Strawberries with pastry cream on a sweet shortcrust pastry crust are a classic. You could make a large tart, but it looks much better and is easier to serve when you make individual tartlets. There are some special techniques used in this recipe:
- the strawberries are covered with a thin layer of apricot jam to make them shine, to prevent them from discoloring and from drying out
- the shortcrust pastry is made with a different technique that yields flaky pastry that is easy to work with
- the pastry cream is made in a way that makes it easier to avoid burning it
But of course the most important part is to get good strawberries, which should be sweet, aromatic, and soft. The combination of the fresh and aromatic strawberries with the velvety pastry cream and the crunchy pastry makes these into a wonderful treat. The recipe is for 16 tartlets, but of course you could scale it down to 4, 8 or 12, if you like.
For 16 tartlets
about 1.25 kilograms (3 lb) strawberries
2 Tbsp apricot jam
butter for greasing the pans
For the pastry crust
500 grams (3 1/3 cup) pastry flour
250 grams (17.5 Tbsp) cold unsalted butter
100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
1 tsp salt
90 ml (6 Tbsp) cold water
1 egg white
For the pastry cream
500 ml (2 cups) whole milk
4 egg yolks
50 grams (1/3 cup) flour
100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
To make the pastry, combine 330 grams flour with 100 grams sugar and 1 tsp salt in the food processor, and process until mixed.
Add 250 grams of cold butter, cut into cubes.
Process until the dough comes together (unlike other recipes, that tell you to stop when you have pea sized pieces of dough).
Flatten the dough and put the remaining 170 grams of flour on top.
Pulse a few times until you see small clumps of dough that are covered in flour.
Transfer this mixture to a bowl, and drizzle with 6 Tbsp of cold water.
Use a spatula to fold the water into the dough; the dough should come together.
Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
For the pastry cream, combine 4 egg yolks with 50 grams flour and a bit of the milk (taken from the total amount of 500 ml of milk).
Whisk to mix.
Bring the remaining milk almost to a boil in a saucepan, then turn off the heat.
Add the hot milk in a thin stream to the egg yolk mixture, whisking all the time.
Keep going until all the milk has been incorporated.
Return the mixture to the saucepan, bring to a boil, and cook over low to medium heat until the cream becomes thick, about 3 minutes, stirring all the time.
When the cream has become very thick, turn off the heat and add 100 grams of sugar and 2 tsp of vanilla extract.
Whisk to incorporate. The residual heat will melt the sugar.
Transfer this mixture to a piping bag and allow to cool, first to room temperature and then in the refrigerator. The cream should be in the refrigerator at least for a couple of hours to firm up.
After the dough has rested in the fridge, roll it out to a thickness of about 3 mm (1/8 inch).
Preheat the oven to 190C/375F (fan forced).
Grease 16 tartlet pans with a size of 10 cm (4 inches) with butter.
Take a piece of the rolled out dough that is roughly a circle of about 13 cm (5 inches).
Line a buttered pan with the dough, starting with the bottom and then the edges.
Remove the excess dough with a rolling pin. Repeat until you have lined all 16 pans.
Prick the dough in each tartlet a couple of times with a fork.
Cover each tartlet with a piece of oven paper, then fill with baking weights (or dry beans).
Bake them for 20 minutes at 190C/375F (fan forced).
Allow them to cool then remove the oven paper and baking weights.
Lightly whisk an egg white, and brush the tarlets with the egg white.
Return the tartlets to the oven at 190C/375F (fan forced) until golden brown, 5 to 10 minutes. Depending on your oven, some tartlets may take a little longer than others, so take them out when they are ready and the leave the others a bit longer. Allow them to cool to room temperature.
It is best to dress the tartlets right before serving, so the pastry will remain crispy. However, due to the blind baking and the egg white it should be okay to do this some hours before.
Cut the tip off the piping bag, and use it to fill the tartlets with pastry cream.
Divide the pastry cream amongst the tartlets.
Combine some apricot jam with some hot water in a small bowl, and stir well.
Brush the apricot mixture onto the strawberries. This technique is called abricoteren in Dutch.
The strawberry tartlets are now ready to serve.
They are great with Moscato d’Asti.
Caramelized red onions with balsamic vinegar are a great side for beef, in this case wagyu blade steak.