A Trio of Tarts

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Pastry.

I’m not sure any word sounds more appetizing to me than pastry. It could refer to a mouth-watering, cream-filled long-john or a delicate French eclair, a creamy filling or a flaky pie crust.

Today though is all about pastry crust, and a trio of pastries made from the same crust. The crust is a gluten-free almond flour, flavored lightly with vanilla. Almond flour makes for a crisp, cookie-like crust that isn’t too sweet.

As an added bonus, I’m using the same pastry cream recipe with a slight adjustment to make three different versions. The key is how a pastry cream is finished with butter. Adjust the finishing fat, and you can adjust the flavor: bittersweet chocolate makes a delicious chocolate pastry cream or a dab of peanut butter will please pb fans in a pinch.

Almond-Flour Crust*

yield: enough for six 3-inch tarts

  • 2 cups almond flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • a good bold pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 6 tbsp butter, melted

In a large bowl, stir the almond flour, sugar, and salt together. Pour over the melted butter and vanilla, and stir to make a moist dough. Press the dough into prepared tart pans. Prick over the bottom with a fork. Bake at 350 for 15-18 minutes or until fragrant and lightly golden brown all over.

Cool the tarts completely before removing from their pans and before filling them.

*As written, this recipe makes enough for one 9-inch pastry. I multiplied the recipe by 1.5 times to make four 4-inch mini-pastries out of it.

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Vanilla Pastry Cream 

yield: about 2 1/2 cups of pastry cream

  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • pinch salt
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 4 tbsp butter*

Set a sieve over a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine the half-and-half, 1/4 cup of the sugar, and salt. Place over medium heat.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the remaining sugar, egg yolks, vanilla, and cornstarch. Whisk until pale yellow and slightly thickened.

Once the half-and-half mixture begins to bubble on the sides, temper the egg yolk mixture by slowly pouring the hot liquid into the egg yolks while constantly whisking. This will ensure the eggs don’t cook too quickly. Once all of the liquid has been added to the yolks, transfer the pastry cream back to the saucepan.

Turn the burner off and place the saucepan over the burner, whisking until thickened. This won’t take long, perhaps 30 – 60 seconds.

Pour the pastry cream through the sieve into the medium-sized bowl. Whisk in the butter, and let it cool, whisking occasionally, before covering with plastic wrap. Place the plastic directly on the surface of the pastry cream, and refrigerate until ready to use. This can be made at least a day in advance.

*The key to this filling’s versatility is the fat. In place of butter, use peanut butter. Or dark chocolate. Or coconut fat from a can of coconut milk. There are many flavors you can try, and you may have to make slight adjustments here and there. For example, a little extra cream will help loosen up a peanut butter pastry cream as it can get a bit thick.

Here are a couple options:

Peanut butter pastry cream with nuts – a thin layer of peanut butter on the bottom of a cooled crust, peanut butter pastry cream, and chopped honey-roasted peanuts.

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Chocolate pastry cream with dark-chocolate-coated cacao nibs:

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Or you could always go with…

The classic – vanilla pastry cream topped with fresh fruit and an apricot glaze.

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