There are precious few TV shows Carlos and I can agree on, but lately we’ve been able to add one more to our “watch together” list. I was the first to start watching The Great British Baking Show on PBS, but one day Carlos sat down next to me and started watching too. The Great British Baking Show is a reality show competition, but unlike similar American programs, the contestants are utterly charming and supportive of each other, which is something both Carlos and I love about it.
One episode we watched together involved the contestants making tarts. I don’t know much about tarts, British, or otherwise, but Carlos became nostalgic.
“I love tarts,” he said.
“When have you ever had a tart?” I asked, because I’d never seen him eat one our entire marriage.
That’s when he told me that in El Salvador, Pollo Campero, (the popular fried chicken restaurant), had “tartaletas” – specifically, tartaletas de fresa, or strawberry tarts. I asked him as many questions as I could about what they were like and decided to try to make them. After some trial and error, I ended up with the recipe below.
Since I’ve never had a tartaleta from Pollo Campero, I can’t tell you if these taste the same, and Carlos hasn’t had one for over 20 years, so all he could tell me was that he loved how these turned out. That’s good enough for me. If you want to give them a try, let me know what you think!
Vanilla Custard (for tartaleta filling)
6 rounded tablespoons cornstarch
4 cups 2% milk
3 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1. In a blender add milk, sugar, egg yolks and cornstarch. Blend for 15 to 30 seconds until well combined.
2. Pour the mixture into a large pot over medium heat. Add vanilla extract.
3. Stir regularly until the mixture thickens. Don’t be too quick to remove it from the stove. You want it to be the texture of pudding. After 5 minutes, if it isn’t thickening, turn the heat up a little and stir a little less regularly, but be careful not to let it cook to the bottom of the pot or you’ll have lumps in the custard.
4. Remove from heat. Allow to cool completely and store in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to assemble the tarts.
Note: This recipe makes far more custard than you’ll need for the tarts. Feel free to eat the leftovers served up in bowls plain or with a sprinkle of cinnamon. Alternatively, you could halve the custard recipe so you don’t have so much left over.
Dessert Tart Crust
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons sugar, (plus a few pinches)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups pre-sifted all purpose flour
1. Heat oven to 350 F.
2. Mix butter, 3 tablespoons sugar, salt, and vanilla extract until well combined.
3. Mix in flour just until dough comes together.
4. Divide dough into four equal portions. Place each portion in a 4-inch round tart pan. Use fingers dipped in flour to press the dough evenly onto bottom and up sides of the tart pans. Don’t handle the dough any more than necessary.
Tip: I purchased Wilson Advance 4-inch tart and quiche pans and really love them. If you don’t own a set, I highly recommend these.
5. Place each tart pan in its own sandwich-size plastic zipper bag, and place them into the freezer for 10 minutes to chill.
6. Remove each tart from the plastic bags. Place the tarts on a baking sheet and then place them in the oven on the middle rack. Bake for 10 minutes.
Tip: Use the back of a spoon to carefully deflate any bubbles that pop up during baking.
7. Sprinkle a pinch of sugar on each tart crust and bake for another 5-7 minutes, or until edges start to turn golden brown.
8. Remove from oven and cool completely.
9. Don’t assemble the tartaletas until ready to serve, (or if you assemble them and put them in the fridge, plan to serve them soon.) When ready to serve the tartaletas, assemble like so:
Carefully remove each tart crust from its pan, and place onto a small plate. Spoon an even layer of custard filling onto each tart crust. Top with sliced strawberries, or other fruit of your choosing. (Other suggestions: raspberries, blackberries, peaches, blueberries, and/or kiwi.)
Makes four 4-inch round tarts.
Tart crust recipe adapted from Chowhound.com.