Creamy 'Fruit Tart' Pie

Time1 hour 15 minutes, plus 7 hours unattended
YieldsServes 8 to 10
A riff on a grocery store favorite, this celebratory tart is topped with seasonal fall fruit.
(Katrina Frederick / For The Times)
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An array of glistening fall fruit blankets the top of this creamy custard pie, a riff on the ubiquitous French fruit tarts sold in bakeries and grocery stores. Use persimmons, plums, figs and kiwi for the best balance of tartness and sweetness and color. Galletas María cookies are commonly found at most markets in L.A., especially in Latin grocery stores. If you don’t have time to make the crust, Pittol suggests using a premade graham cracker crust.

For the pie crust:
For the pastry cream filling:
For the fruit, syrup and garnish:
For the crème légère:

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the crackers, cookies, sugar, milk powder and salt in a food processor, then pulse until the crackers and cookies are very finely ground. Drizzle in the butter and pulse again until the crumbs are evenly moistened. (Alternatively, place the crackers and cookies in a large, resealable plastic bag, close the bag, then use a rolling pin or small skillet to finely crush them. Pour in the sugar, milk powder, salt and butter, close the bag again and massage the ingredients together until the crumbs are evenly moistened.)


Scrape the crumbs into a 9-inch metal pie pan. Spread them evenly over the bottom and up the side of the pan with your fingers until they’re flush with the edge of the pan. Then use a 1/3-cup dry measuring cup to compact the crumbs evenly against the side and bottom of the pan to create a uniformly even, smooth surface. Bake until the crust is set and lightly toasted, about 10 minutes. Transfer the pie plate to a rack to cool while you make the filling.


Make the pastry cream: In a small saucepan, warm the milk over medium heat until it just begins to simmer at the edges; do not let it boil. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch, then mix in the vanilla bean paste and egg yolks. While whisking constantly, slowly drizzle the warm milk into the egg yolk mixture, and stir until smooth. Pour the custard back into the saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and begins bubbling, 2 to 3 minutes, then keep cooking, stirring constantly, until the pudding is thick, about 1 minute more.


Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the butter and salt until melted and smooth. Scrape the pastry cream through a fine sieve set over a bowl to remove any lumps. Pour 1/2 cup of the pastry cream into a small bowl and set aside. Pour the rest of the pastry cream into the cooled pie crust and smooth the top. Cover both the cream in the pie crust and the cream in the small bowl with separate sheets of plastic wrap, pressing the wrap on the surface of the cream. Place both in the refrigerator and let chill for at least 6 hours.


Slice the fruit: For fruit like persimmons and plums, slice into thin half moons about 1/8-inch thick. For blueberries, gooseberries and grapes, cut in half, or if they are small, leave them whole. Place the light-colored fruit in one bowl and the dark-colored fruit in another. Add half the turbinado sugar, half the lime zest and half the lime juice to the bowl of light-colored fruits, then add the remaining half of the turbinado sugar, lime zest and lime juice to the bowl of dark-colored fruit. Let the bowls of fruit macerate at room temperature for about 15 minutes, stirring every few minutes to help dissolve the sugar in the fruit’s juices.


Strain the light-colored fruit in a sieve set over a small saucepan to let the juices drain away, then return the fruit to its bowl; repeat with the dark-colored fruit. Place both bowls of fruit in the refrigerator until ready to use.


Make the syrup: Place the small saucepan over high heat and bring the strained juices to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the juices are thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the syrup cool to room temperature.


Remove the chilled pie from the refrigerator, and remove the plastic wrap from on top of the pastry cream. Arrange the chilled macerated fruit over the top of the pie, then sprinkle the pomegranate seeds, if using, over the fruit. Drizzle the thickened syrup evenly over the fruit, using a pastry brush to ensure it covers every piece evenly. Finish by spooning fresh passion fruit pulp over the top of the fruit, if you like. Return the pie to the refrigerator for at least 1 hour to set the fruit.


While the pie chills, make the crème légère: Remove the plastic wrap from the small bowl of pastry cream and vigorously whisk the cream until smooth again. In a separate bowl, whisk the heavy cream and crema by hand until thickened and stiff peaks form. Add half the whipped cream to the pastry cream, and fold with a small rubber spatula to combine. Gently fold in the remaining whipped cream until just combined. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use.


Just before serving, sprinkle the entire pie with more turbinado sugar, if you like, for extra crunch. Cut into wedges and serve with a dollop of the crème légère on the side.