A buttery tart crust topped with cool pastry cream and a variety of shining jewel-colored fruit is always a crowd-pleaser, welcome at every occasion. Tropical fruits-mangoes, kiwis, and pineapple-taste especially good to me after seafood. You can use any fruit you like for this tart. If you want to make it with just blueberries and strawberries for the Fourth of July, go for it. Just be sure whatever fruit you use is picture-perfect and ripe.
1. To make the dough, in a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine the flour, 1/4 cup of the sugar, and the salt and pulse just a few seconds to blend. Add the chilled butter pieces and process for 1 minute or less, until mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal. Whisk together one egg yolk and the cold water in a small bowl. Pour the egg mixture into the feed tube of the processor. As the egg mixture moistens the dry ingredients, pulse steadily until the dough gathers into a ball and all of the liquid is incorporated. Remove the dough from the processor, flatten into a disk about 1-inch thick, and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
2. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
3. With a rolling pin, roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface into a 14-inch round. Drape over an 11-inch round tart pan with a removable bottom and gently push the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Trim the top edge of the tart by running the rolling pin over the edge of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 15 minutes. Lightly oil a sheet of aluminum foil. Fit the foil gently into the chilled crust, oil side down. Fill the pan with pie weights or dried beans over the foil and bake until the sides of the crust are set, about 15 minutes. Remove the foil and beans. Continue to bake until the crust is golden, about 5 to 8 minutes longer, piercing it with fork if bubbles form. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.
4. To make the pastry cream, with a whisk or an electric mixer, beat the remaining 3 egg yolks with 1/2 cup of sugar and the cornstarch in a bowl until thick and well blended. Set aside. Place the milk in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean with the tip of a knife and add to the milk, along with the scraped bean husk. Bring to a simmer and remove from the heat. Slowly add a few spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk and sugar mixture, whisking vigorously to temper the eggs. Gradually add the remaining hot milk mixture, mixing constantly. Return the mixture to the saucepan and whisk over medium heat until it thickens and comes to a simmer. Simmer for 1 minute, stirring all the while. Pour the pastry cream into a clean bowl. Press plastic wrap onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate for 3 hours, or until thoroughly chilled. (If you're short on time, see the note.)
5. To make the tart's glaze: Put the apricot preserves in a small, heavy saucepan. Stir over low heat until melted. Transfer to a food processor and puree until smooth. Strain the puree through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl.
6. To assemble the tart, with a pastry brush, apply about one-third of the strained apricot jelly evenly over the bottom surface of the prebaked crust. Remove the pastry cream from the refrigerator and soften by mixing with a spoon. Taste the pastry cream, and if you like, add the Cointreau. Spread all of the pastry cream evenly over the brushed layer of jelly. Arrange the cut fruit and berries decoratively over the pastry cream, alternating colors and textures. Rewarm the remaining apricot puree and brush lightly over the fruit.
7. Cat's Note: To speed up the chilling process, make an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice and water. Place the bowl of pastry cream in the ice bath and stir it about every 5 minutes until thoroughly chilled. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator.