Ouf! Over the years, I’ve come to use this word just as the French use so often. It’s more than Oh-là-la; it’s just, well, ‘ouf’! It speaks for itself with an enormously liberating sigh of relief. ‘Cest ouf’ as well: meaning it’s fou (verlan speak which is back to front for ‘fou’, meaning crazy). We are, indeed, nearly there at the end of a crazy, mad term; finishing end-of-year school activities, exams, concerts and – last but not least -parties!
Last weekend we covered ourselves in flour with a make your own pasta early birthday party for Lucie and this weekend my eldest daughter, Julie, enjoyed a sugar candy bonbon rush with her class as they danced the night away. Oh, to be 13 again. They’re no longer referred to as parties, though: instead it’s a boum. Another Ouf! It gave me an excuse to clean out the garage, too. How much stuff can we accumulate over the years?
Meanwhile, as the weather has been less than summery in Paris lately (read: winter has been joining summer this year), at least the strawberries (Mara des Bois, Plougastel, Gariguettes, etc.) have given us some happy colours and cheered us up no end with their sweet, candy-like flavours. We’ve been simply eating them with morning cereal and with tons of ice cream, such as wasabi, pistachio and vanilla ice cream, but recently I can’t stop making berry tarts. It gives me a great excuse to use up egg yolks by making crème pâtissière.
What I love about pastry cream is that you can alter the flavours to alter classic French desserts. After visiting the Eugène Boudin exhibition at the Jacquemart André Museum, we couldn’t resist a sweet French fancy treat at 4 o’clock in their chic café: mine was a Fraisier à la pistache. Bingo with such blissful inspiration! Pistachios and strawberries are heaven together, so why not in a tart?
Berry good indeed.
Classic Sweet Pastry
Makes enough for 2 large tarts. I use half and either freeze the rest or save it up to 4 days in the fridge and make tarlets with the rest.
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Chilling Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Baking Time: 20 minutes
120g butter, softened
1 large egg
250g plain flour, sifted
good pinch of salt
1 Using a stand mixer, mix the butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Gradually add the other ingredients until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl.
2 Knead into a ball, wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for at least an hour.
3 Remove from the fridge and leave at room temperature for 30 minutes for ease of use. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
4 Roll out the pastry on a well-floured surface to a 28cm/11 inch circle with 5mm thickness and transfer to a 24cm (9 inch) non-stick tart pan.
5 Press into the mould. Prick the pastry with a fork and top with baking paper (cut to size – I use the same one several baking sessions for convenience) and fill with washed coins, rice or dried beans to blind bake the pastry.
6 Bake for 20 minutes then remove the baking beans.
7 Leave to cool, remove from the mould and set aside.
Pistachio Pastry Cream (egg yolk recipe)
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Cooling Time: 30 minutes
500ml whole milk
1 vanilla pod (or bean)
4 egg yolks
1 tbsp pistachio paste*
20g single cream
3 drops of almond extract
(* if you don’t have pistachio paste, whizz 100g unsalted pistachios in a grinder. Mix together with 25g ground almonds, 50g sugar, 2 drops of almond essence and a tbsp water)
fresh strawberries, cut in half
1. Boil the milk with the vanilla pod and pistachio paste in a saucepan. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for about 10 minutes. Remove the pod, scrape out the seeds and add to the milk.
2. In a mixing bowl, whisk the yolks with the sugar and gradually add the cornflour. Whisk until light and creamy. Pour on the hot milk and transfer back to the saucepan, whisking continuously over a medium heat until thickened.
3. Set aside and leave to cool. Place some cling film directly on to the pastry cream, to avoid a film forming on top (you don’t want to whisk this in later, otherwise you’ll end up with a lumpy bumpy cream!) After about 10 minutes, whisk in the almond essence and the cold cream. Cover with the film again and chill in the fridge.
4. Cut the strawberries in half. Fill the pastry base with the pastry cream then place the strawberries on top.
Don’t forget that there are plenty more recipes to use up your egg yolks
on the bonus recipe index.