When I began thinking about what makes up the perfect summer tartlet, my mind immediately went to a very specific type of fruit tartlet: the type you would see on the counter at a Parisian patisserie, with light, crisp pâte sablée, vanilla-infused crème patissière and red berries encased in a glossy redcurrant glaze.
For the purposes of this test, however, I decided to cast a wider net, and included some more contemporary fruit tartlets, such as Claire Ptak’s fig tartlets with crushed almond frangipane, and Michel Roux’s apple and passionfruit tartlets (both of which use puff pastry in a free-form galette-style tartlet). I have also included two classic French red fruit tartlets by Le Cordon Bleu cookery schools and Delicious magazine. Finally, for a nostalgic twist on what is technically still a fruit tart, two-bite jammy tartlets, from Natalie Paull’s wonderful book Beatrix Bakes; and a favourite from Ballymaloe House, JR Ryall’s almond tartlets with raspberries.
The most popular pastry for these tartlets was some variation on a sweet shortcrust pastry - either pâte sablée or pâte sucrée. The ingredients for both are similar, but the mixing methods differ, resulting in either a rich, sandy textured pastry (sablée), or a sweeter, lighter pastry (sucrée). The method that I think we would be most familiar with in Ireland is similar to a pâte sablée, where the butter is rubbed into the dry ingredients (either by hand or in a food processor), before the pastry is brought together with an egg or yolk.
This kind of pastry can be tricky to work with due to its high fat content, so roll it out quickly, and chill it before blind baking. When blind baking, start with baking beans (on a small disc of parchment paper) until the pastry starts to colour, then remove the baking beans and egg wash to seal, before baking until the desired colour.
Two of the tartlets were made with puff pastry, in a free-form galette style. If you have good-quality puff pastry, or are comfortable making it, these are a convenient alternative as they don’t require blind baking.
JR Ryall’s almond tartlets are made with a really simple three-ingredient almond pastry that is conveniently gluten free, and pairs perfectly with the raspberries.
The two classic French-style tartlets were filled with a vanilla crème patissière, before being topped with fresh berries and glazed with redcurrant jelly. You really can’t beat this combination, particularly at the height of berry season - the contrast between the buttery pastry and the smooth, velvety crème pat is excellent. Michel Roux’s apple and passionfruit tartlet is baked with crème pat and apples on top, and passionfruit seeds are scattered on top after baking. I love the texture of baked crème pat on top of puff pastry, so this combination was a winner, with the passionfruit providing some acidity.
Claire Ptak’s fig and frangipane tartlet was delicious. For the frangipane, the almonds are chopped roughly (with skin on) to provide some texture. The figs bake into the frangipane, and the flavours complement each other perfectly.
JR’s almond tartlets are simply filled with fresh raspberries, glazed with redcurrant jelly, and a rosette of whipped cream. The pastry is buttery and crisp, and so rich that it doesn’t need any extra custard or frangipane.
Natalie Paull’s two-bite jammy tartlets were a delight. So simple, but made with home-made, sweet pastry and home-made jam - you can’t go wrong. She recommends that you make these from pastry offcuts, but honestly I will be making a batch of pastry specifically to make these tartlets again.
- Claire Ptak: Fig Tartlets with Crushed Almond Frangipane (from Love Is a Pink Cake)
- Natalie Paull: Two-bite jammy tartlets (Beatrix Bakes)
- JR Ryall: Almond tarts with raspberries (Ballymaloe Desserts)
- Le Cordon Bleu: Red Fruit Tartlets
- Delicious magazine: French strawberry tart
- Michel Roux: Apple and passionfruit tartlets