This classic French fruit tart recipe is the ultimate French pastry shop dish. A layer of eye-catching, glazed fresh fruits sits atop heavenly vanilla pastry cream, all nestled into a homemade, buttery crust. And with this recipe, we simplify the steps to making this incredibly elegant and impressive French dessert. Oh la la!
How do you make a French fruit tart?
Many home cooks shy away from baking this technique-driven dessert. But thanks to this recipe by the incredible pastry chef Leah Kuo, we’ve got all the steps broken down into easy, manageable pieces even a beginning baker can master.
Step 1: Make the tart shell
You start by making a classic tart crust. Don’t worry. this is easier than it sounds. Leah’s crust is a very simple, eggless version of a tart shell. The trick is to keep everything very cold. In fact, before you begin, she recommends assembling the dry ingredients and chilling them in the freezer.
You simply take your cold dry ingredients and slowly add in the cold butter using a food processor. At this stage, the dough will form small balls. Lastly, add ice water, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together. At this stage, it is very important to refrigerate your dough. It will be difficult to work with if you don’t. If you want to make the dough ahead of time, you can store it overnight in the refrigerator and roll it out the next day.
To form your crust, flour a clean, dry work surface. Roll out the dough on your lightly floured surface until it is wide enough to hang slightly over the edges of a 10-inch pie shell that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Cut off any excess and the tart shell is ready to bake.
You’re going to do what’s called blind baking, meaning you bake it before you add the filling. But in order to do this, you need to weigh down the bottom of the pastry tart shell to ensure it doesn’t bubble up. To do this, bakers use weights, in this case, Leah uses beans for pie weights, to hold the crust down. After you cook it for 10 minutes with the beans on top, remove the beans and prick the crust to let the steam out then bake the crust for 20 more minutes until it is golden brown.
There may be several steps to creating a delicious tart shell but I promise you they are all very easy to execute.
Step 2: Make the pastry cream
After you make your tart dough, you need to make the cream filling for your fruit tart. (You can do this while the tart shell bakes.) This cream isn’t like the whipped cream on an American fruit pie.
What is a fruit tart filling made of?
French pastry cream, also called crème pâtissière, is a thick custard made with whole milk, eggs and additional egg yolks and a touch of sugar. It’s then flavored with vanilla extract.
To make it you’re first going to scald milk with a little sugar, meaning bring it to an almost boil then set it aside to start cooling. While the milk is cooling, you will whisk the eggs, sugar and cornstarch in a heat-safe bowl. The next step is the only tricky bit. You need to add the milk to the egg mixture very slowly. If you add it too quickly, the milk can start to scramble the eggs.
Once it is all combined, put the whole mixture into the pan you used to heat the milk and cook over medium-low heat until it thickens. This should take about two minutes. You will need to stir constantly to make sure the eggs don’t scramble. Remove it from the heat and whisk in the vanilla extract and butter.
You’re going to store it in the refrigerator until it is completely cool. And this is an important tip: Cover the top with plastic wrap only don’t cover the top of the bowl, make sure the plastic wrap is touching the pastry cream. This will prevent a skin from forming.
Step 3: Make the fruit glaze
The easiest step of them all, you’re going to love making the glaze to brush on top of the fruit and make the final pastry look glossy and perfect. You simply heat apricot jam with a little water and you have your glaze.
Step 4: Add the fruits
Lastly, you gather your fruits and assemble this professional-looking pastry. It’s really as simple as that to make this beautiful dessert recipe. Top the pastry shell with the custard cream, top with your artfully arranged, sliced fruits.
To layer the fruits in circles, start in the middle with a small fruit like a single strawberry or raspberry or make something more artistic like a kiwi rose. Then make each circle with a different fruit, trying to overlap slightly as best you can so that the top is all fruit with little to no pastry cream peeking out. Lastly, you’ll use a pastry brush to brush the top of the fruits gently with your apricot glaze.
How do you choose the fruit for your homemade tart?
Leah makes her suggestions of fruits to use atop your tart but the final selection is really up to you. Use what is in season and looks good at the store. Seasonal fruits are generally the most fragrant and flavorful. Classic French pastry shop dish toppings include strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, peaches, plums, tangerine or mandarin segments and kiwi. Leah also likes to use Champagne grapes or red currants.
Special equipment needed to make this fruit tart
This tart recipe calls for several pieces of equipment. Most of them are ones you will already have if you’re an avid baker but you might have to invest in a tart pan with a removable bottom.
These fluted pans allow a home cook to look like a professional baker. They’re the secret to getting a tart out of the pan for presentation without having to chisel. Curious about tart pans? Cooks Illustrated did a test of several tart pans in this detailed tart pan article.
Additional equipment needed to make this stunning French pastry includes: a medium saucepan; a heat-safe mixing bowl; food processor; rolling pin; pastry brush and a sturdy whisk.
Can you make this fruit tart with pastry cream in advance?
A classic fruit tart is a dessert best served on the same day as it is baked. This is one of those desserts that absolutely cannot be made the day before you’re planning to serve it. However, there are a few steps that can be prepared ahead of time to help reduce stress.
When to make your pastry tart shell
In addition to potentially making your pastry dough a day ahead and storing it in the refrigerator, you can bake the pastry crust a few (3-4) hours in advance. And this way you’ll know that the pastry crust is completely cooled before you start to assemble your tart.
Making crème pâtissière in advance
You can also make the vanilla pastry cream up to a day in advance.
French pastry cream is a thick and creamy egg custard. And in this case flavored with a hint of aphrodisiac vanilla bean. It is not only used as the filling in fruit tarts but it is also the cream piped into eclairs and other French pastries. This makes pastry cream a great recipe to master and use again and again.
If you are going to make your pastry cream in advance, store this egg mixture overnight in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container. (See the note above on preventing a skin from forming on the top of the cream.)
The best time to assemble your fruit tart
You must keep in mind is that once you add the cream filling to your tart shell, then top with the fruit and the glaze, this dessert is ready to serve. And it should be served within hours of assembly for the best crisp crust and freshest, brightest fruit flavors.
Can this dessert be frozen?
The fully assembled fruit tart is not a dessert you can freeze. The tart shell can be pre-made and frozen for up to one month. Just make sure it is very tightly wrapped.
How do you store leftovers?
If you do end up with leftovers, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two days. The tart crust will start to get a little soggy but the basic flavors will all remain delicious.
When to serve this French dessert
Once you’ve mastered the technique, this fruit tart makes a great hostess gift to bring to dinner parties or brunches. (You can also make individual fruit tarts by using tiny tartlet pans.) But I would like to suggest making this beautiful fruit dessert for the finale of a romantic dinner. Imagine showing up on the doorstep of a potential lover for a quiet evening in with this homemade fruit tart in your hands.
This classic fruit tart is an excellent recipe for couples to make together as a weekend baking project. Set aside an afternoon together for some whipping, kneading and licking, (I’m talking about the tart, of course).
Pairing your fresh fruit tart with wine
I love the combination Leah puts together of fresh fruits with somehow both light and rich pastry cream and the distinctive tang of an apricot glaze. This truly is the best fruit tart recipe. But if you really want to take this French dessert recipe to the next level, plan a wine pairing to serve with your freshly baked tart. I like to serve this French pastry with a glass of late-harvest Riesling or other dessert wine that echoes the apricot note from the glaze.
Classic French Fruit Tart with Pastry Cream
- Food processor
- Rolling Pin
- Tart pan with removable bottom
- Medium saucepan
- Heat-safe mixing bowl
- Pastry brush
For the pastry:
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 8 tbsp unsalted butter very cold
- 3 to 4 tbsp ice water
For the pastry cream:
- 8 tbsp sugar
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 egg
- 4 tbsp cornstarch
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter cold
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
For the glaze:
- 1/2 cup apricot jelly
- 1 tbsp water
- Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, kiwi, tangerine segments, sliced peaches and plums, champagne grapes
To make the pastry:
- To make the pastry combine flour, sugar and salt and place in the freezer for an hour.
- Cut the cold butter into 1/2 inch pieces.
- Put flour mixture in the bowl of a food processor, add butter and pulse until butter forms small balls.
- Add ice water and process until dough comes together.
- Form into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 to 45 minutes.*
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- On a floured surface roll dough into 1/8 inch thick circle, large enough to hang slightly over the sides of a 10-inch tart pan with removable bottom that has been sprayed with a non-stick cooking spray.
- Cut off excess dough with a sharp knife.
- Line shell with aluminum foil, then fill with dried beans or pie weights.
- Bake 10 minutes.
- Remove beans and foil; prick bottom of the shell with a fork to allow steam to escape.
- Bake another 20 minutes until browned.
- Cool to room temperature.
For the pastry cream:
- To make the pastry cream, scald the milk and 4 tablespoons sugar, meaning bring it to an almost boil. Set aside.
- Using a wire whisk, whisk the egg, yolks, cornstarch and remainder of sugar in a heat-safe bowl until pale yellow and reaches the ribbon stage. (When a spoonful of the mixture pours out in a solid ribbon.)
- Temper the milk into the eggs. (This means add it slowly while whisking to ensure the hot milk doesn't scramble the eggs.) Once it is tempered, thicken over medium low heat, stirring constantly for about two minutes.
- Once thickened, remove from heat and add vanilla extract and butter.
- Place in a large bowl and cover with piece of plastic wrap laid directly on the surface of the cream to prevent a skin from forming.
- Refrigerate until completely cool.**
For the glaze:
- To make the glaze, melt the jelly and water in a small saucepan until combined and smooth.
To assemble the tart:
- Spread pastry cream on the bottom of the shell.
- Artistically arrange the fruit over the cream. See the notes above for how to achieve beautiful layers.
- Using a pastry brush, gently brush glaze over the fruit.
- Serve and enjoy!
A note on the provided nutrition informationThe nutrition information provided has been estimated by an online nutrition calculator and is not a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
Pin this mixed fruit tart recipe:
This recipe was written in 2019 and updated in January 2023 with revisions to a couple of instructions.
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