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Make the cream: in a medium pot, combine the milk and 110g of the sugar. If using the vanilla bean, scrape the seeds into the milk and add the pod (if using vanilla extract, it goes in later). Bring to a simmer over medium heat, but do not let it boil. Once simmering, remove from the heat.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the remaining sugar with the egg yolks, cornflour, salt and vanilla extract (if using). While whisking, slowly pour a cup of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture and whisk to blend. Do this until all the milk has been incorporated. The mixture will be loose with a starchy texture.
Return the mixture to the pot and place over medium heat. Whisk constantly, cooking until the liquid changes from thin with many small bubbles (almost like a cappuccino) to thick and gelatinous with sporadic large bubbles, bubbling from the great depths of the pot, 8-10 minutes. The mixture will have gone from soupy liquid to golden pudding faster than you think. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter.
Transfer to a shallow baking dish or bowl and place a piece of plastic wrap or baking paper directly on top (to prevent a ‘skin’ forming). Place in the fridge and chill completely until ready to use.
Make the crust: Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). In a medium bowl, combine the flour, icing sugar and salt. Using your fingers, incorporate the melted butter until you have a crumbly dough, with a texture like Play-Doh. Resist the urge to knead the dough, as you don’t want to develop any gluten (that’s how the crust shrinks on you).
Press the dough into a 23cm tart tin with a removable base, or a 23cm springform tin. Use the tines of a fork or the tip of a knife to lightly prick the top all over (to allow steam to escape as it bakes).
Bake until the bottom of the crust is golden brown, and the edges are the colour of a nicely golden shortbread cookie, 18-20 minutes. This tart does not get baked again, so this is your chance to fully bake through. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
Assemble the tart: Once the tart shell has cooled, whisk the vanilla pastry
cream until it’s totally smooth. (It will look firm, lumpy and like cottage cheese until it smooths out and comes together, looking like the gorgeous smooth pudding it once was.) Spread this into the tart shell.
Top with fruit of your choosing; for the simplest version, use lovely uncooked berries, preferably all from the same colour family. Strawberries thinly sliced crossways to expose their circular core, raspberries either left whole or cut in half, redcurrants if you can find them.
Refrigerate for 1 hour or so to set and chill before slicing.
Cook's tip: The shortbread crust can be baked 2 days ahead; wrap it and store at room temperature. The tart itself can be made 2 days ahead, but can get a little soggy after that. Store it wrapped and refrigerated. Serve chilled.