Thin Strawberry Tartlets (Tartelettes Fines aux Fraises) with Vanilla Pastry Cream

tartefraiseppA cute colourful mini-tart with delicate buttery crust is what comes first to my mind when I think of the magical world of French pastry. I have always particularly appreciated its typical thin crust and its version called “tarte fine” – with extremely thin, completely flat base – leaves even a greater space for the ripe fruits’ fragrance and flavours, especially when enhanced with light vanilla cream. 

Strawberry tart with vanilla pastry cream is quite popular and many pastry shops sell it in season. Whether you prepare a standard tart with crust also the sides or this light “tarte fine”, the recipe is not complicated, but it does take time. The secret of the best result lies in the perfect crème pâtissière, or pastry cream (often called simply “custard”), with a real vanilla pod, the 100% butter-based thinly rolled out pastry sheet and, of course, in the highest fruit quality. The pastry cream is inspired by the recipe I have found in “Plaisirs sucrés” by Pierre Hermé, a famous confectioner whose macarons’ discovery was one of the most unforgettable moments in my life. Even though this is the best and lightest pastry cream I have ever tasted, I have slightly modified it after the first test (mostly cutting down the sugar amount). The same recipe can be adapted of course to a big tart, but I usually prefer individual portions.

Here are some other strawberry sweet treats you might like:

Yogurt Strawberry Mousse with Chocolate Ganache
Yogurt Strawberry Mousse with Chocolate Ganache
Coconut and Strawberry Wobbly Cream with Agar
Coconut and Strawberry Wobbly Cream with Agar
Yogurt Strawberry Mousse
Yogurt Strawberry Mousse
Strawberry Gratin
Strawberry Gratin

And see here what to do with leftover egg whites, though 99% of the time I prepare my Easy Moist Coconut Biscuits (Macaroons for US visitors):

Chewy Coconut Cookies (Macaroons)
Chewy Coconut Cookies (Macaroons)

TIPS: If you don’t feel like playing with sideless, very thin crust, you can of course make the same tartlets or tart with more popular crust, baking it in a tart/-let form. In this case, while baking the crust, put a piece of baking paper over each tartlet form filled with raw pastry and cover it with dried beans (to stop the bottom from rising).

Needless to say, you can make one big strawberry tart (tarte fine aux fraises) instead of individual portions.

You don’t need to decorate these tartlets with mint leaves, but I find a hint of mint fragrance fantastic with both strawberries and vanilla cream.

Special equipment :

a round pastry cutter and 6 small round ramekins of the same or slightly bigger diameter

Preparation: less than 2 hours

Ingredients (makes 6 x 10 cm diameter tartlets):

about 200 grams/about 7 oz thinly rolled out all-butter puff pastry (or home-made sweet butter pastry)

400 – 500 g/about 14-18 oz strawberries (preferably equally sized); the amount depends on the way you place them on the custard (you use less if you slice them and more if you place halves, for example)

Pastry cream/Custard:

500 ml/about 17 fl oz milk

5 flat tablespoons corn starch

4 heaped tablespoons caster sugar (or more if you like very sweet desserts)

1 vanilla pod

4 egg yolks

50 g/about 1,8 oz butter (can be omitted, but the taste will be simply worse)

(fresh mint leaves for decoration)

Preheat the oven to 180°C (356°F).

Cut out the circles. Put them on the baking paper. Cover with another layer of baking paper and block from rising, blocking them with round ramekins with a similar diameter.

Bake until golden (check often because they burn quickly).

Put aside to cool down.

In the meantime prepare the pastry cream.

Bring to boil 400 ml/about 13,5 oz milk with the vanilla pod cut in two lengthwise.

Put aside and let it cool down.

Scrape off the two vanilla pieces so that the small vanilla grains stay in the milk.

Combine the yolks, the sugar, the corn starch and the remaining cold milk.

Strain the warm vanilla milk, constantly stirring, into the yolks mixture.

Discard the vanilla pods (wash them, dry them and put into a confectioner’s sugar jar: you’ll have vanilla scented sugar or you can also reuse them: they will yield hardly any grains, but will still give a slight vanilla aroma).

Put back the obtained mixture into the pan and, constantly stirring, bring to the boil.

Put aside when it thickens to a cream consistency.

If the cream is not smooth and you see lumps, mix it in a blender.

When the cream is no longer hot, but still very warm, combine it with butter.

Let it cool down in the fridge, covered with plastic film (otherwise a darker “skin” will form at the top).

Put a couple of tablespoons of the cream on each tart circle.

Cover with the strawberries (cut in halves, in four pieces, sliced or whole… whatever suits your strawberries shape and size).

Serve slightly chilled.

You can decorate the tartlets with fresh mint leaves.


30 Replies to “Thin Strawberry Tartlets (Tartelettes Fines aux Fraises) with Vanilla Pastry Cream”

    1. Thank you, A_Boleyn. (French pastry can sometimes be difficult to make, but French tarts for example are not a very complicated concept: you cut down a US/Canadian style pie pastry thickness to say 3 mm, put some fruits and sugar and here you have a French tart 😉 ).

  1. Stealing this idea for my housewarming. So much less faff than doing the sides of a real tart and looks much classier and posh avant garde as well 😉 And not skipping the mint leaves- how can it be optional?! Mint is the best part about spring in my opinion, strawberries a close second…

  2. What a pretty looking tart. Only this time of year could you get that deep, rich red colour in the sliced strawberry — really extraordinary looking isn’t it, contrasted against the lovely sprigs of mint and set into a delicious bed of soft custard (I’m licking my lips!). I bet this tastes so fresh and delightful Sissi. It’s funny, the first thing that pops into my mind when I think of French pasty is mille-feuille 🙂 but I think I would opt for this strawberry tart, especially this time of year!

    1. Thank you so much, Kelly. I think that in general the lightest the pastry, the more I associate it with French cuisine (mille-feuille comes quite far on my list maybe because it’s made in so many countries… a kind of its worse cousin -not even called “mille-feuille”- is a very popular Polish pastry; you can find it in every pastry shop, it has different regional names and most people don’t know even it has French origins.)

  3. I think you already know that I’m absolutely loving this post; single serve desserts are just so elegant. The think pastry is also a perfect vehicle for that beautiful pastry cream. And the colour of the strawberries us out if this world. Our strawberries are quite behind, I suspect it won’t be until late June for local berries; I’ll wait because the California berries are so tasteless.

    1. Thank you so much, Eva. Here and in France strawberries (early varieties) start already in May and this year has been very kind for cherries so we even have cherries now! (Usually they appear later).

  4. This is a fantastic version – much simpler than the tarts with sides but with the same taste. I think.
    BTW, sorry to pick on you. “Put a couple of tablespoons of the cream ”
    Should it be more? Or does couple mean more than two? In some countries couple always means two but I think in some other countries it can mean a few?

    1. Thanks a lot, Mr. Three-Cookies. I don’t live in any English-speaking country and have learnt that “a couple” is a set of two (people for example) but “a couple of” means either a small amount or two, but the former is more frequent (I have always considered it strange that someone would use “a couple of” instead of simple word “two” in a recipe…. maybe in other contexts it’s useful). On the other hand, if someone wants to put only two tablespoons of the cream, it’s not a problem.

    1. Thank you so much, Karen. These are certainly not too sweet and not too fatty either.

  5. I love these types of tarts especially during summer when the most delicious fruits are available! Very refreshing Sissi!

    1. Thank you, Katerina. I agree it’s nice to have a lighter fruit dessert in the summer.

  6. Who can resist anything called a tart or tartlet? 🙂 What a great name for a sweet treat. I really like you sideless tarts and that you just cut puff pastry – something I still need to pick up and play with. You custard look perfect! It holds to the flat pasty instead of running off the sides like mine probably would. Scrumptious bites you’ve made here Sissi!

    1. Thank you so much, MJ. Making this type of a mini tart (without sides) is equally easy, but the result is lighter, so perfect for hot summer days.

  7. What an elegant strawberry tartlets! Besides pretty, one good thing about these mini tart is that I can force myself to eat just one… Me and tart can be inseparable sometimes. 🙂 Very cute!

    1. Thank you so much, Nami. Actually, I ate another tartlet while I was taking this photograph… and then ate the one from the photograph too. Not very wise 🙁

  8. Hi Sissi, what a perfect looking tart, although I really must say that I’m a huge fan of the pastry that usually accompanies such tarts so if it was “sideless” I’d feel like it lacking something for me, although in this format it definitely looks more refined and dainty, and probably much easier to eat too since when I’ve tried eating a tart with a side in the past in a restaurant or “polite circumstances”, if you’re using a spoon or something and trying to cut into it then the tart will either flip up in the air, shoot off the plate or break apart violently when you can finally crack the pastry asunder! 😀

    1. Thanks a lot, Charles. As much as I like the pastry too (I make most often the tarts with sides, but this type is a nice change sometimes when it’s very hot for example), I am not a big fan of sweet pies with thick pastry around… I prefer to have more filling (cream, fruits, custard etc) than pastry. Otherwise, I buy butter biscuits 😉

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