Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Strawberry pastry cream tarts

I usually don't dedicate my posts to anyone. Okay, in fact I've never dedicated a post at all. However, this one time, this teeny exception I'm going to dedicate this one to my ever-relentless-hounding friend who is probably my only reader and biggest critic. Cinnamon, this one is for you.

As all aspiring home bakers know, making puff pastry from scratch is no small feat. It requires having your dough and butter at the right temperature/consistency and endless rolling, folding, and more rolling. If you have a pastry sheeter, it's not so bad. Last I checked, most people don't have a $5,000 piece of baking equipment in their home. And if you do? Well, I want to be your friend.

And for this reason, I don't have any qualms about using that store-bought frozen stuff. It's not that bad actually.  A lot of professional bakeries will make their puff pastry ahead of time and thaw when needed.

Both Pepperidge Farm and Trader Joe's brand puff pastry dough sheets come individually wrapped, and two to a box. They're quite handy to have in the freezer to throw together a last minute dessert. Per box instructions, you need to let the dough thaw a little before handling.

For my strawberry tarts, I cut one of the pastry dough sheets into quarters and scored them along the edges. I then folded the edges over to make a 'frame' of dough. By doing so, I essentially doubled up the dough. When the dough rises and cooks, it will make a boat to nest the filling and fruit. I came across this method when making some blueberry boats for my brother.

Another important note is to make sure to generously dock the center of the pastry. Docking, which is a fancy shmancy name for poking holes, ensures that the pastry in the middle will not rise as much as the edges. I then brushed the edges with a light egg wash and baked according to manufacturers instructions.

See, they're kind of like little boats. Or maybe bowls. At this point you could probably fill them with anything, even a savory chicken pot pie filling. Yum.... pie. My filling of choice was pastry cream and strawberries. Pastry cream, or crème pâtissière, is the French take on custard and is a key ingredient in a lot of French pastries.

After the pastry cream was thoroughly chilled, I filled each of the pastries about halfway, leaving ample space for the fruit filling.

Next up, strawberries. The strawberries were definitely not as easy as the blueberries to maneuver into the small pastry space. If working with strawberries, I would suggest picking the smaller fruits, or slicing them for a better fit.

As a finishing touch to the tarts, I melt a quarter cup of apricot jam diluted with a couple tablespoons of water. The apricot jam has a neutral flavor and works nicely as a glaze, By glazing the berries, they'll retain an appetizing shine and won't get that 'old dried out' look once they've been sitting in the refrigerator for a few hours.

Pastry Cream:

Milk 500g
Eggs 50g
Egg yolks 30g
Sugar 125g
Flour 25g
Custard powder 25g (can substitute cornstarch)
Vanilla extract

In a saucepan, bring the milk to a boil and add the vanilla extract. In a mixing bowl, combine the eggs, yolks, sugar, flour and custard powder. Once the milk comes to a boil, pour approximately a quarter of a mixture into the egg mixture to temper. Return the egg mixture back to the saucepan and continuously mix as the pastry cream comes to a boil. Allow the mixture to boil for three minutes. Transfer the pastry cream to a mixing bowl, cover with plastic film, and store in the refrigerator until thoroughly chilled.

1 comment:

ht said...

Dear "The Sweet Life",

It's my search of "Pierre Herme's Jasmin Macaron" that led me to your blog. I too came from the bay area and spent a year (2008-2009) in Paris going to the pastry school at Le Cordon Bleu. I am obsessed with puff pastry and viennoisseries, so I have invested in a tabletop laminoir. I would like to post a couple of photos of my galette des rois and chausson aux pommes. I would love to get in touch with you and share more of our mutual interests. Thanks.