Easter dinner is at our house this year so I'm needing a dry run of my 2 desserts. Yesterday's dry run was the Strawberry Rhubarb tartletts. The rhubarb in my garden is going CRAZY with our unusually wet spring, so I'm going with it!
About 6 firm, juicy stalks were harvested, washed and chopped into approx 1/4 inch thicknesses. Into my heavy bottomed sauce pan on medium high. Bubble, bubble but it's NOT toil, nor trouble!
Now we add to the saucepan; a dozen or so fresh strawberries and a half cup of packed dark brown sugar, 1 T. good vanilla (mine is from Trader Joe's-inexpensive and high quality) and 1 t. cinnamon. This pot of yumminess cooks together for about 10 minutes or more, depending on how chunky you like your sauce. *PREHEAT oven to 425 degrees on convection bake (or regular bake).
I like mine chunky so that you can still see the individual fruit pieces. At this point, taste with spoon and possibly add a touch more sugar if the strawberries didn't add enough to balance the rhubarb's natural tartness. Every palate has different "tart" tolerances, so know your audience:) This sauce can be made in advance and kept chilled in fridge.
The pastry creme is a new venture for me and wanted to use as many local items as possible. (This was a less firm creme than some prefer, so if firmer is desired, please add 3 egg yolks to the 9 and cut the milk to 1 1/2 cups from the 2 cups and creme to half cup from the 1 cup). Pictured are Nash's eggs, key limes and ginger bought from their store, Trader Joe's Bourbon Vanilla, Sunny Farms Fresh unsalted butter and Dungeness Valley Creamery milk.
I separated 6 eggs from their whites. Notice how amazingly orange the yolks are!! This is a direct result of naturally fed chickens and worth the extra time to find and possibly extra cost. (Save the whites, they can be used for a meringue, an omelet, making marshmallows, any number of things.)
Using my rasp or micro plane, I grated the Tablespoon fresh ginger to add to the egg yolks. This tool is SOOOO handy for zesting citrus, grating hard cheeses, whole nutmeg or chocolate. It's a top 5 tools in my kitchen!
Into a medium/large bowl I whisked the 6 egg yolks, 1 T fresh grated ginger, 1/2 c. fine sugar, 1 T. vanilla and the juice from 1 Key Lime. The Key limes look like a small green golf ball and have thin, fragrant skins, are juicier and sweeter to me than most "regular" limes.
I transferred the rhubarb/strawberry sauce into another bowl, washed the saucepan and added 2 cups whole milk and 1 cup half and half on medium heat until steam began rising and bubbles formed on surface-approximately 5 minutes. *This next step is SUPER critical* We "temper the eggs", add warm/hot liquid to eggs so that they don't cook but emulsify to thicken the mixture.Take a ladle of the warm milk and slowly add while whisking constantly into the egg yolks. Then we add the warmed yolks into the warm saucepan of milk, also while whisking constantly.
Cook and whisk for about 8-10 minutes, until mixture thickens. Pour pastry creme into glass bowl to not impart any flavors and cover with clear plastic wrap DIRECTLY on pastry creme's surface. This application doesn't allow a skin to form on the creme's surface-it's a good thing, you'll not want to waste a drop! Into the refrigerator it goes if you're making the pastry creme ahead of time or the freezer if you're needing to jump start the chilling process.
This is a previously frozen sheet of puff pastry from Trader Joe's made with butter, not shortening. The box comes with 2 sheets, easily stored in my freezer and isn't expensive-trifecta!!! The sheet is still VERY cold and we need to work quickly so that the dough stays cold prior to baking.
The sheet of puff pastry is cut into 4 equal pieces on a cutting board with a sharp paring knife. Each piece then gets cut diagonally toward center but leaving some space uncut in the middle for the filling.
The chilled pastry creme is then spooned onto the prepared squares. 1Tablespoon is applied to uncut center and smoothed out to cover the uncut area.
The chilled strawberry/rhubarb sauce is then spooned on top of the pastry creme's silky foundation. About 2 Tablespoons or more if desired, it depends on the ratio of fruit to creme you prefer.
This next step looks tricky but it's not...it's another prime example of why puff pastry can make us cooks look like Rock Stars! Fold each of the cut puff pastry corners toward the fruit center. Brush the pastry using a pastry brush with milk, creme, half and half or the egg white for a shiny, toasty pastry surface. Notice that I've transferred the filled pastry to my baking sheet. I am using my FAVORITE Silpat mat and perforated Demarle baking sheet as it will crisps the pastry bottom better than a conventional baking sheet. Trust me!
The moist surface will now accept a light sprinkling of sugar-this is entirely optional and yet yields a pretty and sweet result! I'm using India Tree's Sparkling Sugar found at Sur La Table and many other sources of fine food products. Into middle rack of the blasting hot oven now for about 10 minutes or until the top of the pastry is a toasty dark brown!
Please try this recipe, let me know what you think and what inspired you. Here's to good food!