A few weeks ago, while browsing the websites of Paris’s top pâtisseries, I spotted Hugo et Victor’s Tarte Fraise (strawberry tart). The pastry’s strawberry-red shell complemented its meticulously arranged strawberry slices superbly—I was quite inspired by its colour.
This weekend, I had a chance to experiment with adding food colouring to tart dough. The results were impressive. The trick is to use a food colouring that does not lose its pigment when baked.
Wilton’s gel food colouring has a tendency to turn brown when baked. When I first started making French macarons, regardless of how vibrant the batter was before baking, the final product always turned out brown. The reason? I was using Wilton’s gel food colouring. Since then, I’ve switched to powdered food colouring and it works splendidly.
In fact, it works too well. I burnt the bottom of the tart shell because the abundance of food colouring in the dough meant that it went straight from vibrant red to black in just a few minutes—there is no progressive browning like you would see with un-dyed tart shells. No matter, since after I scraped off the burnt bits the shell tasted great.
Inside the tart, starting from the bottom, is a thin layer of melted white chocolate. The purpose of the white chocolate, as I’ve written about before, is to prevent the tart shell from absorbing too much moisture from the pastry cream. The chocolate acts as a barrier.
More importantly, in my case, the white chocolate held together fragile parts of the tart. Since I didn’t have a square tart ring, I had to use a tall square pastry ring/mould. I cut out a square of dough, placed it at the bottom of the pastry ring, and then placed strips of dough in the ring to form the sides of the tart (the dough didn’t go to the top of the pastry ring). The connection between the sides and the base was weak, and thus the white chocolate helped keep everything together. You won’t have this problem if you don’t go with a square shape, and you definitely don’t have to.
Above the white chocolate is a very thin layer of almond and rose pastry cream (you can’t see it in the photo) and then a layer of almond sponge cake. Above that is a thick layer of the pastry cream and strawberries, sliced into quarters.
I decorated the tart with mint sprigs, dried rose petals (I bought these on my recent trip to London), and toasted meringue. If you’d like to keep it simple, you can skip all of these decorations or pick and choose the ones you like. Some sprout leaves, like I used in my key lime and raspberry tarts, would be very nice here too.
This tart is very light and refreshing. A perfect way to end strawberry season! (Much easier too than the strawberry-shaped entremet cakes I made a couple of weeks ago.)
- 3 egg yolks
- 50g sugar
- 20g flour
- 20g cornstarch
- 390g milk
- ~½ teaspoon rose water
- ~½ teaspoon almond extract
- 45g butter, softened
- 35g icing sugar
- Red food colouring, as needed (do not use Wilton gel food colouring)
- ½ an egg (lightly beat an egg until combined and then use half)
- 15g ground almonds (i.e. almond flour)
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 25g all-purpose flour
- 75g cake flour
- 95g almonds, blanched, toasted, and finely ground (i.e. almond flour)
- 35g sugar
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 140g eggs (about two to three)
- 40g butter, softened
- 30g egg whites (about one)
- 15g sugar
- 50g white chocolate, melted
- Dried rose petals (optional)
- Mint sprigs (optional)
- 1 egg white (optional)
- 15g sugar (optional)
- Beat together the egg yolks and sugar in a medium-sized bowl until smooth.
- Add in the flour and cornstarch and beat until combined.
- Meanwhile, place the milk in a medium-sized pot and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat.
- Slowly pour the milk into the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly.
- Transfer the mixture back into the pot and, over medium-low heat, whisk regularly until thickened and smooth.
- Whisk in the rose water and almond extract, to taste.
- Transfer to a container, cover with plastic wrap (make sure it touches the cream), and let chill in the fridge overnight.
- Once chilled, and right before assembling, whisk until smooth.
- Combine the butter and the icing sugar until smooth, using the paddle attachment of a stand mixer if you have one. Do not beat rapidly. The goal is not to incorporate air when making the dough.
- Add in the food colouring and beat until combined.
- Add in the egg, and beat to combine.
- Add the almonds, salt, and all-purpose flour. Beat to combine.
- Add the cake flour. Beat to combine.
- Wrap the dough with plastic wrap and place to chill in the fridge until cold (around an hour).
- Roll out the dough to the thickness you desire (being careful not to go to thin or the tart will collapse), and line a buttered tart pan.
- Place in the freezer to chill for at least half an hour. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C).
- Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F) and line a quarter sheet pan with parchment paper.
- In a food processor, grind together the almonds, 35g sugar, salt, and eggs.
- Add the butter and process until smooth, scraping down the sides of the food processor, as necessary.
- In a large bowl, whip the egg whites and the 15g of sugar to stiff peaks.
- Fold the almond mixture into the egg whites, being careful not to deflate the egg whites too much. Fold until smooth.
- Spread onto a quarter sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
- Bake for about 10 minutes, or until golden.
- Once cooled to room temperature, cut out a piece to fit into your tart shell.
- Spread the white chocolate on the bottom of the tart shell.
- Spread a thin layer of pastry cream on top of the white chocolate and the cake on top of that. Cover with pastry cream.
- Decorate with strawberries, as well as mint sprigs and dried rose petals, if using.
- If you’d like to add meringue too, whip the sugar and the egg white to stiff peaks. Spoon some on and torch with a blowtorch until browned.