One of the great joys of dining in a really great restaurant is knowing that when you have finished your flawless entree of fish or lamb, you will be dazzled by a choice of flawless desserts.
In the top restaurants in France, giggles start rippling through the elegant dining rooms when the dessert trolleys begin to make their rounds.
Everybody is a kid again when faced with the need to choose among some three-dozen pastry, fruit, and ice desserts, each as good as it could possibly be.
None of the desserts on our travels have been greater than those at Fredy Girardet's restaurant, housed in the town hall of the village of Crissier, Switzerland, not far from Lausanne.
Most of these desserts are not fancy, just perfectly executed, using the best imaginable ingredients.
They change often, but one that stood out on both of our visits was a deep tart with a very thin layer of some sort of wonderful filling.
We asked what it was and were told that it was a cream tart. On the basis of the chef's description I have put together this recipe, which achieves a lovely dessert, very similar to Girardet's version. Swiss Cream Tart 1/2 cup butter 1 1/4 cups flour 1 egg yolk, optional 1/2 cup heavy cream, or a trifle more 3 tablespoons granulated sugar Ground cinnamon
Make pastry of your choice, or use butter, flour, and egg listed above. You should not use puff pastry, but any short pastry will be fine.
Line a deep 9-inch spring-form cake pan or 10-inch skillet with the pastry rolled out thinly.
If you use a skillet, be sure its handle is oven-proof. I have used a nonstick pan with a metal handle for this recipe with great success.
The reason for the high sides of the mold in this recipe, by the way, is that a shallow tart ring or tart pan poses a danger of the cream boiling over in the oven.
Prick the pastry all over with a fork, or you will have the same accident our waiter had when he first tried it: It all bubbled up, and he had a volcano in his oven. Put the lined mold in a cool place or in the refrigerator to rest.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Gently boil the cream in a saucepan about 5 minutes to reduce it slightly, taking care that it does not boil over.
If you happen to live in Fredy Girardet's part of Switzerland, where you can get extremely heavy Gruyere cream with a rich hue that gives new meaning to the phrase ''cream colored,'' you may omit this step.
Sprinkle bottom of tart shell with sugar, pour the cream over it, and sprinkle a little cinnamon on top.
Bake for a good 30 minutes, until cream has thickened and pastry is nicely browned. The cream will thicken further as the tart cools, and even if it remains slightly runny, the dessert will be fine.
When cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes, unmold carefully. This will be no problem if you use a spring-form pan; it is only a tiny problem with a skillet, especially a nonstick one.
Serve at room temperature.