Although I’ll go to my grave believing that cooking strawberries for anything but jam is a crime, sometimes the occasion demands a bit more than a punnet of fresh fruit and a cloud of softly whipped cream. This impressive-looking tart is a lighter, simpler take on the classic French pastry, and is designed to let the fruit shine.
Prep 10-15 min
Chill 15 min
Cook 1 hr
Set 30 min
For the pastry
110g cold butter
200g plain flour
65g caster sugar
¼ tsp fine salt
For the filling
200ml whipping cream
2 tsp icing sugar
½-2 tsp rosewater, to taste (optional)
200g thick whole-milk yoghurt
About 500g ripe strawberries
4 tbsp redcurrant jelly, or other smooth jam (optional)
1 Make the (no-roll) pastry
You could use 375g ready-made sweet shortcrust here, but this is so easy, it’s very little extra effort than shop-bought. Dice the butter and put it in a food processor with the flour, sugar and salt, and pulse for about a minute, until the mix resembles damp sand. Alternatively, put everything in a bowl and rub in the butter with your fingertips.
2 Line the tin
Tip the pastry crumbs into a loose-bottomed, shallow, 25cm tart tin, then spread out to cover the base and bank them up around the sides. Press the crumbs with the base of a glass, until you have a solid pastry case, working the crumbs up the edges as well, so the whole tin is evenly coated. Pop it into the freezer and chill for 15 minutes, until firm.
3 Bake the case
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Take the tin out of the freezer, prick the base all over with a fork, then bake for about 20-25 minutes, until crisp and lightly golden all over. Keep an eye on it towards the end of the cooking time, because overcooked pastry tends to crumble once filled.
4 Leave to cool
Leave the baked shell to cool completely in the tin, then transfer to a serving plate. If you try to rush this bit and fill the case while it’s still warm, the pastry is liable to go soggy. You may, however, make the pastry case a few hours in advance, in which case keep it in its tin and, once cool, cover with a tea towel.
5 Whip and flavour the cream
Pour the cream into a large bowl and whip until it’s just starting to hold its shape. Sift in the sugar (this will get rid of any lumps) and add half a teaspoon of rosewater, if using. Different brands vary hugely in strength, so start small: you can always add more later. (For other flavouring ideas, see step 9.)
6 Add yoghurt
Keep whipping the cream until it forms soft peaks, then fold in the yoghurt. You could use cream alone, but yoghurt gives the tart a lighter, fresher flavour – don’t be tempted to use a reduced-fat variety, though, because that will make it sour and watery. Greek yoghurt, being thicker, may need to be whisked briefly beforehand, to make it easier to incorporate.
7 Top with strawberries
Taste the cream mix and add more rosewater or sugar, if need be, then spoon into the tart case and smooth out with a spoon or spatula. Wash the strawberries, then hull and cut into quarters (or sixths, if they are on the large side). Arrange neatly on top of the cream, starting in the centre, points facing upwards, in concentric circles; or just cut the fruit in half and lay cut side down in neat rows.
If you’re happy with a more natural look, you can now serve the tart just as it is. But, for a high-gloss, professional-looking finish, gently heat the jelly or jam in a small pan over a low heat until it melts, then use a pastry brush to paint the strawberries, making sure you don’t drip it on any exposed cream. Leave to set for at least half an hour before serving.
9 Other flavourings
The tangy sweetness of a ripe strawberry is a pleasure that needs little in the way of enhancement, but I can’t resist the summery perfume of rose petals. If you’re not keen on those, add a dash of vanilla extract (or the scraped seeds from a vanilla pod), the finely grated zest of an unwaxed lemon or orange, or even some black pepper.