Sometimes you need a quick solution for dessert. Perhaps you are having guests for dinner and a bowl of ice cream isn’t enough. I have just the thing for you today… puff pastry. I used pre-made dough right from the freezer section. It may seem like a super shortcut, but it shaves a load of time off and the results are quite tasty.
You will get an opportunity to exercise your culinary muscles, however. Today we are covering pastry cream. It, or a variation of it, can be used in many desserts. It is great between layers of cakes. This sturdy, basic version would also be good for doughnuts, éclairs, and cream puffs.
Because I find that plain pastry cream sometimes lacks character, I added a little flavor to this one. I was wandering around the produce section in search of “in season” fruit to top my dessert when I came upon the kumquats. I had not eaten these in years. I had already chosen blackberries and I knew right away that the contrast between these two would be perfect. I don’t always get it right, but today I did.
Kumquats have a flavor that is bright and obviously citrusy. They are tart, but less tart than a lemon. They are sweet, but less sweet than an orange. They are tiny and delicious and make the prettiest garnish. You may have to check a specialty supermarket or produce market for these depending on where you live.
You can make the cream in advance and store in the refrigerator. When you are ready, bake the pastry shells, fill them, and top with the fruit of your choice. It is a very easy treat that will have your guests singing your praises. Try it and do let me know what you do for variations.
savour… sensible shortcuts.
Puff Pastry with Blackberries & Kumquat Crème
Before you start:
Make sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions on the puff pastry if you have not used it before. You may need to know the thaw time and bake time to plan appropriately.
You must pour the hot milk into the egg S L O W L Y. If you go too fast, the result will be sweet scrambled eggs.
Have the ingredients for the crème ready in advance. This is one of those recipes where heat and stirring dance dangerously together. The last thing you need is to be hunting for the vanilla or your whisk when things start to heat up.
Speaking of stirring, you must stir constantly almost from the beginning to avoid lumps. Some people will put the crème through a strainer. This is not a bad idea, but if properly stirred it should not be necessary.
Frozen Puff Pastry (we will cover making pastry dough in another post)
Blackberries (I used 2 for each, but you can change that as desired)
Kumquats (6 juiced for the pastry crème; the rest for garnish)
Pastry crème (recipe follows)
- Thaw and roll out the pastry dough using the manufacturer’s directions.
- Cut dough with circle cutter (I used four circles for each pastry).
- Leave one circle intact, but cut a smaller inside circle in each of the other 3 discs.
- Stack the discs on top of each other to form a little nest (you may have to press down just a little to seal).
- Fill the newly formed pocket with some dried beans to weigh down the bottom.
- Bake according to box instructions.
- When cooled, remove beans.
- Fill with pastry crème.
- Garnish with fruit and a sprig of mint
- Store in airtight container in refrigerator.
Basic pastry crème
2 cups milk
1/4 cup granulated sugar plus 1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 whole egg
2 egg yolks
¼ cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons butter
¾ teaspoon vanilla
- Put milk and ¼ cup of sugar in saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat.
- In another bowl, whisk together egg and yolks (I use stand mixer).
- Add 1/3 cup sugar and cornstarch. Whisk until smooth.
- When milk mixture comes to boil pour in a slow steady stream into egg mixture with the mixer running.
- Return liquid to the saucepan and slowly bring to a boil.
- Stir constantly.
- When the liquid comes to boil and thickens, remove it from the heat and add in vanilla and butter. This is where you would add in any extra flavor. For today, I added the juice of 6 kumquats. It is not that much liquid. They are tiny.
- Immediately cover with plastic wrap against the surface so a “skin” does not form.
- Chill completely in refrigerator before utilizing.