Learn from your pastry cream mistakes, or so they say

raspberry tartlet vanilla bean pastry cream

Mistakes are rough. Especially when you’re a perfectionist seeking overachiever, Type A-Virgo.  I get so flustered in the ‘moment’ of my mistake, I forget to pause, think and learn.  I’m way too busy lambasting myself for making the mistake in the first place. The costly ingredients I wasted, the scarce time I just blew through, the disappointed friends who’ll never know the true beauty that awaited them.

They say people who embrace mistakes are a rare breed.  Those that can, usually end up being successful entrepreneurs. Arthurian legend says, King Arthur wouldn’t even entertain someone joining his Knights of the Roundtable without the presence of a battle scar, the sting of a loss, and the tactical reflection that comes from it.

Hmm.  Guess I better start embracing my kitchen mistakes.

Pastry cream, I’ve made my peace with you.

My mistakes are straight out of my classic ‘mistake making’ repertoire: too busy, in a hurry and trying to do too many things at once. I try a new recipe; I don’t take the time to read through it. I just glance and see the word egg and assume I know what to do with it. Duh.

Well eggs can be complicated. And idiot here added egg whites to the pastry cream. Why does my pastry cream smell like cooked eggs, I wondered?  Weird. Why are cooked egg whites emerging from my cream base? Hmm.

Oh, that’s right dodo-bird, it said egg “yolks” not egg whites.  Brilliant.

My backyard garden produced the first seasonal berry delights of the summer: raspberries.

miette san francisco pastry shop cookbook

Thumbing through my latest cookbook purchase from local San Francisco Miette Bakery, I stumbled upon a beautiful raspberry fruit tart recipe. Sold, done, on it.

Well eventually I made a lovely tart, with a rich and creamy vanilla bean pastry cream.  It all worked out in the end.  And this time, I paused to critique the difference between a yolk only pastry cream and one tainted with egg whites. Lesson learned.

raspberry tartlet vanilla bean pastry cream miette san francisco

Recipe from Miette Bakery, San Francisco

Pate Sucree Tart Shell


3 1/3 cups (16 ounces) all-purpose flour

1/4 cup (2 ounces) evaporated cane juice sugar

1/2 tsp. fine grain sea salt

1 cup (8 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cubed

2 large egg yolks

4 to 8 tablespoons heavy cream


In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds. Add the butter and beat until the mixture is the consistency of cornmeal about 5 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and 2 tablespoons of the cream. Add to the flour mixture and mix until just combined. If the dough does not come together into large chunks, slowly add the remaining cream, a little bit at a time, until it does. Gather the dough into a ball, pat it into a disk, and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and unwrap. Dive the dough to make the portions you need and again pat gently into disks. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out each dough disk into a round 1/4 inch thick about 1 inch greater in diameter than the pan you are using (8 inches for a 7-inch pan; 4 inches for 3 1/2-inch tartlet pans). Drape the rolled-out dough into the tart pan(s), gently pushing into the bottom edges and against the pan sides to make a strong and straight shell.  Trim the edges flush with the rim of the pan(s) using a sharp knife, or roll the rolling pin over the edges to cute off the excess dough. Prick all over the bottom with the tines of a fork and place in the freezer to firm up for 30 minutes. (To store unbaked, wrap the dough ball tightly in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 2 months, or line the tart shell(s) with the dough as desired, cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 3 days. Thaw the frozen dough ball in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours before rolling and shaping. Bake lined and frozen shells straight out of the freezer.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

To partially pre-bake, the tart shell(s), bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes.

Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before filling and proceeding with the recipe. Store fully baked shells, wrapped tightly in plastic, at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Pastry Cream


2 cups whole milk

1/2 whole vanilla bean

7 large egg yolks

1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) evaporated cane juice sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature


Pour the milk into a medium pot. Use a sharp knife to split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the milk. Put the pod in the milk as well. Heat the milk until almost boiling (bubbles will begin to form at the edges). Cover and let steep for 1 hour if time permits, otherwise, proceed as directed.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch until smooth. Set the bowl on a kitchen towel or nonskid surface and whisk the egg mixture while pouring about 1/2 cup of the hot milk into the mixture to temper. Gradually pour in the rest of the milk, whisking constantly. Pour the contents of the bowl into the pan and set over medium-low heat.

Cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and comes to a slow boil, about 2 minutes. Immediately strain the cream through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean container. Discard the vanilla bean or wash and reuse it. Let the pastry cream cool to room temperature, 10 minutes. then whisk the butter. You want the butter to be incorporated without being melted.

Cover pastry cream with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic directly on the surface of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until well chilled, at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.

Once tart shell has cooled and pastry cream is finished chilling, fill tart shells with pastry cream and top with your freshest and finest berries. Bon Appetit.

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