You know that filling in cream puffs and eclairs and all other things wonderful? Do you ever just want to eat a big spoon full of it, no need for a pastry to go with? Well, that was what I was feeling like doing today. Luckily, I had some strawberries that had to be used up soon so I had a good excuse to make (and eat) pastry cream – a big beautiful Strawberry Tart. I even have a group of people to eat it this evening so I don’t feel quite so crazy eating a giant tart alone….though that has never stop me before (and I did get to eat several large spoonfuls of the cream that didn’t fit in the crust to tide me over until the evening).
Since I do live in Hawaii, I try to make some small twist on recipes to make them more adapted to my adopted home. Today, that small addition was to make a coconut pastry cream. An incredibly simple swap; just use coconut milk instead of regular milk. Really, you can use any kind you want, almond, soy, whatever. The egg yolks and cornstarch do the thickening so you don’t have to worry about the milk having a specific fat content. I used vanilla extract but that is another place where you can improvise. Almond or lemon are also very very tasty. Try matching your flavoring choice to the fruit. Cherries and almond, blueberries and lemon, strawberries and vanilla, etc.
This is a good base for you to experiment. That means you can use whatever fruit looks the nicest at the market. You aren’t tied to one version only. Use a mixture if you want. The best part of baking desserts is never making the exact same version of something twice. For example, today I mixed things up with this tart that I have made a bunch of times. I swirled a bit of the Citrus Curd I had left over from the other day into the pastry cream before adding the strawberries. Bonus points for using leftovers in a new, exciting way!
To make the final product, bake and cool the tart shell, fill it with chilled pastry cream, and layer fruit across the top. Garnish with mint leaves and chill until serving.
Have fun and mix it up. Use this base and do something that you have never tried or make your favorite fruit flavor combination in a new way. Whatever you do, make sure to eat a bit of the cream straight from a spoon…Just because you can.
Pastry Cream (Creme Patisserie)
Use as a filling for cream puffs or fruit tarts
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 2 tbsp flour
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 4 eggs yolks
- 1 ⅓ cups milk or milk substitute
- ¾ tsp vanilla extract
- Beat sugar, egg yolks, flour, and cornstarch on high speed until thick and pale yellow, approx 2 minutes
- Meanwhile, heat milk in a medium saucepan until steaming
- Gradually pour about ⅓ of the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking to combine; pour egg mixture into pan and whisk to combine with the remaining milk
- Cook over medium low heat, whisking constantly, until the custard thickens and starts to bubble, cook for another 45-60 seconds; scrape into a clean bowl and stir in the vanilla extract
- Cover with parchment paper, allow to cool to room temperature before chilling in the fridge completely; keeps up to 2 days
Use for fruit tarts or as a base of baked tarts
- 1 stick butter, softened
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 1 egg yolk
- ¼ tsp vanilla extract
- pinch salt
- 1 ¼ cup flour
- Beat butter and sugar together until fluffy; add egg yolk, vanilla, and salt; beat until smooth
- Gradually add flour until a smooth dough forms
- Chill 1 hour
- Roll in between waxed paper or press into 9” tart pan; chill in freezer for 10 minutes
- Preheat oven to 350* F; bake until golden, approx 20 minutes