As soon as the strawberry harvest begins, the Emmental is full of restaurants and cafes advertising Erdbeertörtli, strawberry tarts, the diminutive -li typically denoting their small stature.
“Shall we share one?” I asked Sam.
“Well, how big are they?”
“I know it’s Emmental Gasthof portions, but it’s still just a Törtli,” he said as he ordered a Coupe.
It was a mistake.
A giant, delicious mistake.
With enough strawberries and cream to feed a small canton, we struggled thought the flaky pastry, jam, cream, and berries to emerge victorious, but unable to eat dinner.
“That’s what I love about the Emmental,” said Sam.
Fresh cream? Local strawberries? Unexpectedly large desserts?
He didn’t elaborate.
When we moved to the Emmental we were thrilled that our house came with a giant strawberry patch.
Tiny, jammy, sweet little jewels—they’re almost too delicious to make it to the kitchen, demanding to be eaten on the spot (and if my toddler had her way, there would be none left at all).
But you definitely don’t need your own patch to enjoy the strawberry spoils. There are plenty of tasty local berries in shops, or pick your own at one of many Swiss farms (here’s a website).
There are so many delicious things to make, and as they go mouldy quickly, it’s sometimes best to freeze them, jam them, or throw them on top of a tart like this one.
The recipe is made up of pastry school standards—a typical French tart dough and a classic pastry cream. I always brush my tart shells with chocolate, which helps them from getting soggy. Some Erdbeertörtli recipes include jam, whether inside or brushed over the berries, and a generous helping of whipped cream. I haven’t included this here, but add as you see fit.
200 g flour
40 g icing sugar
pinch of salt
120 g butter, cold
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp cold water
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, icing sugar, and salt.
Add the cold butter in pieces and rub into the flour mixture with your fingers until you have small flakes.
Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the yolk and water. Mix this gently until a dough forms. Try not to overwork the dough or it will become tough.
Press the dough into a disc, wrap with plastic, and let cool in the fridge for about an hour.
Preheat oven to 200 C / 400 F / gas mark 6.
Roll out your dough and line a muffin tin.
You will need to blind bake the crust. Line each tart with a piece of parchment or aluminum foil. Fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for about 15 minutes, then remove the weights and bake for 5-10 minutes more, until nicely golden.
Set these on a cooling rack or tray.
500 ml milk
100 g sugar
1 tbsp vanilla paste
4 egg yolks
35 g cornstarch
50 g butter
In a large pot, warm the milk, half of the sugar, and the vanilla over medium heat.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the rest of the sugar, yolks, and cornstarch.
Prepare an additional bowl with a sieve, where you will pour the finished pastry cream.
Once the milk mixture is steaming and just about to boil, pour a little bit into the yolks, whisking quickly. You want enough to warm the yolks, but not too much to cook them. Slowly continue to add milk and whisk, until you have added about two thirds of the milk mixture.
Now pour everything back into the pot and cook it over low heat while constantly whisking. After a few minutes it should thicken considerably to the consistency of pudding. Take it off the heat and strain into your prepared bowl.
Let cool for a few minutes, then whisk in the butter.
Place a piece of plastic wrap directly over the surface and let cool in the fridge for at least an hour, or until it is firm and thick.
Here’s a visual guide:
50 g dark chocolate, melted
500 g strawberries, stems removed and quartered
Brush the melted chocolate over the baked and cooled tart shells. Let dry.
Top the tart shells with a generous dollop of pastry cream, then the berries.
If you have very ripe, or quite small berries that don’t quarter well, just remove the stems and add them whole.
A simple alternative is pre-made tart shells or store-bought tart dough.
Another great alternative would be to bake a large round of puff pastry, then top with the pastry cream and strawberries.
You could use ready made custard, if you’re short on time or energy.
This is a versatile tart. Although strawberries are king, top with other berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries) as the season rolls on.