We’ve got fresh fruit tart on the dessert menu today! I’ve been waiting for the weather to warm up to make, shoot, and post this beauty. It’s been gray and rainy all month, but when the sun finally showed up– I broke out my hand mixer, chopped up a million pounds of fruit, and decided mascarpone + vanilla bean is all you really need in life.
Will you just look at this rainbow of fresh & fruity goodness. ♥
The wonderful thing about this classic dessert is that there’s minimal bake time. The crust is only baked for about 15 minutes or so, then you let it cool and fill with the good stuff. And it’s the kind of dessert that looks like you poured your heart and soul into it, when in reality you made the pastry crust yesterday (make ahead! YAY!) and spent most of the time sampling all the fruit you were cutting. Muhaha.
There are 3 components to this recipe:
- The Make Ahead Crust
- The Zero Effort Cream Filling
- The Sparkly Fruit
I was very click happy during the process, so there’s a ridiculous amount of pictures in your scrolling future. I want to make sure you understand exactly what you’re doing. It’s all very manageable, but there’s just a few steps to get there. Let’s get right to it!
The Make Ahead Crust
This classic dessert starts with a sweetened pastry crust. It’s sort of like pie dough, sort of like a cookie– but very much its own unique masterpiece. Crust like this lends the perfect sweet crunch under the blanket of vanilla cream and mountain of fresh fruit. It can be made ahead and refrigerated or stick it in the freezer for later this summer.
You’ll begin with dry ingredients like flour, sugar, and salt. The first time I made this, I flew by the seat of my pants and used granulated sugar to sweeten the dough. This was totally NOT the right idea and after a little researching, I learned that the granulated sugar cuts up all the butter– which causes it to melt into an ugly greasy mass. It’s hideous. Save yourself the agony! Powdery confectioners’ sugar is the way to go.
Like you do with pie dough, you will cut fat into the dry ingredients– and in this case, that fat is butter. I do not use shortening; I prefer shortening in pie crust to create all those fabulous flaky layers. But we don’t need that here, so butter it is. Make sure your butter is cold because you don’t want it quickly melting. Again, you’ll wind up with an ugly greasy butter puddle mess.
I recommend a pastry cutter to cut in the butter. I’ve seen pastry crust made in a food processor so if that is more convenient for you, go ahead! I’ll include instructions below. But I’ve always preferred to work with a pastry cutter. You have more control over the dough that way. Hi I’m a control freak, have we met?
The crust in photos:
The wet ingredients is a combination of: egg, cream, and vanilla for flavor. Some recipes call for just an egg yolk, but the entire egg gives not only tenderness from the fat (yolk), but structure from the protein (egg white). For extra creamy goodness, I add 2 Tablespoons of cold heavy cream. You’ll need cream for the filling too, so don’t feel bad about picking up a small carton!
After a little mixing, the dough comes together in a mass. At this point you’ll chill it for at least 1 hour. Remember, cold dough is the best dough. It will hold its shape and structure better when heading into the oven.
Roll out into a circle, then transfer to a tart pan. Then, press it down into the pan so it fits nice ‘n’ snug. The crust is bound to lose some of its shape when exposed to direct heat, so you’re going to blind bake it using pie weights. If you’re like ” Sally what the heck do I do with pie weights?” read this article on The Kitchn. Breaks it down for us! If you do not have pie weights (get some!), the only way around preventing that dough from shrinking and losing shape is to freeze it before baking. Freeze the shaped dough inside your tart pan. Like, the whole thing. Learned this from Smitten Kitchen!
Before filling, you’ll want the tart crust to completely cool after baking.
The Zero Effort Cream Filling
A walk in the park. Just mascarpone, heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla. A lot of fruit tarts call for a more detailed pastry cream or custard and while it’s undeniably delicious, I opted for a different and less complicated path. In case you want to try it, I’ve made this pastry cream before and it is 10 stars fantastic.
For flavor, I use a mix of vanilla bean and pure vanilla extract. I just love the flavor from actual vanilla bean AND those little black specks make me feel all refined and elegant. Mascarpone is subtly sweet and buttery– the key flavor in tiramisu so YOU KNOW it’s going to be good in this tart. The filling kinda tastes like cheesecake, actually. And you know what would be extra dreamy? Adding a little lemon juice and zest to the cream filling. Or maybe even a sprinkle of cinnamon? Is that weird?
Spread the filling into the crust, then you’re almost done…
The Sparkly Fruit
Now let’s get all artsy and decorate that sucker. You can decorate the tart with circles or rows of fruit or you can say to hell with this and pile it all randomly on top. Either way it will look good and either way it will taste good.
Do you like your fruit tarts to have that glossy, sparkly sheen? I really don’t care but it looks really pretty, so we’re doing it for the blog. The fruit tart sheen comes from fruit preserves– a light color variety like orange or apricot. Just whisk the preserves with water and brush it on top of the fruit. Besides keeping the fruit from drying out, I don’t really see the point of this step other than the omg-so-pretty factor, so you can skip it if you’re serving this dessert right away.
Omg so pretty right?
I’ve officially talked your ears (eyes?) off, so let me finish with the slice that immediately went into my mouth after shooting this photo.
Click here to PIN this recipe for later. Because there will be a later!
Fresh Fruit Tart with Vanilla Mascarpone Cream
Save time and prepare the crust and cream ahead of time. See my make ahead tips below the written recipe.
- 2 Tablespoons (30ml) cold heavy cream
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 and 1/3 cups (167g) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (60g) confectioners' sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (115g; 1 stick) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
Vanilla Mascarpone Cream
- 1/2 cup (120ml) cold heavy cream
- 8 ounces mascarpone, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup (30g) confectioners' sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- seeds scraped from 1/2 vanilla bean (or use an extra 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract)
Fruit & Glaze
- assorted fresh sliced fruit
- optional glaze: 2 Tablespoons orange or apricot preserves mixed with 1 Tablespoon water
- For the crust: Whisk the heavy cream, egg, and vanilla together in a small bowl. Set aside.
- There are two options for this step: by hand using a pastry cutter or using a food processor. You can do it either way. To use a pastry cutter: Whisk the flour, confectioners' sugar, and salt together in a medium bowl. Place the cubed butter on top and cut in using the pastry cutter until the entire mixture resembles pea-sized crumbs-- a few larger crumbs is OK. Pour the wet ingredients on top and stir to combine. You can use your hands to really get it all combined if needed. To use a food processor: Place the flour, confectioners' sugar, and salt in a food processor. Pulse a few times to blend. Add the cubed butter and pulse until the mixture resembles pea-sized crumbs-- a few larger crumbs is OK. Add the wet ingredients, then pulse until the dough comes together and forms a ball.
- Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and flatten into a 1-inch thick disc. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 2 days. (See make ahead tips.)
- Remove dough from the refrigerator and roll out into a 9-inch circle. Place into a greased 9-inch tart pan and press it down into the pan and up the sides until it is even all around. Refrigerate as the oven preheats or for at least 10 minutes. Cold dough is important.
- Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C). Remove crust from the refrigerator, line the inside with foil, and fill with pie weights. The pie weights prevent the crust from puffing up, shrinking, and/or losing shape. (Alternatively, you can freeze the dough and bake from frozen without using pie weights. It will take about 20 minutes to bake if frozen.)
- Bake the crust for 10 minutes, remove crust from the oven, reduce oven heat to 350°F (177°C), and carefully remove the foil and weights. Use a fork to prick a few holes into the bottom of the crust and bake, without weights, for 5-6 more minutes or until lightly golden brown. Allow to cool completely before filling.
- For the cream filling: Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the heavy cream until stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes. Set aside. In the same mixing bowl (no need to wipe completely clean), beat the mascarpone for 1 minute on medium-high speed. Add the confectioners' sugar, vanilla extract, and vanilla bean. Beat on medium-high speed until combined. Fold in the whipped cream. Spread into cooled crust. Refrigerate until ready to garnish with fruit or garnish right away.
- Garnish the tart with fresh fruit. Whisk the optional glaze ingredients together, warm for about 15 seconds in the microwave, then brush on top of the fruit. Slice and enjoy! Leftovers keep well in the refrigerator for a few days.
Make ahead tips: Prepare the crust through step 3 and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator then let sit at room temperature until easily rollable. You can also prepare and bake the crust, then let the crust cool in the pan to room temperature. Put the tart in the freezer for about 1 hour to let it firm up, then wrap it in plastic and freeze it for up to a month. When ready to serve, unwrap the crust and let it thaw before filling and decorating. The mascarpone cream can also be prepared ahead and refrigerated for up to 3 days before using.
- Recommended products: 9-inch tart pan with removable sides (I love this one; it's so easy to clean and inexpensive too!), pastry cutter, and pie weights.
- 2019 Update: The filling ingredients remain the same, but I made a small update as many readers had trouble with the mascarpone curdling with the heavy cream. As now directed in the recipe, beat the heavy cream into stiff peaks then fold into the other ingredients. The filling is much smoother that way.
- Crust adapted from Baking Illustrated
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Because I think you’ll love the cuteness… mini fruit tarts!
You can use this exact recipe, just fit and blind bake the crust in mini tart pans. This crust fits nicely into about six 4-inch mini tart pans (I own these and these). You can use larger tart pans for less tarts or smaller tart pans for more tarts. Blind bake the mini crusts until lightly browned on the sides. The 4-inch size took about 12 minutes in the oven. Wait for them to cool, then fill and decorate. 🙂