Pastry cream is the unsung hero of the dessert world. You may know it best as the filling in your cream puff, the "cream" in a Boston Cream pie, or the "pudding" in banana cream pie. It's especially worshiped by French pastry chefs; I challenge you to order something from a pâtisserie that doesn't contain it. Simply put, pastry cream makes good desserts better with its creamy, oozy richness, by adding flavor and smooth texture to anything it touches.
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As a kid, I spent much of my summer vacation on Long Island, at my great grandma Ruth's house. Grandma was a domestic queen. Dinner was planned, prepped, and on the stove by noon, and then she'd set about concocting something sweet. My favorite days were when she decided it was time to make a plate of cream puffs. I remember looking on as she stood in her floral print housedress next to her 1940's stove, stirring up a thick paste of butter, flour, and water. After it was dropped by sticky spoonfuls onto the pan, it would magically transform in the oven into crisp and airy puffs.
This Pastry Cream and Fresh Fruit Tart from Miette bakery in San Francisco is a dessert that will serve you well throughout many summers worth of fruits. The basic formula for this fruit topped tart begins with a rich Pâte Sucrée, a buttery pastry that lies somewhere in between pie crust and shortbread. Pressed into a fluted tart pan, the pâte sucrée is baked, cooled, and spread with custardy vanilla Pastry Cream, chilled again and finished with whichever summer fruit you please.
It's pretty safe to assume that most of us have had an éclair or two at some point in our lives, whether it was at a Parisian pâtisserie or at a corner bakery. But how many of you have attempted to make a batch of these chocolate topped, cream filled pastries at home?