#1 – 48 Recipe Challenge: Recipe 39 – Fresh Strawberry Tart with Crème Pâtissière

This month I decided to tackle Crème Pâtissière (also known, less poetically, as pastry cream).  I’ve avoided it to date because I was scared of it.  It involves pouring boiling milk into eggs and I was really worried it would curdle and I’d end up with scrambled eggs.  And lets be honest, given its fancy French name with accents on it, it even sounds difficult, doesn’t it?

But this challenge is all about pushing myself and trying things I’d previously put into the ‘too difficult’ box.  So, Crème Pâtissière it was this month, difficult or not.

As it turned out, it isn’t, actually.

Having consulted both Delia and James Morton and reassured myself that neither chef seemed to be suggesting it was a particularly difficult thing to make, I decided to give it a go.  As I had an abundance of lovely seasonal English strawberries, I fancied a lovely fresh strawberry tart and found this recipe: http://www.greatbritishchefs.com/recipes/strawberry-tart-recipe

I made the shortbread pastry first as it needed to rest for two hours, then had a go at the Crème Pâtissière.  I was interested to learn that despite its name, it doesn’t actually involve cream, but uses milk instead.  Egg yolks are combined with sugar and cornflour before the milk is added so this stabilises them and (I assume) helps to prevent curdling.  I was careful to keep whisking the whole time, but to my relief it didn’t split when I put the milk in and then when I returned the mix to the pan, it thickened up happily.  After some time in the fridge it seemed lovely and solid and looked exactly right.  I couldn’t believe that it was that easy!

Whisking the Creme Patissiere

Whisking the Creme Patissiere

This recipe recommends marinating the strawberries in rosé wine, but I had some alcoholic Gin and Strawberry Cordial that I’d recently bought at my local Farmers Market and I fancied using that instead.  Gin is so much more my style than rosé wine!

The recipe given is for a large tart but I wanted to make individual desserts, so I simply divided it up.  I had quite a lot of pastry left over but the recipe only made a reasonably small quantity of Crème Pâtissière.  I would be worried about whether it would be enough for a large tart as it would only give a very thin layer, but for my individual tarts it gave a good amount for two people (or perhaps I’m just greedy…).

I was delighted with how they turned out.

Fresh Strawberry Tart with Creme Patissiere

Fresh Strawberry Tart with Creme Patissiere

The pastry, I will admit, is not the best I’ve ever done.  It came together without the addition of the egg yolk so I left it out, which was a mistake.  When it came to rolling the pastry out, it kept cracking and as a result I ended up with reasonably thick tarts because otherwise it was just falling apart.  The pastry was delicious though, the addition of the ground almonds made it very biscuity.  This was a fantastic, tasty and well presented dessert and would work well for a dinner party as it can be prepared well ahead.  Both the pastry and the Crème Pâtissière can be made the day before.  It’s also very versatile since the fruit topping can be varied according to the season.  I think it would be good with blackberries in the autumn, for example.

This recipe is definitely one I’m intending to keep, scores are:

Healthiness – 1/10 (it gets a point for having fruit in, but really this is pure treat)

Ease of prep – 8/10 (much easier than I expected it to be and it can be made well in advance.  Just don’t leave the egg out of the pastry mix!)

Flavour/taste – 10/10 (simply fantastic)

P.S. In case you’re wondering what the difference is between Crème Pâtissière and custard (which the French refer to as Crème Anglaise), it’s the cornflour.  Officially, custard shouldn’t contain cornflour.  So basically, Crème Pâtissière (or pastry cream) is simply set custard.  Easy!

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