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I’m starting to really feel Lorelai’s pain and am ready for this double date to end! We’re on the final recipe for episode 1.12 – Double Date – Sookie’s strawberry tart.
Let’s first acknowledge that when polled on my Instagram stories, all but ONE person said if they had to be stuck on a double date with Todd or Rune, they would choose Todd; however, true GG super-fan props go to the one who chose Rune. She justified her vote with the *accurate* fact that Rune would just get mad and dip out early, as opposed to having to hear about Todd’s favorite scenes from Beethoven until your and your best friend’s mom come to crash the date. On. Point.
This week’s recipe comes from the scene at Chez Fleur where Lorelai is desperately trying to get Sookie and Jackson to speak to one another, but instead Sookie keeps diverting the conversation back to Lorelai, all while Rune cuts off the heads of the butter swans. Apparently Sookie once tried to teach Lorelai how to make strawberry tarts and allegedly went so insane preparing the strawberries that she had repaint her kitchen red just to hide the stains.
First of all.
We all know that Sook is a mega-perfectionist, so it would make sense that she would make Lorelai try and try again until she could do it right. But even before making this recipe myself I still don’t know who could manage to recklessly sling so much strawberry around that it would permanently stain a wall. I know Sookie can be clumsy, but I’m sure her culinary training would not allow for such poor kitchen hygiene. Though, Lorelai does catch her rooting through the garbage to salvage tops in A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving. So I could be wrong.
If you’re unfamiliar with what a classic fruit tart is, it consists of a crust similar to a pie dough, but it’s consistency is more crumbly than flaky like with a pie. After baking a crust in a removable-bottom tart tin like this, you then moisture-proof the crust by brushing over a layer of melted strawberry jam. Then you fill the crust with pastry cream (similar to a custard) and top with freshly chopped strawberries. You can also add a second layer of melted jam as a glaze to finish. It is heavenly.
You could say I slightly cut corners on this recipe by opting to use store-bought strawberry preserves rather than making them myself. For the sake of consistency with the show, we’ll just say it was made by an orphaned illiterate nun named Sochelle, the most successful jamstress in Paris. The most difficult part of making the tart was making the pastry cream filling. That’s why I was slightly surprised by Sookie mentioning the strawberries in her anecdote, although it’s also pretty hard to think of something pithy and comedic to say about pastry cream. The transition from simmering the milk, adding to the egg yolk mixture and back into the rest of the hot milk is a quick process that kind of took me off guard. I probably could have used two or three tries at this recipe myself.
Although in the end, the tart still got rave reviews from my husband’s book club. To the point where one of the guys almost “forgot” to bring home a slice to his wife as he went back for seconds. Lori, if you’re reading this, I hope your strawberry tart made it home to you!
Final Review: I was super excited for this recipe because I love the look of fruit tarts. One of my favorite things to do at Central Market is to peruse the dessert case with tiny tarts perfectly aligned and topped with gorgeous lacquered fruit. There is something so sophisticated about the dessert to me. Ironically, I was expecting the recipe to be a breeze since there’s not much to the actual composition of the tart. A crust, a cream, some chopped fruit, bing-bang-boom you’re done. It went smoothly overall until the cream thickened so quickly I nearly forgot to add the vanilla because I was in a rush to get it set in the crust. Slow and steady is definitely the key to this one. The good news is even if you don’t get it perfect the first time, it will still taste delicious!
Tart Crust (from Williams-Sonoma Cooking at Home by Chuck Williams)
1 ¼ c flour
1 tbsp sugar
¼ tsp salt
½ c cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 tbsp cold water
Pastry Cream (from the Joy of Cooking by Emma Rombauer)
⅓ c sugar
2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp cornstarch
4 large egg yolks
1 ⅓ c milk
¾ tsp vanilla
2 c fresh strawberries, sliced
Preheat the oven to 375º. Combine the flour, sugar and salt and toss with a fork to mix. Using your fingertips, work the cold butter into the flour mixture until it resembles large coarse crumbs. Add one tablespoon water and toss with a fork until moistened. Add another tablespoon of water and continue combining the dough until it forms a rough mass. Turn dough onto a floured surface and form into a smooth disk. Place the disk between two pieces of plastic wrap and roll out to the length of the tart pan. Carefully transfer the dough to a well-greased tart pan and press to fit. Trim any overlapping edges. Place a piece of aluminum foil over the pan and cover with pie weights, dry beans or rice. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden.
Let the pie cool completely. Melt 2 – 3 tablespoons of strawberry jam and brush over the crust to moisture-proof. Place in fridge to set for at least 10 minutes.
Simmer the milk and vanilla in small saucepan on low-medium heat. In a stand mixer, beat the sugar, flour, cornstarch and egg yolks on high until thick pale and yellow for 2 minutes. Slowly stream ⅓ of the simmering milk into the flour mixture until combined, and immediately transfer back to the saucepan with remaining milk. Whisk constantly on low-medium heat for 45 seconds. Pour directly into the tart pan. Top with sliced strawberries and brush with another 2 – 3 tablespoons to glaze (optional). Set in fridge until ready to serve. Enjoy!