I mentioned recently that my husband Lulu surprised me with a celebratory trip to the Napa Valley. We felt it was well deserved after completing the manuscript of my first cookbook (available for pre-order). We stayed at the Vintage Inn. We've been there before and we've never been disappointed. The hotel is located in the heart of Yountville, within 3 blocks of what seems like the highest concentration of Michelin Star Restaurants in the world. The service was exquisite as usual with complimentary champagne breakfast buffet daily and a lovely afternoon tea service to boot. It's by far the best hotel breakfast I've ever had, ranging from petite pastries, freshly-made omelets, goat cheese walnut puffs and chocolate tartlets. What truly caught my attention was the delicious almond tart with seasonal fruit. I couldn't resist making the same dessert today to remind us of our trip, and as a huge thank you to Lulu for such a fabulous, memorable vacation. Of course, the restaurants were out of this world and the scenery was beautiful; but the highlight of the trip was relaxing with my husband and baby at this lovely hotel. If you visit Yountville, without a doubt, stay at the Vintage Inn!
The tart is made with a dense, almond filling and a large quantity of fresh cherries and blueberries. I made the crust with powdered sugar, toasted rice flour and regular all-purpose flour. The result is a wonderful fruit tart oozing with sweet fruits and a crunchy crust.
Servings: 8 mini tartlets
1 pint fresh cherries, stemmed, washed, pitted and halved
½ cup fresh blueberries
8 (5 x 5-inch) squares tart crust
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, (at room temperature) + extra for greasing the molds
2 eggs, at room temperature
⅔ cup granulated sugar, to taste
10 ounces almond flour
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoons pure cherry extract (optional)
½ teaspoon pure vanilla powder
1 cup whipping cream, cold
3 tablespoons powdered sugar, to taste
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
For the tart shells:
Make sure the dough is cold so it's easy to roll out. Place the dough in 8 individual non-stick mini pie shells lined with parchment paper (or in a 12" pie pan). Follow the curve of the molds and crimp the dough against the edge. Gently press the dough with your fingers so there are no air bubbles. Remove any excess dough. Prick the dough with a fork.
Making the almond buttercream filling:
Using an electric hand-held mixer, whisk the eggs with the granulated sugar for 5-6 minutes. The consistency should be thick and very airy. Add the vanilla powder. Set aside.
Cream the softened butter (at room temperature). Pour in the egg mixture. Add the almond flour and all-purpose flour. Mix until the consistency is smooth.
For the whipped cream:
Always make sure your electric whisk is completely clean prior to whipping cream for optimum results. The cream should be whipped cold. First, whisk for about 2 minutes at low speed. Increase the speed of your mixer and keep beating for another 3 minutes until you get stiff peaks. Add powdered sugar and the cherry extract.
Fill the tart shells with a thin layer of almond cream. Top with cherries, fill the gaps with blueberries. Cover the top with 2 teaspoons of almond cream to cover some of the fruits in the center.
Bake for 10 minutes at 375°F, then lower the temperature to 350°F and bake for another 20 minutes.
Let the tartlets cool to room temperature. Top with a "quenelle" of sweetened whipped cream: using 2 teaspoons, gather one portion of the whipped cream in one spoon. Scrape the loose mixture from the sides using the other spoon. Repeat between the 2 spoons until the mound is tightly packed. Slide the mound onto the fruits.
You can find almond flour at Trader Joe's.
I made my own tart pastry (I'll post the recipe soon). For faster prep time, you could use store-bought puff pastry.
I buy pure vanilla powder at a local store called the Milk Pail Market. The address is 2585 California street, Mountain View, CA 94040. You can also find it online.
You can make these fruit tarts with any fruit and nut combinations, such as plums, apples, peaches, apricots, apples, figs, walnuts, pistachios, etc... -depending on the season.
Check out my other desserts.