I know, they’re beautiful, right? I’m calling these little things French custards, but they’re really Creme Patisseries. It’s essentially just pastry cream, but it’s delicious. I think really it’s a dessert in it’s own right. Why hide it as a filling- it’s perfection on it’s own with some fresh fruit.
That’s probably not what most folks would do with it… but I’m a loner, Dottie. A rebel. Most people fill cakes or cupcakes or eclairs with it, or Napoleons maybe. But why not just fill up a little dish with it and top with fruit?
I can’t think of a reason. I mean, it’s usually the creamy part of a fruit tart anyway. Just cut out the middle man!
It’s also very simple to make, which is why I made these look extra fancy with some fruit and mint leaves.
See, I grow strawberries. And the strawberries that I grow are a very very old kind that was first grown in gardens in the 12th century. They’re known as Alpine strawberries. And not only are they a very old variety, but they’re quite unique. The ones pictured here are fully grown at just 3/4″ long. That’s right- they do not become those giant monstrosities you see in the supermarket. These are a “wild” berry, they do not send off runners either, they stay bushy and compact and adorable.
They also have a unique flavor; as ReneesGarden.com says:
[…] berries with an intensely concentrated flavor I can only describe as truly ambrosial. [And] their aroma and flavor are unmatched as garden berries.
And as written on this website:
Order strawberries in a deluxe Parisian restaurant and you’re likely to be served berries that are very small, very expensive, and also very delicious. Such fruits are not merely scaled-down or poorly grown versions of regular strawberries, but a completely different species—the near-wild alpine strawberry, Fragaria vesca.
They’re fancy little things, huh? The taste is described as “pineapple, rose or floral” and they’re a much sought after berry. Probably because they give off very few berries each summer, and they’re so small. Given that there’s not much to do with a few beautiful, rare little berries, I decided to use them as the focal point of a dessert. Or at least the topping.
CREME PATISSERIE OR PASTRY CREAM (from Pretty Simple Sweet)
- 3 large egg yolks
- 5 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 1/4 cups whole milk
- 1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeded, or 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar just until pale yellow and creamy, then whisk in cornstarch and flour. Set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, heat milk and vanilla on medium heat just to a boil. Remove from heat and remove vanilla bean. Gradually pour the hot milk into the egg mixture while simultaneously whisking constantly until smooth.
- Transfer mixture back into saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly and vigorously so that the eggs won’t curdle, until mixture thickens. Remove from heat and transfer to a medium heatproof bowl or pudding cups. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pudding to prevent it from creating a ‘skin’. Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until chilled. Creme patissiere can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 3 days. It does not freeze well. Whisk before using to get rid of any lumps.
- If desired, decorate each cup when well chilled with fruits or mint leaves, or a sprinkling of cocoa powder. Or, spoon it into a pastry bag and use it to fill a tart shell, cake, cupcakes, eclairs or cream puffs.
I used thinly sliced nectarines, mint leaves, and those little Alpine strawberries to decorate these. I also put them in Brioche tins/molds to firm up in the fridge. Once I decorated them, I put them back in the fridge until right before I served them. You can use just about anything to decorate them or to flavor them with; raspberries come to mind as well as blackberries. And maybe a sprinkle of powdered sugar or a dollop of fresh whipped cream, too.
You can add lemon zest or alcohol like rum, Grand Marnier or Kirsch to it as well. And fresh jams or jellies make a great layering addition to it.
You could also do this same idea, but press some no-bake graham cracker crust into the bottom of each. Or use pre-baked pie crust pieces or cookies to make a “crust” if desired.
It doesn’t really need it though.