Pastry Cream Fruit Tartlets

Recipe by Sarah Bernstein

Looking at the recipe, it can seem intimidating, but it’s so worth it. Each component can be tackled one at a time and the tartlets, or tart, can be assembled after all the mess and clean up. These tartlets are perfectly sized sweet bites. This crunchy tart is filled with cool and sweet pastry cream with pairs very well with the tart and sweet taste of fruit and berries, making it a perfect summer dessert. 


For the pastry cream
  • whole milk 1.5 cups
  • vanilla extract (sub 1-2 tsp vanilla bean or vanilla paste) 2-3 tsp
  • egg yolks, room temperature 4 large
  • white sugar 3-4 tbsp
  • cornstarch 2 tsp (3 for a firmer cream)
  • cold butter, cut into pieces 2 tbsp
  • For the tart shell dough
  • all purpose flour 1 1/4 cups
  • cold butter, cut into pieces 1/2 cup
  • white sugar 1/3 cup
  • salt 1/4 tsp
  • egg yolk, room temperature 1 large
  • Other
  • fresh fruit and berries for topping
  • fruit jam (optional)
  • Directions


    Pastry Cream


    1. Place milk in cold pan on the stove and start to warm over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent a skin from forming
    2. If you are using vanilla beans or paste, then whisk into milk here. If not, then add in vanilla extract later.
    3. Separate egg yolks from egg whites and place yolks in a large bowl
    4. When milk starts to bubble around the edges and is hot to the touch, but not scorching (check with a spoon), turn off heat and take the milk off the burner
    5. Immediately add cornstarch and sugar to the egg yolks and mix together until smooth
    6. Carefully take the hot milk and slowly stream it into the yolk mixture while constantly mixing to avoid scrambling. Aiming the milk so that it hits the side of the bowl and runs down can also help prevent scrambling
    7. Pour milk and yolk mixture back into the pot, optionally through a mesh sieve, and place over medium heat
    8. Add butter to the now empty bowl and begin whisking the pot constantly
    9. Continue to whisk until the mixture thickens, this may take a while but do not add any cornstarch at this stage
    10. Once mixture has thickened, return it to the bowl, optionally straining the cream through a mesh sieve with a whisk or a rubber spatula
    11. Mix cream with butter and add in vanilla extract
    12. Optionally, add in a cup of chopped dark chocolate at this last step and mix into the hot cream until completely incorporated to create chocolate pastry cream
    13. Whisk over an ice bath until cool or simply cover with parchment paper or plastic wrap, touching the surface of the cream to prevent a skin from forming, and refrigerate. Pastry cream can hold in the fridge for up to four days and cannot be frozen


    Tart Shell Dough


    1. Add flour, sugar, and salt together to a bowl and whisk thoroughly. If using a food processor, then add the three aforementioned ingredients into the bowl and pulse together or run for 10 seconds
    2. Add cut up pieces of butter into the flour mixture and incorporate using a fork or pastry cutter, working quickly to avoid melting, until the butter is generally no larger than a pea and the mixture has a wet sand texture. If using a food processor, then scatter the pieces of butter around the bowl and pulse until it achieves the wet sand texture and no large clumps remain
    3. Add the egg yolk to the bowl and mix thoroughly, turning out onto the counter when the dough starts to form. If using a food processor, then add in egg yolk and run until clumps appear but no cohesive ball is formed. Dough should be crumbly with a few traces of flour, but if it had trouble coming together add a tsp of cold ice water to the mixture. Turn crumbly dough into a clean countertop and knead to bring together, forming a disk
    4. Wrap dough tightly in plastic wrap or place in a plastic bag and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Dough can be made ahead, kept in the fridge for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 3 months. 
    5. When ready to use, set the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out on a lightly floured surface to ⅛ thickness 
    6. If using a tart pan, or tartlet pans, draped over the prepared pan and carefully lift the sides and press it in. Then, use your rolling pin to run over the edge of the tart pans, cutting off the excess dough. 
    7. If using a muffin pan, cut out circles using a drinking glass, or jar top, and carefully place into well oiled, or buttered, pan and press to the bottom and sides
    8. Alternatively, one can also form tbsp sized balls of dough and press them into the bottom and sides of the muffin tin
    9. Prick tart dough thoroughly with a fork or toothpick to prevent the dough from puffing up in the oven
    10. Optionally, also add pie weights, rice, or dried beans over parchment paper or tin foil to prevent the dough from puffing up in the oven
    11. Place pans in oven and bake for 10-15 minutes for tartlets, watching to avoid burning, or for 15-35 minutes if using a full tart pan until golden brown and dry. Remove weights halfway through if using them
    12. Allow to sit in pan before removing once cooled enough and place on a wire rack to cool completely

    Tart Assembly



    1. Take out tartlet shells and fill with 1-2 tbsp of cold pastry cream
    2. If desired, add in a tsp of fruit jam
    3. Top cream with chosen fresh fruits and berries
    4. Optionally dust with icing sugar
    5. Serve and enjoy!