For Mother’s Day, I’ve always baked something and wrote a card for my mom, which I realize is very predictable, and considering the fact that I bake all the time and my parents are always eating what I’ve baked– it may not seem that special. So I wanted to take my mom out for high tea (she’s always been intrigued by it, especially after seeing pictures on social media), or treat her to a massage at a nice spa. Also very predictable, but my mom’s the type of person who doesn’t treat herself that often, so I knew the new experience should be fun for her.
In the end, not much happened because my mom ended up working most of the Sunday and Monday. So instead, I was planning to do a mini high tea at home– I was thinking earl gray madeleines with citrus glaze, matcha scones, a mini jasmine tea cake with honey… which, I realized, with 3.5 hours until she returned home, that it would be a time crunch, factoring in all the dishwashing. So this tart was conceptualized: a sweet tart shell, a rich ginger pastry cream, ripe mango slices, and some berries.
Ginger is one of those flavours that’s always present in our household (not a surprise), all the time, in both sweet and savory dishes. It’s thinly chopped up and thrown into vegetable stir frys, steamed fish, sauces, marinades, what have you. Recently, we’ve been using it in our juicing as well. And my dad makes this really mean dessert soup with ginger, rock sugar, coconut milk, papaya and black sesame glutinous rice balls.
In my family, spicy means spicy. I think we like to look at it as a challenge– how much will this make me sweat?! Can my tastebuds handle the FIRE? We don’t consider ginger spicy in the same sense that chilies are, but to honour that love of spice, I tried to coax out as much gingery kick into my milk as the basis of my pastry cream, anticipating that some of that flavour will be muted by the addition of the egg yolks, cornstarch, and tamed by the sugar.
I thinly sliced two chunks of ginger which add up to about the size of my palm, and de-seeded half a vanilla pod and let the ginger, vanilla pod and seeds gently simmer in my milk. I let it steep for about half an hour before straining it out, while I prepped the rest of the pastry cream ingredients and the tart shell ingredients.
Now, to ensure successful pastry cream, these are the rules I live by–
- Ensure your egg yolks are at room temperature (less of a temperature shock)
- Wrap a wet towel around the base of your large bowl to stabilize it and ensure easy whisking. Whisk with your good hand and pour with your other.
- Strain your pastry cream, always.
I am less afraid of tart shells than I am with -gasp- pie crusts, but I know there’s that whole fear of tart shells shrinking or the shell puffing up as it bakes.
So I have good news for you– Dorie’s great unshrinkable sweet tart shell, as featured on Smitten Kitchen, is indeed great and unshrinkable AND easy because it doesn’t require pie weights (aka wasted dried beans or rice).
It’s a shortbread-style of crust, which can be rolled out or pressed-in– I chose the latter, since it was the faster and easier route.
The only tip I have is to not overwork it, and not to press it in too hard. You want it to be firm enough to hold the filling, but tender enough to be cut through easily with a knife or fork.
Anddd lastly (and the most fun)– decorate the tart with your desired fruits! I had a box of overripe mangoes so I made this very messy (I mean, rustic) looking mango rose. I would stay away from frozen fruit, because their juices would bleed and thin out the pastry cream.
I’m thinking some fun variations would include an herby element in the tart crust, like thyme or rosemary or lavender, with a honey-sweetened pastry cream, with pears halves on top. Or, some shredded coconut flakes in the tart crust, a thin layer of raspberry jam, a silky smooth chocolate pastry cream, topped with a milk chocolate ganache layer and more raspberries on top.
Possibilities = endless.
Ginger Mango Tart
Ginger Pastry Cream
- 2 cups half-and-half, 2% milk, or 3% milk
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
- 1 pinch salt
- 5 large egg yolks
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 vanilla pod, or 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 large chunks of ginger, peeled and sliced thinly
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons; 4 1/2 ounces) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1 large egg
- 4 mangoes, sliced in half, then each half into 1/8 inch slices
Ginger Pastry Cream
- Heat milk, ginger slices, vanilla pod, and vanilla seeds in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat until simmering. Allow to simmer for about 10 minutes, before turning off the heat and allowing it to steep/infuse for an additional 30 minutes, even better, overnight.
- Meanwhile, whisk yolks in a large bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of sugar and cornstarch and whisk until mixture is creamy and pale yellow.
- Strain out the ginger and vanilla pod, and heat the milk in the same pan over medium heat. Add 6 tablespoons of sugar and salt.
- When the milk has come to a simmer, slowly pour the milk in a steady stream down the side of the bowl into the yolk mixture, while whisking vigorously.
- Return mixture to the saucepan and return to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly. Take it off the heat when the mixture is thickened and glossy.
- Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve set over a large glass bowl containing the 4 tbsp of butter. Whisk to combine.
- Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pastry cream to prevent pudding skin from forming. Refrigerate until cold and thickened, about 1.5-2 hours. To speed this up, stick it into your freezer.
- Pulse the flour, sugar and salt together in the bowl of a food processor. You want butter pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas.
- Add the egg and process in pulses until the dough changes consistency and clumps up into a ball. Don’t overprocess. Turn out the dough into a larger bowl, and combine any unevenly mixed dry ingredients by hand.
- Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough evenly across the bottom and up the sides of the tart shell. You can use the bottom of a measuring cup to help. Press just hard enough so that the pieces cling together, but not so hard that it loses its crumbliness.
- Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil (or use nonstick foil) and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. You don’t need pie weights since it’s been frozen. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
- Remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Bake the crust about 10 minutes longer to fully bake it, or until it is firm and golden brown. To partially bake it, bake for only 5 minutes longer, not 10.
- Allow to cool to room temperature.
- Fill the crust with the ginger pastry cream. This is a very satisfying moment– the meeting of the creamy element with the crunchy.
- Arrange the mango slices in a circular manner to resemble a rose– less ripe mangoes would be easier to shape.
- Arrange any other fruits as desired.
*enough for a 9-inch tart shell. For a 10-inch tart shell, I doubled the tart shell recipe, and had enough for an additional 12 mini tartlets using a mini muffin tray. To compensate, double your pastry cream as well.