightly before rolling out.
- Roll out the pastry crust on a lightly floured surface until it is slightly larger than your tart pan (mine is a 9-inch pan). Carefully transfer the dough to the pan by rolling it onto the rolling pin, then gently easing the dough into the pan, pressing into the corners and fluted sides of the pan.
- Run the rolling pin over the top of the pan so that the excess dough gets cut off on the edge of the pin, making a clean edge. Patch any edges that are too thin with excess dough, trimming away the edge again as necessary. Freeze the tart shell for 30 minutes.
- When ready to bake the tart shell, heat oven to 375 degrees F. Press a double layer of foil into the frozen tart shell, covering the edges of the pan and filling the tart shell with pie weights. Bake for 30 minutes, rotating halfway through, then carefully remove the pie weights and foil and bake another 5 to 10 minutes, until the tart shell is fully baked and golden. Cool completely before filling.
- When the tart shell is completely cooled, spread the pastry cream over the bottom of the shell. Arrange the fruit in a decorative fashion over the cream, overlapping the sliced kiwi or mandarin oranges, and mounding raspberries or blueberries in the center of the tart.
- Melt the jelly or preserves in a small saucepan or the microwave, stirring until smooth. Use a pastry brush to gently dab the melted jelly over the fruit. You may not use all of the jelly. Slice and serve.
You could also use 2 cups half-and-half in place of the whole milk and cream, or 1 1/3 cup skim or low-fat milk with 2/3 cup heavy cream.
If you do not have vanilla bean paste, you could just use regular vanilla extract instead.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 368 Saturated Fat: 11g Cholesterol: 146mg Sodium: 176mg Carbohydrates: 45g Fiber: 1g Sugar: 27g Protein: 4g
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