Miranda Bermejo, pastry chef at Craft House in Dana Point, says her Earl Grey Fruit Tart, could be the perfect home-baking project, especially if quarantined home bakers are looking for a delicious gift for Mom on Mother’s Day.
Each component of her tart is delicious. The oh-so-buttery shortbread crust sings of fresh lavender and Meyer lemon zest. The crunchy layer is scrumptious enough to eat on its own. Made in the food processor, the dough comes together quickly and rather than rolled out, it’s pressed into the springform pan with dance-like fingertip nudges.
The luscious pastry filling is spiked with Earl Grey tea, an ingredient that adds a subtle citrusy flavor. The tea’s signature flavor is from bergamot oil, an ingredient that is extracted from the skin of the Bergamot orange. Once the filling is placed in the cooked crust, the smoothed surface is adorned with fresh fruit such as assorted fresh berries.
Bermejo’s career as a chef began by helping at her boyfriend’s family restaurant, El Coyotito in San Juan Capistrano, but her post-culinary school education was at Craft House in Dana Point. Shining through classic and seasonal sweets, her signature desserts include Butter Cake, Meyer Lemon Tart with Thyme Shortbread Crust and S’mores that showoff her made in-house marshmallows.
UPDATE: Due to the health crisis, Craft House is offering a takeout menu that doesn’t include desserts. As Bermejo shelters in place with her family, she bakes at home and sells takeout goodies, such as bake-at-home cinnamon buns, as well as cakes and tarts. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or see her Instagram at sugarbbysweets.
Beloved SJC Eateries: Basanti in San Juan Capistrano is her favorite mom-and-pop owned Indian café. She also enjoys Délice Breton for its irresistible crepes and croissants.
Drink of Choice: A Bourbon Lemonade—bourbon plus lemonade on the rocks, spiked with fresh blackberries and garnished with mint.
Secret Talent: She is good with makeup. Long ago she toyed with the idea of going to beauty school. Her mother had a career with Mary Kay.
In the Beginning: While finishing her culinary education at Saddleback College, she was assigned to work at Craft House’s table at the charity event, Table for Ten. Working with the restaurant’s team was a joy, and they asked if she would like to stage (work and learn in a restaurant kitchen for a period of time). That led to a gig, and eventually the pastry chef role. That was almost four years ago.
Thrill of the Touch and Sweetness: She loves the feel of working with dough on her hands, and seeing the pleasure that desserts bring to diners. She likes making something that everyone is going to enjoy.
Signature Dessert: Her butter cake has become a classic. It’s served with vanilla gelato and pureed fruit sauce, either strawberry- or raspberry-based.
Culinary Mentor: She credits Blake Mellgren, executive chef-owner of Craft House, as her greatest influence. He gave her a shot early in her career, encouraging bravery in trying new dishes.
Essential Luxury: Two bowls for the Kitchen-Aid stand mixer.
Craft House, 39094 Pacific Coast Highway, Dana Point. 949-481-7734
Craft House Earl Grey Fruit Tart
Yield: 8 servings
4 cups whole milk, divided use
4 cups whole milk
3 Earl Grey teabags (or 3 tablespoons loose Earl Grey tea)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided use
1 teaspoon salt
10 egg yolks
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons butter
Lavender Shortbread Crust:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh lavender, flowers or leaves
1 teaspoon minced Meyer lemon zest
1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Garnish: fresh berries, such as blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and raspberries
1. Prepare pastry cream: Place 3 1/2 cups milk in large heavy-bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven; place on medium-high heat and bring to gentle simmer (watch carefully because boiling milk can cause a boil-over mess). Off heat, add teabags. Cover and steep for 3 minutes. Remove teabags. Stir in 1/2 cup sugar. Strain if using loose tea.
2. Place salt, egg yolks, remaining sugar, remaining 1/2 cup milk and cornstarch in medium bowl; whisk to combine. Using a ladle, add hot milk mixture about 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking constantly. Repeat adding a little of the hot milk, whisking constantly. Repeat until about 1 cup of milk is used. This process gradually heats up the yolks to prevent scrambling them. Return mixture to pan. Cook on medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a vigorous simmer. Simmer vigorously, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes or until thickened. Whisk in 2 tablespoons cold butter; whisk until butter melts and mixture is combined. Pour into clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap, placing the wrap on the surface to prevent a “skin” from forming. Chill.
3. Prepare shortbread crust: In food processor fitted with metal blade, process flour, powdered sugar, salt, lavender and zest for about 10 seconds to combine. With motor running, add cubes of chilled butter piece by piece. Process until dough forms a raggedy ball. Can be used right away or chilled airtight. Spray a springform pan generously with nonstick spray.
4. Adjust oven rack to middle position. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Dump dough into prepared pan and use fingers to press into pan, bringing sides up about 1 1/2 inches. If desired, use the bottom of a glass to smooth out the surface. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until it reaches an appealing golden color. Set aside to cool.
5. Add enough pastry cream to almost fill crust. Smooth surface (most efficient tool is an offset spatula). Garnish with fresh berries.
Source: Pastry Chef Miranda Bermejo
Cathy Thomas is an award-winning food writer and has authored three cookbooks: “50 Best Plants on the Planet,” “Melissa’s Great Book of Produce,” and “Melissa’s Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce.”