Vanilla Berry Tartlets

from Emily (who loves food)

I needed to use up the four egg yolks left over from the coconut meringues I made a few days ago.

And I as I’m still smitten with my new tartlet moulds, and had bought some vanilla beans from the Food Show, Creme Patissiere was in order.

Honestly, I had never made it before, and rarely make custard-like fillings, so it’s all a bit of anomaly to me.

So I went with good ol’ Joy of Baking’s recipe – which uses cornflour (cornstarch) as a thickener. Not something the more traditional french recipes use (sorry, Julia Child!) but I wanted to launch myself into pastry cream with the more trustworthy option. And I’m glad I did. Even though I thought the mixture was curdling when it was actually thickening and I was whisking like a madman before I realized that actually, the whole process was over and it was time to take it off the heat, I ended up with a thick, vanilla-y bowl of yum.

At first I thought I would make these in filo shells again, but unfortunately, the pastry didn’t take well to blind baking and I ended up eating two misshapen filo tart shells for my lunch. So I just went out and bought some sweet shortcrust – sue me. I promise I will make my own next time.

For you other New Zealanders, strawberries are just popping up in the supermarkets, so take advantage and indulge in them. Sure, they cost a dollar more now than they will at peak season, but it’s worth it for that fresh summer taste.

 

 

Vanilla Berry Tartlets - Makes 4 tartlets, or 1 24cm tart

Prep time: 20mins  Cook time: 30mins (+ cooling time)

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 tbs flour
  • 2 tbs cornflour (cornstarch)
  • 1 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 250g sweet shortcrust pastry, either store-bought or homemade, chilled
  • 24 strawberries
  • 2 tbs icing (confectioners) sugar
  • 1/3 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (though frozen might actually work a bit better here)

In the metal or ceramic bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk egg yolks and sugar until thick, and a ribbon trails off the whisk when lifted. Add the flour and cornflour, and mix into a smooth paste.

Heat the milk and vanilla bean in a saucepan over a medium heat until it boils (don’t be fooled, when milk boils it foams up like crazy and will scare you to death). Remove from the heat.

Turn the stand mixer on a medium-low speed, and add the boiling milk to the egg mixture in a gradual stream. You need to keep the whisk going so the mixture doesn’t curdle. Add the milk fairly slowly – don’t overwhelm the mix.

Remove the vanilla bean from the milk, split it down the middle and scrape out the seeds to add to the milk mixture. Reserve the tough exterior sides – put them with a cup of sugar in an airtight container and a few days later you have delicious vanilla sugar!

Once you’ve added the vanilla seeds, tip the whole mixture back into the saucepan and cook over a medium heat, whisking continuously until it boils. You’ll know it’s boiling when the texture changes dramatically, and it thickens up. Keep whisking for another 30 seconds, then remove from the heat. If you didn’t have a vanilla bean, and are using extract or essence, whisk 1 tsp quickly in now.

Scrape/pour/move the mixture into a clean bowl, and immediately cover with clingfilm – press it right onto the cream – to prevent a skin from forming. Allow to cool to room temperature.

When the cream has mostly cooled, heat the oven to 180C and divide the chilled pastry between the tartlet moulds, filling each with ceramic baking weights. Bake in the oven for 12mins, then remove the weights, and bake for a further 3mins to crisp up the bottoms a bit.

Allow the pastry cases to cool to room temperature.

Core the strawberries, and mix them and the frozen blueberries with 2 tbs of icing sugar. Keep turning the fruit gently until you can no longer see the white of the icing sugar because it’s combined with the natural fruit juices, and the whole thing looks glossy and delicious.

To assemble, spoon 1/4 of the Creme Patissiere into the pastry cases, smoothing the top. Arrange six strawberries on each tartlet, and sprinkle over roughly 1 tbs blueberries. Dust with icing sugar.

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