I'm a stickler on presentation. I'm certain that all has to do with my aunt who lived next door while I was growing up. She was a baker and would often call me on the phone announcing she had something to show me right away. I'd immediately run over to her house, where I would find a cake... or a pie... or sweet rolls. The dessert was always beautiful, and we would talk about how lovely it was and how good it will taste. Then... I walked back home. The pastry was for another time; after dinner, or for guests that would be visiting. Never for that immediate moment.
That's probably why I am so critical of myself and whatever I make in my kitchen. My family could care less. They just want to eat it, no matter what it looks like. I often describe my desserts as rustic; just never quite achieving that polished French pâtisserie perfection.
On my recent trip to Paris, I visited my favorite culinary supply store, E. Dehillerin, and took my very patient husband along. (He now knows "my Paris" more than he had ever wanted.) There I picked up some steel rings for making small, individual tart shells. I'm now working at releasing the perfect pastry, finding that a pâte sucrèe pressed into the ring has a better outcome than a tart pastry that is rolled. But pressing fingers too hard against the ring when filling with the pàte sucrèe can also be problematic. I see many long days ahead working on technique.
Don't you absolutely love this tower of molds that was in the Dehillerin window? Can you imagine the stunning dessert that would make?
My little raspberry tarts with pastry cream were inspired by the raspberry tarts above, that we ate at Le Petit Lux, along with our afternoon espresso. The pâtisserie is on Rue de Vaugirard, the longest road in Paris which extends from the Jardin du Luxembourg to the Porte de Versailles... Wow, that is long!
Ivy garlands at the Jardin du Luxembourg. If I tried to grow something like this in my yard, it would probably end up infested with red spider mites...
Sprinkle tarts with confectioners' sugar before eating... then, enjoy!
• • • • Raspberry Tarts with Pastry Cream • • • •
• 1 9-inch Pâte Sucrée tart crust or 6 small individual tart crusts, baked (recipe HERE)
• 2 cartons fresh raspberries, or any other fresh berry
• Confectioners' sugar for finishing
PASTRY CREAM (recipe adapted, from French Tarts by Linda Dannenberg)
• 1 1/2 cups whole milk
• 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds removed with tip of a sharp knife
• 3 large egg yolks
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 1 tablespoon cornstarch
• 1 tablespoon flour
1. Bring milk just to a boil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the vanilla bean and seeds and cover pan. Remove from the heat and set aside.
2. Combine the egg yolks and sugar in a medium bowl and whisk briskly for about 2 minutes. The mixture should be thick and pale yellow. Add the cornstarch and flour and whisk to blend. Remove the vanilla bean from the milk. Slowly pour the milk into the egg mixture whisking constantly until blended and smooth. (I always use a ladle to transfer the hot milk.)
3. Return the mixture to the saucepan and bring just to a boil, whisking constantly over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and cook at a simmer, whisking and stirring constantly to avoid burning the mixture on the bottom of the pan. Cook until thick, smooth, and yellow, about 2 minutes. Remove the cream from the heat and immediately strain into a clean bowl. Take a sheet of plastic wrap and gently press it onto the entire surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming. Allow the pastry cream to cool, then transfer to the refrigerator. Chill for at least one hour before using. (Pastry cream can be made up to one day ahead.)
1. Gently spread the chilled pastry cream over the base of the cooled tart shells. Cover the pastry cream with berries and sprinkle with Confectioners' sugar. Eat immediately or refrigerate until serving.