Spring is here, and we are embracing a timeless basic today – the Classic French Strawberry Tart, known in French as “Tarte aux Fraises”. This traditional French dessert combines a buttery pastry crust with juicy ripe strawberries arranged on a layer of velvety crème pâtissière. Come Spring and strawberry season, you will find this tart in almost every boulangeries (bakeries) in France. This is a no-fuss tart that looks fabulous with a brushing of apricot glaze on the strawberries for a pretty sheen.
This Classic French Strawberry Tart recipe is as simple as it gets. It includes three classic components from the French baking repertoire: pâte sablée (sandy crust), crème pâtissière (pastry cream) and strawberries.
The Pâte Sablée
The crust for this tart is known as a pâte sablée (sandy crust). This type of crust is traditionally used in France for the making of tart shells meant to include pastry creams. It is buttery, not too sweet, with a lovely sandy texture. Yet it is sturdy enough to hold the cream and strawberries. The pâte sablée is baked “à blanc”. This means it is baked without any filling, and the cream and strawberries are then added once it is cooled.
The crème pâtissière
The pastry cream is known as “crème pâtissière”. French crème pâtissière is a custard flavored with vanilla that is thickened using eggs and egg yolks. It is thicker than English/American custard and tastes richer too. It is used as the base for countless French desserts, especially fresh fruit tarts.
The strawberries are used fresh, as is. I am sure if you love seasonal strawberries as much as I do, you’ll agree strawberries often don’t need any assistance to taste delicious. Strawberries are much loved in France all throughout Spring and Summer.
The crisp pâte sablée, the rich crème pâtissière and the sweet strawberries are a bliss of perfectly combined textures and flavours. There is no doubt why this dessert is a timeless French classic and a favorite to make and enjoy amongst households.
- The pâte sablée (baked “à blanc”) and the crème pâtissière can be made ahead and stored in the fridge until ready to assemble. I think this makes it a great dessert to be served for hosting, if you need to manage your time wisely in the kitchen.
- Although you can use a store-bought pie crust for convenience, I think making your own pâte sablée (sandy crust) from scratch will go a long way. Don’t skip the chilling time in the fridge and remember to work quickly – avoid the crust from getting to warm or it will become sticky. This crust recipe will give you enough for a 9-inch pie crust. I recommend you use a tart pan with a removable bottom, which will support the crust when lifting your tart.
- Choose seasonal, ripe strawberries that are in-season (and ideally from a local farmer’s market). After hulling the strawberries, I like to arrange them in small groups by size: large, medium, small. This make it easier for assembling the tart later. You can start by placing the small strawberry halves in the middle of the tart and use bigger strawberry halves for the outer circle.
- Apricot jam is commonly used for glazing fruit tarts in France. But other jams work perfectly too: strawberry jam, raspberry jam, peach jam, etc. Make sure you pass it through a fine mesh strainer first to discard of any chunks or seeds.
I hope you enjoy this Classic French Strawberry Tart (Tarte aux Fraises) as much as I do!
Any questions, don’t hesitate to leave a comment.
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For the pâte sablée:
1 ¾ cup + 1 tbsp (233g) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (67.5g) sugar
½ tsp salt
½ cup (125g) unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
1 large egg
For the crème pâtissière:
1 cup (250ml) milk (2% or whole)
½ tsp vanilla extract (or seeds from ½ vanilla bean)
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk
3 tbsp (38g) sugar
2 tbsp (17g) all-purpose flour
1 ½ tbsp (11g) cornstartch
5 ½ cups (790g) fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and halved
2 tbsp apricot jam
Make sure you read the cooking notes before you start.
Step 1 -To make the crust, whisk together in a mixing bowl the flour, sugar and salt. Add the cubed butter and mix with your fingers (or pulse in a food processor), until you get a crumbly consistency and pea-size bits of butter are still visible. Add the egg and mix until the dough roughly comes together into a ball; do not overmix. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.
Pre-heat your oven to 350F (180C) with a rack in the middle.
Grease and flour a 9-inch (23 cm) tart pan. Transfer the dough onto a floured working surface and roll it out to a 12-inch (31cm) circle. Transfer the crust to the pan. Cut any excess crust that hangs over the edge, and poke the bottom of the crust all over with a fork. Line the top of the crust with foil or parchment paper and place pie weights or dried beans to keep the pie crust from puffing when baking.
Bake the crust for 20 minutes. Carefully remove the parchment paper filled with weights and bake for 10 more minutes, until the edges of the crust are slightly golden. Set aside to cool completely.
Step 2 - To make the crème pâtissière, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, warm up the milk and vanilla. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolk and sugar until lighter in color and fluffy. Whisk in the flour and cornstarch. When the milk is just simmering, pour it into the egg mixture, and whisk until just incorporated.
Transfer back into the saucepan, whisk occasionally and remove from the heat as soon as it begins to thicken and bubble. Pour into a clean bowl, and cover the crème with plastic wrap; the wrap should touch the whole surface of the crème to prevent a skin from forming. Set aside to cool completely.
Step 3 - To assemble the tart, place the crust onto a serving plate. Spread the crème pâtissière over the bottom of the crust. Wash, drain, de-stem and halve the strawberries. Gently place them on top of the crème in a circular pattern (bottom side down).
Warm up the apricot jam in a microwave for 15 seconds and pass it through a fine mesh strainer if needed (to discard of fruit chunks). Gently brush the jam over the strawberries. Chill the tart for at least one hour before serving.
Did you make this recipe?
I’d love to know how it turned out! Please let me know by leaving a comment below, rate the recipe and/or share a photo on Instagram: tag @pardonyourfrench and hashtag it #pardonyourfrench. Bon Appetit!