15-26: Strawberry Pastries

Still working my way through the backlog–we’re up to Easter with 15-26: Strawberry Pastries. Strawberries start to creep up everywhere in the springtime, and this dessert dish is a pretty classic use of them. ?

This recipe suggests using vanilla custard, but I’ve seen other similar recipes use fillings like Bavarian cream or crème fraîche. This is essentially a fancier version of strawberry shortcake (which often uses whipped cream), so I suppose it’s all dependent on how heavy or light you’d like to go with it. ?

Some Simply Delicious recipes go the simple route and have you use instant pudding in place of making real custard. Others, like this one, actually have you make the custard yourself.

I suppose that allows for varying levels of difficulty within one category–not everyone has experience making custards and pastry creams, especially at a home cook, subscription-based cookbook level.

Ingredients. Did you notice that the dish on the puff pastry box looks a LOT like what this one is supposed to come out like?

I’ve been working with alternative meats and dairy for a while now with this project, and I had intended to test something with this recipe that I read elsewhere online: the use of COLD coconut cream as a substitute for whipping cream.

I’m not sure if puff pastry was packaged differently in the 1980s, or if they just had a different configuration in mind, but if I were to roll and cut these sheets into 4 even pieces, they’d be huge. Instead, I chose not to roll (mostly due to laziness) and used the existing trifold creases to cut them into 12 pieces instead. I’d rather have smaller pieces than larger ones anyway.

I used a silicone baking mat instead of waxed paper, mostly to reduce waste. I so rarely get to use my sifter, so I capitalized on a chance to do so.

Slicing my strawberries. Working Sunday brunches for a year made me a an adept strawberry slicer.

Rinsing off the sliced strawberries.

I unfolded the vanilla bean (there was only one in that little box), split it in half down the middle, and tossed it in a saucepan to prepare it for soaking. It’s quite an interesting-looking ingredient.

Soaking the vanilla bean in the half-and-half. All those little blackish specks are why you split the vanilla bean–that’s what comes out from the inside and gives the mixture the vanilla flavor. Adding real vanilla is a big part of making crème anglaise, to which this custard is extremely similar.

Adding the hot half-and-half to the egg and sugar mixture.

I waited until I was mostly done with the custard to put the pastry pieces into the oven. Custard takes a lot of attention, and I didn’t want to worry about either one burning due to neglect.

Baked puff pastry–it definitely puffed. I feel like splitting these pieces would have been more effective (and maybe that’s what I was supposed to do), but I left them intact since it never explicitly says to split them after baking.

Attempting to whip cold coconut cream. It never really held the right texture, and I knew that would instantly break the custard. I had to come up with a plan B…

…which ended up being to use store-bought non-dairy whipped topping as a substitute instead. I had picked this up and stashed it in the freezer when we went shopping for this recipe–I had a feeling it might be needed.

As I mentioned earlier, this recipe was made for Easter, which was celebrated at someone else’s house this year. Therefore, I prepared everything for traveling and created the final dish on site.

Final plate. Not quite as fancy as the ones on the puff pastry box, but it tasted pretty good. It’s tough to mess up pastry, cream, and strawberries.

Grade: A