On the menu for Week 11:  fruit flan.

After the high of Week 10 and the incredible Swiss Rolls that we made, I wondered if we’d be able to match it in Week 11. Well match it we did with some pretty good fruit flans!

My idea of fruit flan has always been a sponge base with some sort of cream topped by fruit. The flan that we prepared in class was more of a cross between a sponge cake and a fruit tart.

We began by making a lovely sweet pastry that’s a cross between pie dough and shortbread crust. After mixing our dough and refrigerating it, we rolled it out. I don’t think I’ve ever worked with lovelier dough. Supple and soft, it was a dream, although you did have to be careful to not roll it too thin.

Having gotten the dough out of the way, we then made a basic vanilla custard or pastry cream that consisted of milk, sugar, eggs, cornstarch and vanilla extract. I’ve often make custards and prefer to use a vanilla bean for maximum flavour. But the custard worked out just fine and it was quite easy to make. We refrigerated the custard with plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming.

When it came time to assemble our flan, we began by spreading our cold custard on the base of our tart. And then came the interesting part. In our Week 10 class, we prepared some basic sponge cakes which were then frozen for future use. We got to use them today. Our instructor explained that by slicing a thin layer of sponge and laying it on top of our custard, we were accomplishing two things. For starters, we were creating a layer that would absorb any juice from the fruit that we used to garnish our tart. This would prevent the fruit juice from seeping down into the tart and causing the base to become soggy. Secondly, the layer of sponge would ensure that our fruit would stay in place and not slide about.

We garnished our tarts with fresh strawberries and kiwi slices. The final step was an apricot glaze followed by blanched almonds around the sides of the tart. There’s no question that garnishing these sorts of desserts with fresh fruit  makes a huge difference. I’ve seen too many boring supermarket tarts garnished with canned fruits. The sponge layer was an interesting twist although I’m not sure that I’d repeat that step again.

All in all I was impressed with the flavour of this tart. The separate components came together well, although I don’t know if I’ll repeat the tart/sponge mix again. I think I’ll go for either one or the either. But as my instructor pointed out, the colours of this tart are almost those of the Italian flag, with the red strawberries and green kiwi. In advance of tomorrow’s World Cup final, that has to be a good sign!