Tuesday Tutor: Featuring Smiley's Kitchen

French Strawberry Tart
Tarte aux Fraises (French Tart)

Every Tuesday I choose a different friend to be my tutor for a day: I select one of their original recipes, I make the recipe following my friend's instructions, I snap a multitude of pictures, I scarf down as much as my belt-line will permit - and then I share everything I love about my friend's recipe. Read more about the details for Tuesday Tutor

Today's Tuesday Tutor: Smiley's Kitchen
My tutor today is Ismael from Smiley's Kitchen blog. Ismael was one of the first blogs I discovered last year when I returned to blogging after a year's hiatus. Ismael blogs from the heart and shares real food made to be eaten, not just photographed. Every time I drop by Smiley's Kitchen, I'm reminded of why I started blogging - to share what we've learned with others in our own style and voice.

Ismael is fairly private about his personal life, so I'm honored that he has agreed to a feature and agreed to share some personal things about himself. For me, every time I learn something new about a blogger I enjoy following, I feel just a little bit closer to that person. Sort of like learning fun little secrets about a long-time friend that deepen the friendship even further. So take this opportunity to start a friendship with Ismael and Smiley's Kitchen.

About the Author: Fun Facts
  1. "Working full time and working on a food blog can stretching myself a little thin, but you know what? I think it's really rewarding seeing what you have accomplished and the fact that others appreciate what you have created in the kitchen. Makes my grandmother proud."
  2. "I really do love to travel. While traveling, it's nice to try new food that I may have never thought had existed or at least I knew of it, but now I get to try it. Tripe soup anyone?? :)"
  3. "Am the oldest of 3, but come from an extended family of over 150. Yes, we are that big!"
  4. "Have a recent interest in working with my hands, hence cooking, but have taken up fishing, home remodeling and the outdoors."
  5. "Have an inner lesbian in me, so I tend to like music from angry females such as Fiona Apple, Mazzy Starr, Amiee Mann, but do love Sarah Mac, Adele and, much recently, Regina Spektor."
Author's Photo

Sifted Flour
There are three parts to this recipe: 1) Making the pastry crust 2) Making the pastry creme &
3) Assembling the tart. Each step has multiple steps, so this tart takes about 4 hours to complete
I recommend making the pastry dough and pastry cream in advance (the day before) and then
completing the tart the day you wish to serve it so that the berries are fresh and pastry doesn't
become soggy as it sits. Everything starts with the pastry crust - which starts with all-purpose flour

Granulated Sugar
Next comes sugar...

Kosher Salt
...and kosher salt.

Whisk Ingredients Together
Whisk all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. You could also make this crust using
a food processor which would speed up the process considerably.

Diced Cold Butter
Cube 2 sticks of cold butter (16 Tablespoons or 1 cup). I recommend doing this before you begin
working with the dry ingredients and keeping the butter chilled in the refrigerator before adding
to the dry ingredients so that the butter stays as cold as possible. Keep the cubes of butter small
to make it easier to work into the dough.

Add Cold Cubed Butter
Add the cold cubed butter to the flour. Now comes the fun part...

Work in Butter with Pastry Cutter
...With a pastry cutter or fork, work the butter into the flour. This will take about 3-5 minutes.

Mixture with Pea-sized Lumps of Butter
You will end up with a course mixture with butter about the size of large peas.

Add Egg Yolks
Add two large egg yolks...

Egg Yolks Worked Into Dough
...and work them into the flour until the mixture is about the size of small peas. I'm not sure
the purpose of the egg yolks as I have never used in pastry dough before, but Ismael's recipe
called for them so I followed his instructions precisely.

Slowly Add Water
Next comes the water. You will want to very slowly add ice water to the mixture and work it in
with the pastry cutter until the dough just begins to clump together. I had a cup of ice water
standing by, but I only used about 1/3 - 1/2 cup to pull the dough together.

Work Dough Together
Working in the ice water will take about a minute...

Add Just Enough Water to Pull Dough Together
...and you will end up with a lumpy cluster of bits of dough.

Form a Disc of Dough
Use your fingers to pull the dough together and form a flattened disc. Do NOT kneed or work
the dough or you will end up with a tough crust.

Wrap Dough in Plastic
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours (or overnight).

Whole Milk
While the pastry dough chills, you can make the pastry cream (which will also need to chill).
The pastry cream starts with 2 cups of milk. Ismael didn't specify the type of milk, so I used
whole milk as sometimes skim milk gives me problems when attempting to thicken it.

Split Vanilla Beans and Remove Seeds
Next split one vanilla bean. My bean was very dry so I also scraped out the seeds from inside
the bean to ensure the vanilla flavored the cream sufficiently.

Add Vanilla Bean and Seeds
Add the milk and vanilla bean to a small pot and heat the milk almost to the boiling point
This takes about 6-8 minutes depending on how high you set the heat

Egg Yolks
While the milk heats, you will have just enough time to make the thickener for this cream.
It starts with 5 large egg yolks...

Granulated Sugar
...approx 1/2 cup granulated sugar...

Corn Starch
...3 Tablespoons corn starch...

All Purpose Flour
...and 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour. Whisk these ingredients vigorously until combined
and smooth. This will take a minute or two and at first you will barely be able to move the whisk.

Whisk Until Smooth
As you continue to beat the mixture, it will gradually loosen and turn smooth and free of lumps

Slowly Whisk in Hot Milk
Once the milk is near the boiling point, gradually add the milk to the egg mixture while
whisking vigorously. You will only want to add a small amount of hot milk at first so that
the egg yolks have a chance to warm without scrambling. I used a sieve to strain out the
vanilla bits and pod pieces

Add Milk a Little at a Time
Keep whisking in the milk until you have a smooth mixture without lumps. 

Sieve Mixture Back into Pot
Strain the mixture back into the pot over medium heat. Straining helps to remove any bits
of flour or corn starch or egg that didn't remain smooth

Bring to the Boil while Whisking
Whisk the mixture vigorously while heating to prevent the cream from sticking to the bottom
of the pan or from clumping. Bring the mixture to a boiling while continuing to whisk.

Whisk Vigorously
It will take about 8-10 minutes of heat and whisking to reach this consistency. Keep whisking.

Whisk Until Smooth
This looks thick and this is where I stopped, but I recommend letting the mixture thicken
further to avoid having the cream run later when cutting the tart.

Sieve Pastry Cream
I passed the final pastry cream through a sieve again before chilling. It helped remove tiny
lumps that whisking could not break up.

Pour into Airtight Container
You will want to chill the mixture in a container with a lid that touches the surface of the
pastry cream. This will prevent a skin from forming on the surface of the cream. I used one
of my French White Pyroceram CorningWare dishes with a matching lid for chilling the
pastry cream. You will want to chill the cream for at least 2 hours until very cold.

Prepare Tart Pan
Once the pastry cream is chilling and the pastry dough has chilled for at least 2 hours, you're
ready to make the pastry crust. I decided to use my tart pan with a false bottom for my pastry
crust, but you could also use a pie plate or a spring-form pan

All Chilled Dough to Warm
Let the pastry dough warm at room temperature for 15 minutes before rolling. This will help
keep the dough from cracking when rolling.

Roll Out Dough
Roll out the pastry dough to about 1/8 inch thickness

Rolled Dough
This recipe creates enough pastry dough for approximately 2 pie pans or 1 really big tart

Roll Up Dough Around Pin
To transfer the pastry dough to the tart or pie pan, roll the dough up around your rolling pin

Unroll Dough Over Tart Pan
Then unroll the pastry over the pan. Do NOT stretch the dough or "press" it into the pan. Lift
the edges of the dough and allow it to settle into the edges of the pan, working it gradually
into the shape of the pan without stretching it. Pastry dough will shrink back to it's original
size and shape when baked...

Trim of Excess Dough
Trim off the extra bits. In my case, there was a lot of extra dough...

Save Extra Dough for Later
...enough for another small pie. So I gathered up the bits and wrapped them in plastic wrap.
I froze the remains and will use for a future pie.

Prick All Sides and Bottom
Prick the pastry dough all over with a fork and then chill the pastry for approx 30 minutes.
Ismael original recipe then instruct one to line the shell with foil and bake for 15 minutes,
then to remove the foil and finish baking until crispy. I followed these instructions, but as
you will see, my crust shrank (the sides collapsed into the bottom crust) and I've experienced
this before when not using a filling on top of the foil like oats.

Line with Foil and Bake
You can see the pastry shrank quite a bit in baking. Next time, I will use a filling to weight the
foil and prevent the crust from shrinking. As a result of the shrink, the bottom of the crust was
too thick and become quite tough. The edges however were marvelously crispy.

Assemble Tart
Once the pastry crust is cool and the pastry cream is cold, you're ready to assemble the tart.
I used chunked strawberries because they're in season near me, but you could use any fresh
berry that's cheap and in season.

Layer of Pastry Cream
First add the pastry cream. Due to my issues with the crust, the pastry cream was barely
contained by the pastry shell.

French Strawberry Tart Closeup
Next add the berries. If you're quite skilled, I'm sure you can achieve a design far more captivating
than mine. I was a bit impatient to get to the eating part =)

Slice of Strawberry Tart
The pastry cream with the berries was amazing. The vanilla paired wonderfully with the slightly
tart strawberries and despite the soupiness of the cream, I gobbled this slice down without
noticing. Chilling the tart before serving would have helped with this problem.

Thoughts while scarfing...
  • My favorite part of this dessert (due to the issue I encountered with the crust) is the pastry creme. It's packed with vanilla flavor, divinely smooth, and is satisfyingly rich without overwhelming the palette with fat (which tends to occur when using heavy cream). I've never attempted pastry cream before, but after learning this easy and delicious version, I'll definitely be whipping it up again.
  • The next time I make this tart, I will blind bake with a filling such as oats to prevent the sides of the pastry from collapsing and gathering into the base of the crust. That simple change should solve all of the issues I encountered and result in a far flakier and more tender crust.
  • I really enjoyed making the pastry crust by hand - it was surprisingly satisfying to work the butter into the flour with a pastry cutter. Normally I use a food processor to make pastry dough which speeds up the process considerably. Unfortunately, due to my baking issue with the crust, I can't render a fair verdict as to which method produces the flakiest crust...
  • Really let your pastry creme thicken until you can barely stir it before chilling otherwise it will run terribly once you add it to the pastry crust. I always get impatient (and nervous) when thickening custards, curds and creams, so I tend to remove it too early from the heat. And thus my pastry cream runs...

Other Must-Try Recipes from Smiley's Kitchen
Maybe pastry cream isn't your thing. But I guarantee you'll find something wonderful from Smiley's Kitchen. Check out these delicious posts and tell me you're not inspired!

Chicken Tortilla Soup
Lamb Meatballs w/ Tzatziki Sauce
Broccoli Beef
Bourbon Bread Pudding


  1. What an awesome tutorial! And as for the pastry creme, I could drink gallons and gallons of it. Okay, maybe not gallons but I could do at least a quart :)

    1. It was very good and it was the first time I'd made my own, so that was very satisfying...

  2. Oh, yum...I would have picked out this recipe, too! So fabulous...even with the crust troubles it still came out beautifully. Off to check out Smiley's Kitchen~

    1. I know - the recipe really did jump out at me. And it was very good, although I am picking around the crust now ;)

  3. Fantastic looking dessert, I love the step by step pics and the crust looks tasty!

    1. Thanks Gerry - the crispy edges of the crust were delicious...

  4. What a great looking tart! And I can't wait to feature on TT soon JW :)

    1. I'm looking forward to it as well - it should be a lot of fun =)

  5. For me nothing is better than a freshly baked French tart. You made the pastry just so well! Sometimes I find it difficult to get the right consistency. This tutorial is very handy. Thank you for sharing it.
    Take care.

    1. I had a very good tutor for the crust - I don't normally make it by hand, so I followed Ismael's instructions closely...


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