I'm still trying to convince myself that summer's not almost over, even as the leaves are quickly starting to blush and the nights are turning so cold that we've had to add extra blankets to the beds (instead of turning on the heat - it's too soon for that!) It started off imperceptibly enough, with just the slightest hint of yellow in the top branches of the trees that line our street. But just yesterday, as I drove through the neighborhood I was shocked to see that the branches are suddenly more gold than green. When did that happen? And then the urgency struck. To make summer last just one weekend longer, just one day more.
This is a curious new feeling for me. Year after year I welcome fall like an old friend. My best friend, in fact, for it is my favorite season. I trudge through summer with my eyes always on her, like a wanderer plods through a desert; her cool nights are the oasis that is often just out of reach. But not this year. No, she showed up on our doorstep unannounced at the end of August. Or so it seems. And I wasn't ready for her. However, despite the chill in the air and the changing leaves, the calendar still says it's summer, and I'm holding on to that as tightly as I can, for as long as I can. Because if the calendar still says it's summer, then it's still summer in my kitchen and as such, there's no shame in sharing one or two more summer recipes before time runs out, is there? Like the seasons, I feel their time is slipping through my fingers, too, just as strawberries & cherries are too quickly being replaced by apples & figs (which, by the way would look just as pretty on this tart).
for the crust:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
8 TBSP (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 egg yolk
2 TBSP whole milk (more if needed)
For the pastry cream:
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split & scraped
5 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
3 TBSP cornstarch
pinch of salt
1 TBSP butter
seasonal berries, cherries, currents, edible flowers, or whatever else is in season
To make the crust:
Mix the egg yolk with the milk and set aside. In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar & salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender until the mixture is very fine. Using the pastry blender, incorporate the egg yolk & milk mixture. If the dough seems too dry add a bit more milk, as needed, until the dough just comes together.
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 45 minutes - 1 hour.
Preheat your oven to 400 F (200 C).
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to just larger than your tart pan. Press the dough into the edges of the pan and trim the excess. Use the trimmings to reinforce the inside edges of the tart shell.
Lightly prick the bottom of the crust with a fork. Line the crust with aluminum foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 10 minutes. Turn the oven to 350 F (180 C) and remove the foil & weights. Bake for an additional 10 - 15 minutes, until lightly golden brown. Cool completely before filling.
To make the pastry cream:
Heat the milk in a medium sauce pan with the vanilla bean, until it just bubbles. Meanwhile, beat the eggs with the sugar until thick and creamy. Beat in the cornstarch & a pinch of salt. When the milk boils, remove from the heat and slowly pour it into the egg mixture, beating constantly. Pour the mixture back into the sauce pan & cook on low, stirring constantly, until thickened. If the mixture boils & curdles, whisk it until smooth and of the consistency of pudding.
Remove the vanilla bean and pour the pastry cream into a clean bowl. Allow to cool slightly. Cover with a layer of plastic wrap, placed directly on top of the cream, to prevent a film from forming. Refrigerate until completely cool.
Fill the baked tart shell with the cooled pastry cream and arrange fruit and berries on top. If desired, sprinkle with powdered sugar just before serving.