Nick Malgieri's The Modern Baker in the mail and paged through it, I knew I would have to make the Parisian Fruit Tart for my dad's birthday, even though we're not scheduled to get to the sweet tarts and pies section of the Modern Baker Challenge for a long time.
This is my dad's ideal birthday treat: a sugar cookie crust with a pastry cream filling and lots of fresh fruit (especially berries). (It's hard to believe that we share the same genes, given that his ideal dessert is made completely without chocolate ~ the horror!) I used to have to go to a super fancy restaurant/bakery in town to pick up one of these for his birthday ~ and hope that they had them made that day, because they didn't always.
This year, I made my own.
N.M. says that this tart and crust need to be made the day you're going to serve them, so that's what I did. This morning, I started with the press-in cookie dough. It's simple enough to make: cream butter and sugar, add vanilla and an egg yolk, and finally some flour. N.M. instructs you to then scrape the dough out and press it into the tart pan. I found this totally impossible. The dough was so wet that, even with floured hands, it stuck to my fingers and every time I filled in one hole in the bottom of the tart pan, another one opened up. I tried sticking it in the fridge to cool it down for an hour, as you do with sugar cookie dough; after all, it was a pretty hot day today. But it didn't matter; it was still incredibly difficult to get it to fill the pan evenly. And forget rolling it in logs to get it to stick to the sides! I just took tiny globs and stuffed them on each part of the fluted pan.
The rest of the recipe was easy: the pastry cream, the fruit, and the glaze. I'm not completely convinced that the tart needs the apricot preserve glaze ~ I think it would be great plain ~ but the glaze didn't hurt anything, either.
Cutting the tart was my other challenge, but N.M. warns about this; he actually calls for mini-tarts: "though they lack the dramatic punch of one large one, which is not easy to cut into neat wedges." But I didn't have mini tart pans; only the 11 inch that I purchased for the chocolate orange almond tart.
We celebrated my dad's birthday at the ballpark, where the family has season tickets for our minor league baseball team, so I did my best to create a baseball shape with my fruit; hubby helped with the design. Even though the tart didn't stay in neat slices, the whole thing disappeared by the time the ballgame started and met with rave reviews. I can definitely see making this recipe again, although I think I may experiment with a different crust next time.