Quebec strawberries are completely different from the ones imported from California. They are much smaller, sweeter, more flavourful. The local strawberries often still have the stem attached. And when you slice them open, you can see that they are as red on the inside as they are on the outside. That means they’re ripe!
The best way to enjoy the local strawberries is with cream and maple syrup, and this strawberry cream tart is a variation of that, but still keeping it simple.
This isn’t a traditional French strawberry tart (the proper French baking term for this would be “tarte aux fraises”), which has a pâte sucrée crust (a sweet cookie crust made with ground almonds), crème mousseline filling (which is a vanilla bean pastry cream “lightened” with butter), fresh strawberries and a glaze on top (usually melted apricot jelly or melted apple jelly).
Italian strawberry tart recipes might have a mascarpone filling instead of custard or whipped cream. The mascarpone is sweetened with a little sugar and flavoured with vanilla extract, citrus zest (either orange or lemon), and sometimes a little booze might be mixed in too.
French strawberry tarts are gorgeous, but they can be a bit fussy. They take quite a bit of time as you have to make the crust and a pastry cream, and there’s a lot of chilling involved (overnight even) before being able to make the filling and assemble. There’s definitely more cooking and more waiting involved.
The idea behind this strawberry cream tart recipe is to take the fuss out of strawberry tarts:
- The crust: a simple shortbread cookie dough is pressed into a fluted tart pan and baked into a giant cookie with golden-brown edges. The ratio used for this crust is high in butter, just like for the jam-filled shortbread cookies because we want a crust that is tender and easy to slice, which means we need equal parts butter and flour by weight. This is quite different than the traditional crunchy shortbread with a 1-2-3 ratio where you have 1 part sugar, 2 parts butter, and 3 parts flour by weight.
- The filling: when the cookie is cooled, it is topped with whipped cream (in this case, I made a yogurt cream that is to die for, but plain sweetened whipped cream is fine too!)
- The fruit topping: fresh local berries—I opted for strawberries macerated in maple syrup and I garnished with a little basil.
This dessert is all about showcasing strawberries and cream in the simplest possible way. I love the slight tang of the yogurt cream that is nestled between the salty-sweet sugar cookie and the layer of sweet strawberries and basil. But if you prefer, by all means just use regular sweetened whipped cream.
Make ahead tips:
You might be wondering if you can make this dessert ahead of time:
- You can make the shortbread cookie base days ahead without any issue. Just let it cool completely and then store it in an airtight container or really well wrapped. Remember because its a shortbread cookie tart, the crust is a little more fragile, so you might want to store it in the tart pan to protect it. And make sure to use this trick for removing a tart from the tart pan.
- The strawberries can macerate for a few hours in maple syrup, just store them in the fridge until you are ready to serve.
- For the whipped cream, personally I like to whip it just before assembling the tart and serving. While you could assemble the tart a few hours ahead and store it in the fridge until you are ready to serve, more than that would make the crust a little soggy. So use your best judgment but know that whipping cream and assembling the tart takes under 10 minutes, especially if you use an electric mixer to do the whipping!
Strawberries and cream is a classic combination that everybody enjoys and if you are as big a fan as I am, try this simple gluten-free buckwheat chocolate cake, which is also topped with strawberries and cream. To flavour the whipped cream, you can add vanilla extract or a suitable vanilla extract substitute like vanilla bean paste.
And if you aren’t a fan of whipped cream and strawberries, try this raspberry chocolate tart made with milk chocolate ganache!
For this recipe, I decided to flavour the whipped cream filling with plain Greek yogurt which is thick and has a nice tangy sour taste to it. When you combine it with the cream and a little icing sugar and vanilla, the whipped filling tastes a lot like a cheesecake filling of sorts. In terms of proportions for the yogurt whipped cream, I used 60 mL (1/4 cup) of Greek yogurt for 125 mL (1/2 cup) of whipping cream, so 1 part Greek yogurt to 2 parts whipping cream. And though for most whipped cream recipes, you would use add icing sugar, roughly 10 % of the weight of the cream, because the yogurt is sour, I added 20 % by weight. Really, you should add as much or as little sugar as you like and don’t forget the berries are macerated in maple syrup, which also adds a lot of sweetness to this dessert!
This summer tart is perfect, if you ask me!
Strawberry cream tart with yogurt whipped cream
Shortbread cookie tart crust
Maple macerated strawberries
- 450 grams (1 lb) strawberries washed, hulled, and sliced
- 30 mL (2 tbsp) pure maple syrup
Yogurt whipped cream
- 125 mL (½ cup) whipping cream (35 % fat)
- 60 mL (¼ cup) greek yogurt use at least 2% fat greek yogurt
- 25 mL (5 tsp) icing sugar
- 5 mL (1 tsp) pure vanilla extract
- 5–6 basil leaves for garnish (use the cute small leaves to decorate the tart or chop larger leaves)
For the shortbread cookie tart crust
- Preheat the oven to 175 ºC (350°F).
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and the sugar until it is well mixed.
- Add the vanilla and stir it in.
- On low speed, slowly add the flour and the salt. When the flour is mostly incorporated, increase the speed of the mixer until the ingredients come together to form a nice cookie dough.
- Press the cookie dough flatly and evenly into a fluted tart pan with removable bottom (you don’t want to have an edge. This should look like a giant flat cookie). You can use a flat-bottomed glass to press the dough and spread it out evenly. You may need to use a little flour to prevent the glass (or your fingertips) from sticking to the dough.
- Place the tart pan in the oven, and bake the cookie until the edges turn golden, about 20 to 25 minutes.
- Let the tart cool completely before un-molding onto a serving plate (check out my trick for removing a tart from a tart pan!). Do not top with the whipped cream or the strawberries until you are sure the tart has cooled completely.
For the strawberries
- Mix the sliced strawberries with the maple syrup in a medium bowl. Let them macerate while you prepare the cream.
For the yogurt cream
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the yogurt and the cream into soft peaks.
- Add the sugar, and continue whipping until the cream has reached the desired thickness.
- Spread the cream over the cooled cookie base, leaving a half-inch edge.
- Top with the macerated strawberries, and garnish with a few fresh basil leaves.
Janice Lawandi is chemist-turned-baker, working as a recipe developer in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. She studied pastry at Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa and cooking at l’Académie Culinaire. She has a BSc in Biochemistry from Concordia University and a PhD in Chemistry from McGill University. Visit janicelawandi.com to see my portfolio.