Fruit Tarts II

IMG_4088 Two weeks late, but…I’M 20!!! IMG_4086 I know I’m still young, but God has been faithful to me these past 20 years. It was a blessed birthday, and I’m thankful for everything!

I celebrated with my family:

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Celebrated my birthday at midnight with my roommates: IMG_4488 At work, my coworkers decorated my cubicle and gave me this AWESOME mini pie pan (which is perfect for this recipe):

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Then that night, I was surprised by J! I was under the impression that I was going to dinner with my roommates. I decided to nap between work and dinner, then I woke up to noise and someone poking my nose…and it was J! He drove to Irvine to surprise me =). We walked to the car, and found two more friends. Then we got into the car and they kept saying we were going to McDonald’s (totally didn’t fool me, by the way), but we ended up at an all you can eat KBBQ restaurant, where I was surprised again with more friends! Then during dinner, my sister and her boyfriend surprised me with a yummy strawberry tiramisu birthday cake =). Indeed a good surprise–good job J and thank you friends!!! =) :

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It was a very blessed birthday, and…I am thankful =). IMG_4097 Remember the fruit tarts I made last summer? Today, I bring to you all my new favorite fruit tart recipe. It’s pretty close to the one I made last time, but I think these are much better and a lot easier. This time around, I made a bunch of differently sized tarts. I like the crust because it’s so rich and buttery, and it goes great with the extra chocolate layer i spread on before I layer in the custard. The custard is AMAZING. I can eat it right off the spoon. And my favorite part? The entire custard is made in the microwave. Yup, no more having to worry about scrambled eggs, boiling the milk, or making sure the milk doesn’t burn or form a skin. You dump in all the ingredients, whisk it, and stick it in the microwave for a total of six minutes. It’s creamy, eggy, and perfect for these fruit tarts. And don’t worry, there’s a little more custard than needed for these tarts, so feel free to eat that with a spoon =).

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Fruit Tarts
Makes 13-14 mini tarts, or a large tart + a few smaller ones
Adapted from From Salad in a Jar

Ingredients:

For the Tart Crust:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), chilled
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon heavy cream (or milk)
1/4 cup chocolate chips, melted

For the Custard Filling:
2 3/4 cups whole milk
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. For the crust: Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Add slices of the butter to the flour, and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the egg yolk mixed with milk, and pulse until all the ingredients are moistened. Continue to pulse until the dough starts to stick together. Add a little milk if the dough seems to be too dry. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, grease your molds with cooking spray. When the dough is chilled, roll pieces of the dough between two pieces of plastic wrap into a circle slightly larger than your tart molds. Press the dough into the molds, keeping the thickness consistent. Trip off the excess, and continue to do so for all molds until you have used up all the dough. You can use the extra scraps to make another tart if you have enough. Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork. Freeze for at least 30 minutes.

3. Place the frozen tart shells on a cookie sheet (the original instructions say to press a small piece of foil down into each crust. I got lazy and didn’t). Bake at 400F for 10-13 minutes, until golden brown. When done, prick the bottom again to release some steam. Some of the bottoms may have puffed up, and that’s ok. Spread a thin layer of the melted chocolate onto the crust and let harden.

4. For the Custard Filling: Whisk together the milk, sugar, cornstarch, salt, and egg yolks in a large microwave safe bowl. Microwave 6 minutes, whisk until smooth  after three minutes, then every minute after that. Add the butter and vanilla; whisk until smooth.

5. For Assembly: Fill each baked tart with the custard filling. Top and decorate with fruit of your choice. Enjoy!

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Until next time,

Soli Deo Gloria, and Happy reading, eating, and baking!

Strawberry French Macarons

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MACARONS MACARONS MACARONS MACARONS!! Not macaroons. Macarons. One “o,” please! I know I said I’d do a macaron tutorial post, but I’m not ready for that yet. I have pictures from two instances, but I’m not completely satisfied with them. I keep looking at all these other macaron tutorial posts, and I don’t think mine are up to par yet. Perhaps in the near future! So for now, I’ll direct you to some of my favorite macaron posts where I learned it all, and I’ll show one of my favorite flavors: strawberry macarons with strawberry buttercream. This is one of my more popular flavors, because the strawberry flavor in the filling is so strong! It’s soooo good. There’s one extra hassle from making macarons–you get all these egg yolks sitting around. I mean, there are plenty of recipes out there that use up leftover yolks, but sometimes I’m just kinda meh about them. Luckily I have a friend who makes amazing ice cream that I give all my yolks to (shoutout to Nick! Thanks for taking all my leftover egg yolks!).

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The recipe I use is from this blog called Not So Humble Pie. She has this pretty great macaron tutorial that you can find here where she goes into detail about the entire macaron process–ingredients, equipment, mixing, baking, and fillings. The recipe I use is from her. And then there’s also BraveTart, a blog which has an intensive post as well, and I’ve definitely learned a lot from it. You can find her recipe here, along with a couple other macaron reads that she links to in the post. Both are really informative, and I think a lot of what I’ve learned is credited to these two blogs. Check them out, please!

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A couple of side notes (just things off the top of my head):
1) Macarons take a lot of precision, practice, and patience. Precision because baking is a science, and practice because as you keep making them, you begin to learn techniques. It’s not as hard as everyone makes it out to be, but you have to be really willing to put in the time and effort. It’s definitely not something you can whip out in an hour–you must be patient.

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2) Measure all your ingredients and sift all the dry ingredients! As for aging the egg whites, I usually do it the night before. If you don’t have time, don’t worry–just make sure they’re at room temperature. I like separating them in separate bowls and pouring the egg whites to my mixing bowl. I do this so in case I get a speck of yolk in my egg whites, I don’t have to throw out everything, just that one tainted white. Remember it’s important that there are no specks of oil/yolks in your whites, otherwise they won’t whip up properly.

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3) For piping, if you don’t have a pastry bag you can use a ziploc bag or a plastic pastry bag. I buy plastic pastry bags at Daiso Japan if you have one in your area; if not, you can find them online. If you are using a large ziploc bag, I would recommend cutting the hole on a curve (not straight, a sort of curved line) just so the batter doesn’t get piped out flat. As for piping circles, it’s hard. Some recipes tell you to draw circles one by one onto the back side of the parchment paper with a pencil, but…aintnobodygottimefordat. I print out two macaron templates (which you can just google image search), tape them together, then slip them under my Silpat/parchment paper. Then I pull them out after I’m done piping, and voila! Time saver and you can reuse the templates.

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4) After you finish piping, don’t forget to rap the sheets against the counter. This helps create a solid “base” or “foot” for the macaron shells. It also helps flatten out some of ugly shells into prettier shapes. Just slam the pans against the counter once or twice, then rotate 90 degrees and rap again until you rap all the sides.

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5) Know your oven! Your oven can be a liar. Seriously! It might say 350 when in reality it’s 325. You can buy oven thermometers if you want to be sure; I just played around with my oven until I found a temperature that worked. I only bake one tray at a time; you might not have to. It’s up to you and your oven.

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6) I know it’s tempting, but let your macarons sit for a little to let the flavors meld together. I usually let them sit overnight, but some people let them sit for at least 24 hours. Up to you! But they still taste great. Be sure you store your macarons in the fridge or a cool area, or the filling might melt and get messy.

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7) Process–don’t deflate the egg whites. Fold gently, and make sure you fold it thoroughly. That was a mistake I made–undermixing. This led to hollow (but yummy!) macaron shells that didn’t look as pretty as I would have liked them to. If you pick up your spatula, the batter that flows off should incorporate into the batter in 20 seconds. Don’t overmix though!

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8) I think this is the most important–HAVE FUN! If they don’t come out right, it’s okay–try again! At the end of the day, they’re just macarons. They’re not a big deal. Have fun and find joy in it. Don’t get discouraged! Here are some from one of my first few batches of macarons: IMG_3133 I don’t even know what happened. They tasted good, but they looked hideous. I guess what I’m trying to say is that macarons aren’t a big deal. They’re a fad. They’re hard, but remember to have fun while doing it. Don’t lose your passion for baking because of these puny cookies. Whether or not you are successful with these doesn’t determine whether or not you’re a baker. HAVE FUN. I still have a lot to learn. I still have fillings to work on and try, shells to tweak, and a lot of precision to master. I still get a few bad batches here and there, but I think the main point is that I enjoy it. I love baking, and it’s definitely a passion. But like I said, macarons take a lot of precision, practice, and patience. You have to be willing to put in the effort! And enjoy it. I find it fun, and I hope you do too. Don’t get discouraged–they’re just macarons! Try and try again. And on the bright side, even though they don’t look perfect, they still taste good =). Good luck!!

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Strawberry French Macarons
Makes about 70 1.5 inch shells (35 sandwiches)
Macaron recipe From Not So Humble Pie

Ingredients:

For the macarons:
120g almond meal
200g powdered sugar
100g egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
30-35g granulated sugar
2-4 drops pink gel food coloring

For the filling:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1.5 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1.5 tablespoons strawberry puree (from 1-2 strawberries)

Note: For almond meal, you can grind up your old almonds, or you can buy the almond flour/meal itself. I usually buy slivered almonds in bulk at Winco and grind them myself, but sometimes I use the almond meal from Trader Joes–$3.99/lb bag.

1. For the macarons: Line 2-3 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners. Prep a piping bag with a round tip. Place the bag into a tall drinking glass and cuff the bags opening over the top (this makes it easier to fill the bag).

2. In a large bowl, sift the almond meal to remove any clumps, then weigh out 120g. Some people like to weigh then sift, but I always end up with so many extra lumps/chunky nuts that won’t go through the sieve that I don’t want to be inaccurate in my weights. Sift then weigh.

3. In another bowl, sift the powdered sugar to remove any clumps, then weigh out 200g.

4. Mix together the powdered sugar and almond meal. You can sift both of them again, but I usually don’t, and my macarons turn out fine. Sifting it together makes sure that they’re evenly incorporated with each other, but I just stir with a spoon.

5. Pour the 100g of egg whites into a large stainless steel mixing bowl. Add the cream of tartar. Begin beating the eggs on low speed. Once they are very foamy, begin sprinkling in the sugar as you beat. Increase the speed if necessary, and beat the meringue to stiff glossy peaks. Read here if you’re confused about what this means.

6. If you’re using food coloring, make sure you are using gel food coloring. Add it in at this point, and whip for a few seconds.

7. Add about 1/4 of the almond and sugar mixture; fold with a rubber spatula until no streaks remain (make sure you fold! Don’t stir. It’ll deflate the whites). Continue to add the almond and sugar mixture in quarters, and fold until you reach the proper batter. It is finished when you pick up your spatula and the batter flows steadily.  People describe this as lava-like or molten, but I never really understood what this meant… SO it needs to be thick enough that it will mound up on itself, but also fluid enough that it will melt back down after 20 seconds.

8. Pour the batter into the prepared piping bag, and pipe rows of batter onto the baking sheets. Make sure you don’t pipe them too close to each other, because they may spread.

9. Rap the baking pan on the counter to get rid of any air bubbles. If you want, you can pop the air bubbles that come up with a toothpick,

10. Let the macarons rest or “dry” on the counter until they are no longer tacky to a light touch. I know they are ready when I touch it and nothing gets on my finger. It usually takes at least 30 minutes for me, but it depends on the humidity and weather. Try to let them dry in a cool place.

11. When your macarons are almost dry, preheat the oven to 290°F. Bake the macarons on the middle rack of your oven (this depends on your oven). I usually bake one tray at a time.

12. Bake the macarons for 16-20 minutes. When they are done, let them cool completely on the sheets. Once the macarons are completely cool, peel them off by pulling back the parchment paper/silicone mat). The shells should come off easily. If not, put them back in the oven for 2 minutes.

13. For the filling: Place butter in a mixing bowl; cream until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and strawberry puree (which is just strawberries blended in a food processor/blender/coffee grinder); beat until combined.

14. For Assembly: Match up each shell. Fill a pastry bag filled with the strawberry buttercream. Pipe a small mound of the buttercream into the center of the shell, then sandwich each shell with its other half. Do this for all the shells.

15. You have two options now: a) Eat them all. b) Put them in the fridge, and let the flavors develop overtime. I usually just leave them overnight, since I’m always baking at night. Leave the macarons in the fridge when you’re not eating them, then when you’re ready to serve/consume them, let them warm up a bit so the macaron can soften. Or eat them straight from the fridge, like me. Your choice =).

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I hope that wasn’t too confusing! Like I’ve said before, the two tutorials I linked to early are really great and much more informative, so refer back to those! But feel free to ask me any questions, and I’ll be happy to (try to) help. =) BUENA SUERTE!

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Until next time,

Soli Deo Gloria, and Happy reading, eating, and baking!

Vanilla Cupcakes with Lemon Curd and Strawberry Frosting

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I can’t wait for the summer. I think part of the reason is because there’s no school, but another reason is because of church. This summer I’ll be participating in two major church activities: a week-long missions trip to Arizona and a stations leader/admin for an arts academy at our church. It’ll take a lot of planning and work, but I’m excited to get more involved in serving at church and serving others and our wonderful Creator! I think that’s something I’ve been lacking in this past quarter–serving others and serving God. I have a problem with breaking out of my comfort zone, and because of that I’ve become a lazy and introverted. But being introverted doesn’t give me an excuse to not meet up with others and invest in their lives. I think introversion has become more of an excuse recently, and that is no bueno. I recently read an article about viewing introversion biblically from The Gospel Coalition, and the closing paragraph stuck out the most:

Accepting the realities of my God-given personality has been a process of sanctification. I’ve had to repent of people-pleasing and trying to be someone I’m not. I’ve had to humbly acknowledge my limits and weaknesses and to live in God’s strength rather than my own. Ultimately, this process has been about God and his kingdom, not me. The more I rest in his gracious acceptance of me in Jesus, the more free I become to be myself for his glory. And that’s a place where joy and contentment abound.

Food for thought. And since summer is still a few weeks away, I’ll have to stick with spring, all the while remaining content and willing to love and invest in others, being patient with school, and being thankful that I can still receive an education.

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In the food world, I think this is spring–vanilla cupcakes with a lemon curd filling and strawberry frosting. I made these kind of on a whim because I had leftover strawberry frosting and lemon curd fillings from my macarons this past weekend, which, by the way, I will blog about soon! I wanted to go for a “strawberry lemonade” type cupcake, so I even added some lemon zest in the cupcake batter, but the results weren’t exactly what I was looking for, so I probably need to try it with a lemon cupcake next time. The flavors in the cupcake were good, though. The tart, lemon flavor and creamy strawberry frosting paired well with the cupcakes. The cupcakes rose with a nice domed top, but I think I was looking for a cupcake that was a little fluffier. That’s just my preference though, and it’s totally up to you. It’s definitely still a good vanilla cupcake =). (And I do like how there’s no butter in the batter!)

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Vanilla Cupcakes with a Lemon Curd Filling and Strawberry Frosting
Makes 12 cupcakes
Cupcakes from Glorious Treats
Lemon Curd from A Baked Creation, Strawberry Frosting as follows

For the cupcakes:
1 1/4 cups cake flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup oil (vegetable/canola)
1/2 cup buttermilk
(or 1/2 cup milk + 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar/lemon juice.
Mix together and let sit for 5 minutes before using)

For the Lemon Curd:
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
Fresh lemon juice from 1/2 large lemon (about 2-3 tbsp)
zest from 1/2 large lemon
1/2 stick cold unsalted butter, sliced

For the Strawberry Frosting:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon strawberry puree (from 1-2 strawberries)

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Place the metal bowl on top of the saucepan and stir with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. The mixture will begin to thicken in about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat; whisk in the sliced butter. Wait for the slice to completely melt before adding the next one.

Pour the lemon curd into a glass jar/container, and allow it to cool. Refrigerate over night before using.

For the Cupcakes:
Preheat the oven to 350˚F.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In another bowl, beat eggs for 20 seconds. Add sugar and continue to beat for 30 seconds. Add vanilla and oil; beat. Stir in half of the flour mixture, then add half of the milk. Add the rest of the flour and then the rest of the milk, and mix until just combined. The batter will be very thin.

Pour the batter into a cupcake pan lined with paper liners, and fill the liners about 2/3 full. The cupcakes will rise a lot during baking!

Bake cupcake in preheated oven for 12-14 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 1-2 minutes, then remove cupcakes from pan and finish cooling on a wire rack.

For the Strawberry Frosting:
Place butter in a mixing bowl; beat until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and strawberry puree (which is just strawberries blended in a food processor/blender/coffee grinder); beat until combined.

For Assembly:
When the cupcakes are cool, core out the middle of each cupcake and fill generously with lemon curd. Frost each cupcake with the strawberry frosting. Top with strawberries, if desired.

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Until next time,

Soli Deo Gloria, and Happy reading, eating, and baking!

Fruit Tart

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I really should be studying right now. I have three midterms and a paper next week, and here I am, lounging in my room, looking at recipes, video chatting, blogging…and not doing work. After I finish this, I promise!

I really got into making macarons (which I’ll blog about eventually) this past summer, and it was great! The only problem was that I always had a bunch of egg yolks leftover that I didn’t want to waste. Occasionally the egg yolks would go into my roommate’s crème brûlées or into my mom’s fried rice, but there were always those days where I had to find some use for them myself. I stumbled upon this site which was great because it gave me tons of ideas on how to use up old egg yolks! It even categorizes them into the number of egg yolks you had.

Anyway, one of them was pastry cream. The possibilities are endless with that one, but Sam bugging me about making fruit tarts using these tart ramekins she had bought from Daiso. So I finally fulfilled her request and made her her fruit tarts. And in return, Samantha Ho took and edited pictures for me (was that a subtle enough photo credit? Oops if it wasn’t, then…PHOTO CREDIT: SAMANTHA HO).

I found this great recipe on Joy of Baking‘s website. I love her recipes because they’re always foolproof for me, and she has these great instructional videos along with each recipe. Not only that, she has this great substitution list (which I turn to all the time because I’m always too lazy to check that I have all my ingredients–not a good idea, by the way–or I’m too stingy to spend money on a certain ingredient) and all these other videos to answer your baking questions. I know they answered mine!

The fruit tart turned out to be delicious! It was perfect timing because my apartment had both golden kiwis and strawberries on hand. My boss loved it–the crust was cookie like and slightly sweet, and the pastry cream was a great combination with the fruit. What made it even better was the chocolate! The recipe says to use a layer of fruit preserves between the crust and the cream to seal the crust, but I used chocolate instead. I melted some semi-sweet chocolate chips in the microwave and spread it on the crust. It was a perfect touch to the tart. J would definitely differ (he hates chocolate! There goes half of my recipes…), so I guess I’ll opt out of the chocolate if I do ever make it for him. We’ll just have to see!

Fruit Tart
Makes one 8- to 9-inch tart
Adapted from 
Joy of Baking

Ingredients:

For the sweet pastry crust:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten

For the pastry cream:
1 1/4 cups milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch

For assembly:
Melted chocolate, enough to have a layer over the crust

Topping:
3 cups fruit (kiwis, strawberries, plums, blueberries, anything you want!)

For the sweet pastry crust: In a bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Set aside. In another bowl, beat the butter until softened. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Gradually add the beaten egg and beat until just incorporated. Add the flour mixture and mix until it forms a ball. Flatten the pastry into a disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 15-30 minutes or freeze for 10-15 minutes or until firm.

Lightly grease a 8 or 9 inch tart pan. Evenly pat the chilled pastry dough onto the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap; freeze for 15 minutes.

Lightly prick the bottom of the pastry crust with a fork (to prevent the dough from puffing up as it bakes). Place the tart pan on a larger baking sheet and bake the crust in a preheated 400˚F oven on the center rack for 5 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350˚F and bake for 15 minutes or until dry and lightly golden brown. Remove from the oven, place on a wire rack, and cool completely.

*Side note. I actually made little tarts and forgot to bake one of them. I baked it up later and Sam ate it with nutella. Delicious!

For the pastry cream: In a medium-sized heatproof bowl, mix the sugar and egg yolks together. Don’t let the mixture sit too long or you will get pieces of egg forming. Sift the flour and cornstarch together, add it to the egg mixture, and mix until you get a smooth paste.

In a saucepan, bring the milk just until the milk starts to foam up. Remove from head and add it slowly to the egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent curdling. Pour the egg mixture into a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until boiling, whisking constantly. When it boils, whisk mixture constantly for another 30-60 seconds until it becomes thick. Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla extract. Poor the mixture into a clean bowl, cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming. Cool to room temperature, refrigerate if no using right away. Whisk the mixture before using to get rid of any lumps.

For Assembly: (You can remove the tart from the pan if it has a removeable bottom; I assembled it without removing the tart)

Spread the melted chocolate over the tart, and let it harden completely.

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(This is what you’ll get. Mmm, chocolate!)

Then spread the pastry cream onto the bottom of the tart shell. Arrange the fruit in any way you choose.

The fruit tart is definitely better the same day that it’s made, but you can also refrigerate the leftovers and eat it the next day.

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Yum.Until next time,

Soli deo Gloria, and happy reading, eating, and baking!