1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (115 grams) granulated white sugar
Seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean or 1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) pure vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks (50 grams), at room temperature
1 1/4 cups (160 grams) all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons (11 grams) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) kosher or sea salt
1 cup (240 ml/grams) full fat (whole) milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise or 1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
3 large (50 grams) egg yolks
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated white sugar
1 tablespoon (10 grams) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon (10 grams) cornstarch
Sable Breton: In a bowl whisk the flour with the baking powder and salt.
In the bowl of your electric stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment (you can use a hand mixer), beat the butter, on low speed, until smooth. Add the sugar and beat on medium low speed just until incorporated (you don't want to incorporate too much air into the batter). Add the egg yolks (in two additions) and vanilla seeds and beat, on medium low speed, until incorporated. Beat in the flour mixture, in two additions.
Place the pastry onto your work surface and gather into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill for three to four hours (or overnight) (the pastry can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two days or frozen for about two months).
Once the pastry has chilled, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Butter (or spray with a non stick cooking spray) an 8 inch (20 cm) springform pan or cake pan. Then line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.
Place the chilled pastry on a lightly floured surface, and roll into an 8 inch (20 cm) round. (To prevent the pastry from sticking to the counter and to ensure uniform thickness, keep lifting up and turning the pastry a quarter turn as you roll.) Place the round of pastry into your prepared pan.
Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes, or until the pastry has risen, is a light golden brown color, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.
Pastry Cream: In a medium-sized heatproof bowl, mix the sugar and egg yolks together. (Do let the mixture sit too long or you will get pieces of egg forming.) Then whisk in the flour and cornstarch until you have a smooth paste.
Meanwhile, in a saucepan bring the milk and vanilla bean just to boiling (just until milk starts to foam up.) Remove from heat and add slowly to egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent curdling. (If you get a few pieces of egg (curdling) in the mixture, pour through a strainer.) Remove vanilla bean, scrape out seeds, and add the seeds to the egg mixture. (The vanilla bean can be washed and dried and placed in your sugar bowl to give the sugar a vanilla flavor.) Then pour the egg mixture into a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until boiling, whisking constantly. When it boils, whisk mixture constantly for another two minutes, until it becomes thick. (Stir in vanilla extract if using instead of a vanilla bean.) Pour into a clean bowl and immediately cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming. Cool and then place in the refrigerator until it's about 70 degrees F (21 degrees C).
Pistachio Pastry Cream: In the bowl of your electric stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment (or with a hand mixer) beat the pastry cream and butter until smooth and fluffy. Add the pistachio nut paste and beat until incorporated.
Assemble: Place the Sable Breton on your serving plate. Spread with the Pistachio Pastry Cream leaving a 1 inch (2.5 cm) border. If desired, sprinkle the cream with chopped pistachio nuts. Arrange the strawberries on top of the cream. With a pastry brush, brush the strawberries with the apricot glaze. If not serving immediately, cover and refrigerate.
Apricot Glaze: In a small saucepan heat the apricot preserves until boiling. Remove from heat and strain to get rid of lumps. Add the Cognac or water.
Makes about 8 - 10 servings.
I didn't grow up eating French pastries. My fascination really began after I took a week long Patisserie class at Le Cordon Bleu in London back in the mid 1990s. More recently I took a pastry class at the San Francisco Baking Institute where we learned how to make, among other things, this beautiful Strawberry Breton Tart. What I like about this tart is the complexity of flavors and textures. The base of the tart is soft and tender with a nice crisp crust. Next, is a creamy layer of Pistachio Pastry Cream, a generous sprinkling of chopped pistachios, and the finishing touch is glistening fresh strawberries.
Pistachio Pastry Cream, also known as Pistachio Mousseline, starts with a rich, thick vanilla flavored pastry cream (like a custard) made from a mixture of milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, flour and cornstarch (a thickener) that is cooked on the stove. Then the pastry cream needs to be briefly chilled until it reaches a temperature of slightly below room temperature. At this point the cream is mixed with butter and pistachio paste. The result is a delicious cream that is rich and creamy. Now pistachio paste (butter) is mainly a mixture of ground pistachios and sugar that has an intense pistachio flavor. It is usually sold in cans or jars. If you want, you can leave out the pistachio paste or even add another flavor of paste.
Once the cake base has been spread with the pistachio pastry cream, fresh strawberries are placed on top. Try to use strawberries that are of similar size and shape. If fresh strawberries are not in season, you could use fresh raspberries or blackberries. I like to brush the berries with an apricot glaze as it makes the berries wonderfully shiny and keeps them from drying out.