Pastry cream has been on my list of things to make for quite some time now. I have always had a certain
soft spot for obsession with chocolate eclairs and cream puffs, and while I love the pat à choux dough, it’s always the pastry cream that I’m swooning over. I finally had a chance to try my hand at this rich, creamy custard in this gorgeous strawberry tart.
A couple of weeks ago, my favorite natural foods store was selling organic strawberries for $1.99 a pound. ”Say whaaaa?” Ridiculously cheap. So, naturally, I stopped by one day after work to pick up a pound or two to enjoy over the weekend. Well, when I got to the strawberry display, something must have taken me over – perhaps the strawberries’ intoxicating aroma, their bright rosy hue, or (more likely) the $1.99 price tag flashing like a neon sign in my head – because I walked outta there with a flat of them in my arms. Oops. I just couldn’t resist purchasing eight pounds of organic berries for $14.00! Are you kidding me? It would have been criminal for me to walk out of there with less than a flat of them.
As soon as I got home I started brainstorming about what I was going to make with my haul. I prefer to eat most fruit in it’s raw form, untouched by sugar or heat, and strawberries are no exception. In my opinion you just shouldn’t mess with a good thing, and raw strawberries are a very. good. thing. I knew we’d have our fill of fresh berries while still having plenty left over to play around with, though, so I wasn’t worried.
I turned to this tart because it combined two of my favorite things – pastry cream and a whole pound (only seven more to go!) of fresh sliced strawberries. My favorite part of this dessert? Extra custard left over after filling up my crust. Now if you’ll excuse me, we’re gonna have to cut this tart talk short because I need to go eat the rest of it. Someone hand me a spoon!
What are you making with your strawberries this season?
Strawberry Tart with Vanilla Pastry Cream
Source: Adapted from Baking Illustrated via Annie’s Eats
*Just a head’s up: I made my tart dough and pastry cream one day ahead, which made this much less stressful and much more fun!
For the tart dough:
1 large egg yolk
1 Tablespoon heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (8 Tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
For the pastry cream:
2 cups half-and-half
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
5 large egg yolks
3 Tablespoons cornstarch
4 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the topping:
1 pound organic strawberries, washed, hulled, and thinly sliced
To make the tart shell, whisk together the egg yolk, cream and vanilla in a small bowl; set aside. Place the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Process briefly to combine. Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture; process to cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about fifteen 1-second pulses. With the machine running, add the egg mixture and process until the dough just comes together, about 12 seconds. Turn the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and press into a 6-inch dish. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 48 hours.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator. (If refrigerated for more than an hour, let stand at room temperature until malleable.) Unwrap and roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to a 13-inch round. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch tart pan. Mold the dough to the sides of the tart pan and remove the excess off the top. I rolled my rolling pin along the top of my tart pan to easily remove the excess. Set the dough-lined tart pan on a large plate and freeze for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to middle position. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Set the dough-lined tart pan on a baking sheet, press a 12-inch square of foil into the frozen shell and over the edge, and fill with pie weights (or you can use some dried beans that your never going to use like I did.) Bake for 30 minutes, rotating halfway through the baking time. Remove from the oven and carefully remove the foil and weights. Continue to bake until deep golden brown, 5-8 minutes longer. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. My tart got a little darker than I would have liked. Next time I’ll only bake it for 5 minutes after removing the foil.
To make the pastry cream, heat the half-and-half, 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the sugar, and the salt in a saucepan over medium-high heat until simmering, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Meanwhile, combine the egg yolks and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in a medium bowl and whisk until the sugar has begun to dissolve and the mixture is creamy, about 15 seconds. Whisk in the cornstarch until combined and the mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 30 seconds.
When the half-and-half mixture has reached a simmer, slowly add it to the egg yolk mixture to temper, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the saucepan, and bring it back up to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until a few bubbles burst on the surface and the mixture is thickened and glossy, about 30 seconds. Off the heat, whisk in the butter and vanilla. Strain the pastry cream through a fine mesh sieve set over a medium bowl. Press plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until cold and set, at least 3 hours and up to 2 days. Try really hard not to eat all of the pastry cream before proceeding to the next step.
To assemble the tart, spread the cold pastry cream evenly over the bottom of the tart shell. Arrange the berries on top of the pastry cream as desired. Serve.