Thursday, October 3, 2013

Crème Patissière Tartlets

Pie crust and me seem to be liking each other after all! The Chocolate Mousse Tart we made for the Daring Bakers challenge gave me a boost of confidence with pie crusts. Also gave me a sweet pastry crust a bit less buttery. Strange as it may seem, intense buttery tasting bakes aren't quite my thing. This crust is as buttery as I can take (lesser would probably make it a cracker, so hardly dessert), but still, bite-sized please!

 Though I was happy with the light and flaky crust of the Chocolate Mousse Tart , the sogginess of it after it was baked with the filling was a put off. I have tried painting the crust with egg wash, but it did not seem to retain the crispiness fully. So this time, I wanted to bake a tart, bake it fully till light and crisp, then fill it to be eaten straightaway! Then happened these. Little buttery crispy tartlets filled with lightened and chilled vanilla bean pastry cream or Crème Patissière. If you love buttery tarts, this is a dessert you will love!

Please do not go by the length of the recipe below. Its fairly do-able, if you plan ahead and split the work over 2 days.

I have made the pastry and frozen in smaller portions in plastic wrap, placed in an freezer safe container. Thawed it in the refrigerator, still fully wrapped in a box. I have used a quarter of the recipe below to give me about 8 small tartlets. 

It is about keeping your ingredients COLD. Cold butter, ice cold water, cold tools, a cool marble counter, rolling pin. This is to help prevent the butter from melting, keeping it in bits and pieces even after the pastry is rolled out. The butter melts in the oven creating pockets in the pastry - your flaky layers. Working quickly, handling the dough gently throughout helps keep it tender.  Start with less water and add more if needed as more water can make your pastry tough


Egg yolk - 18 grams / 1 large
Granulated or powdered sugar - 5 tablespoons/ 70 gm / 2½ oz ( I powdered granulated sugar after weighing)
All-purpose flour - 1¾ cups (420 ml) (250 gm) (8¾ oz)
pinch salt
Diced Cold butter (diced and then chilled), cut into 1/2'' cubes - 125 grams / 9 tablespoons / 4 ½ oz
Ice Cold water - 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon (50 ml) ( I used 2 1/2 tablespoons,will add a teaspoon of vanilla next time and chill the water)
For the pastry : Cube the butter first and then chill it, so that its really cold. Chill your pastry cutter or metal  bench scraper or knives. Have a largish flat box with a lid ready. Just in case you need to refrigerate the flour-butter mixture in between.
1. In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolk and sugar together with a teaspoon of the water until pale and fluffy, for about 2 minutes with a fork. Set aside.

2. Sift the flour and salt together into a mound on a work surface.

3. Scatter the diced butter over the top of the flour. Quickly toss the butter in the flour so it's all coated. Then using your pastry cutter or bench scraper, cut the butter till you have a  flour mixture with some small and some slightly larger pea sized bits of butter. Work quickly but decisively. If you feel your butter going soft, try refrigerating the entire mixture in the metal bowl covered for sometime till the butter is cold again.

4. Gather the flour mixture into a mound and make a well in the center.

5. Pour the egg mixture and the rest of the water into the well. Working quickly, incorporate the wet ingredients into the flour, first with your fingertips then with a bench scraper until just mixed but not brought together.

6. Gently gather dough together into a rough ball between your palms. If it stays together, it is sufficiently moist. If it doesn't stay together, add a teaspoon more water and repeat the process.

7. Using the palm of your hand, push away from you to smear the dough across the work surface, gather it up and repeat until it comes together into a smooth, soft ball. ( I smeared the dough in parts smearing each part only once gently) You aren't kneading, you are using the smearing action to bind the elements of the dough without developing the gluten in the flour. The dough ball shouldn't spring back when pressed. 
At this point, I have wrapped the dough in cling film and refrigerated it overnight.( At this stage, you can freeze the pastry in smaller portions as needed, wrap really well in plastic wrap and put in a freezer safe container, thaw still wrapped in the fridge over night before proceeding) After resting the dough, place it on the counter for sometime if its not malleable enough to roll. This may take upto 1/2 an hour if its cold, keep checking now and then. If it gets too soft or starts oozing butter when you roll, cover and put it back in the fridge to firm up sufficiently again, about 10 minutes.

8. Lightly grease a 6 or 8 small holed muffin tin, mine is hardly 1/3 cup capacity. Lightly flour your work surface. Do not do this next to your hot oven or gas stove as it will make the butter melt. Using gentle pressure, roll the dough out to about 3mm thick circle Excessive pressure while rolling will make the flaky layers disappear! Cut into five or six  3'' circles (according to the size of the hole) with a sharp round cookie cutter. Press the circles gently into the muffin holes, prick all over the bottom with a fork. Use the scraps to roll out 2 more. Cover airtight and refrigerate for about 1 hour or more.

9. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees C / 350 degrees F. Place the muffin tin in the oven straight out of the refrigerator. Bake for about 18-20 minutes or till light golden and crisp. Err on the side of over baking, but do not burn or let them turn dark golden. The baking time depends on the thickness of the crust. Let cool slightly. Gently remove the shells and cool on a rack completely.

You can at this point, store them in an air tight box for 2 days, though I find them best the day they are baked.
For the pastry cream : I have used pastry cream and whipped cream in the ratio of  2:1. Alter it to your preference. Or simply fill the tarts with chilled pastry cream.
Whipped cream, fairly stiff, but not very stiff - 1/2 cup ( I have used sweetened) Please read note.
Julia Child's Pastry cream recipe from Smitten Kitchen

Whole milk - 1 cup / 240 ml
Seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Egg yolks - 54 grams / 3 large
Granulated sugar - 1/4 cup
All-purpose flour  - 24 grams - 3 tablespoons
Unsalted butter - 15 grams / 1 tablespoon (another 15 grams for a more luxurious cream)

  • Suspend a fine meshed strainer over a medium sized heat proof bowl. Set this near your stove. Have a spatula ready nearby.
  • In a small saucepan, combine your milk and vanilla bean flecks (if using extract instead, don’t add it yet). Heat the milk and vanilla bean till just before the boiling point. Turn off the heat.
  • In the bottom of a heavy saucepan, off the heat, beat or whisk your egg yolks and 1/4 cup sugar.  Whisk in the flour until fully incorporated. (recipe directs to whisk till it forms ribbons, I have simply whisked)
  • Whisking the whole time, drizzle the hot vanilla-milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture, just a tiny bit at a time at first. Once you’ve added about 1/4 of the milk, you can add the rest in a thin stream, whisking constantly.
  • Bring the saucepan to your stove and heat it over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until it begins to bubble. Once bubbling, whisk it for 1 to 2 more minutes, then remove it from the heat. Immediately stir in vanilla extract (if using) and butter until combined. Press through the strainer.
  • To cool your custard quickly, place the saucepan in a larger bowl of ice water that will go halfway up the sides of the saucepan (i.e. water should not spill in) and stir the custard till its cool. Press press wrap to the surface, chill till needed. You could refrigerate this for upto 3 days.
  • Gently fold in the whipped cream into the cooled pastry cream. Keep this covered and chilled until serving time.
  •  Just before serving (a minute before I mean) fill in the tart shells, garnish as you like it. Serve immediately!

Please note : I had made the pastry cream already with only 2 tablespoons of flour as I did not want it very thick ( I was wrong of course). If using the cream for lightening with whipped cream, I will add 3 tablespoons next time. Since I have used sweetened whipping cream, the result was a tiny bit on the sweeter side. Will use a tablespoon less in the pastry cream next time. If using unsweetened heavy cream, sweeten it to taste, keeping in mind the sugar in the pastry cream.

I have also whipped the cream to the just soft peak stage (wrong again!), and then folded it into the less thick pastry cream which is why its a little runny. Do whip the cream to slightly stiff peaks and use the 3 tbsp flour in the pastry cream.

Though I am not a raving fan of pastry cream, I loved it with the whipped cream folded in, giving it a lovely, rich, vanilla flavor and texture. I shall be using it again as it actually made me eat a couple of buttery tartlets! As for the pastry, use your favorite sweet pastry crust. Chocolate pie crust will work great too, will add orange zest to the pastry cream in this case. Or may be coffee! This recipe is just an idea.

One the side, Cakes And More crossed a million visitors! Thanks so much for your encouragement, for helping me get here!


Unknown said...

Looks soo fresh with the fruits ...want to grab one .

Rajani said...

Your patience and attention to detail really shines through in this post, so many pointers along the way, and a whole gamut of helpful tips.
Don't know if I'll have the patience to go through this recipe, but hey, I can drool over the pics right?

cookingwithsapana said...

Tartlets looks gorgeous !

Hamaree Rasoi said...

Delicious and mouthwatering looking preparation. Excellent preparation.

Resh said...

Lovely and awesome link it to my ongoing event at:

Corporate to Kitchen said...

Tartlets look so cute & gorgeous. Ilove that creamy filling in it.