I got my Miette book in the mail yesterday, and I stayed up late reading it from cover to cover. I have never been much for fondant or over-coloured icings. I value farm eggs, good quality butter, and I could drink liters of cream if you let me. I feel like I have found a kindred spirit in Meg Ray (and her Miette bakeries).
Miette prides themselves on using wholesome, organic (when possible) ingredients that are as locally sourced as possible and sustainably produced. Meg writes about finding seasonal inspiration at the Farmer’s Market, and it is obvious that Miette’s pastries are simple and made from wholesome ingredients that showcase their natural flavours. I also love that it is chock full of recipes and uses valuable page space to write tips and anecdotes about the recipes. It’s not aimed for a very beginner because it doesn’t explain every technique step-by-step (rightfully so, it’s not a textbook), but it definitely simple enough for the home baker to use.
Today was a rough day, despite it being beautiful out. I fear that I am catching my mother’s cold. How could I not? I was home last weekend sleeping in her bed because my visiting grandmother was in mine, and I’m sure if I had been on one of Ms. Frizzle’s magic school bus field trips with the ability to see bacteria and viruses, I would have been absolutely horrified.
I made the mistake of wearing capris to work today. Note to self: no matter how hot it is outside, air conditioning will always over-compensate, thus freezing any unexposed skin. Surely that didn’t help my sniffly state any either. Tomorrow: Pants. Maybe a parka.
I am a firm believer in making your own happiness, so I knew what to do as soon as I got home from work: I ate alphagetti on toast (okay, okay, it was actually Disney Princess pasta [whole wheat!]) and watched the first 20 minutes of Julie & Julia before marching down to my local meat market, practically running back with a liter of cream, and whipping out my new tart pans and Miette book.
The blueberries in my fridge are so sweet, and BC cherries are coming into season. The strawberries I have are okay; they’re from the grocery store, so they’re infinitely less juicy and succulent than market strawberries. In any case, pastry cream and a pâte sucrée can make anything better.
The pastry cream is heavenly. I may try it with a touch of cinnamon, because cinnamon makes everything better. You’ll notice the edges of the tart shells shrunk a little – I suspect this is because I skipped the freezer step, and because my pans are super super non stick. Nevertheless, the dough has a nice snap to it, and I have extras stored in my freezer for next time!
Pastry Cream, adapted from Miette
Makes about 1.5 cups
**be forewarned – even though the pastry cream smells heavenly and tastes absolutely delicious, do not eat it straight from the pot. It is much better to wait until the butter is in and it’s cooled so that it does not burn a hole through your tongue and the roof of your mouth. Not that I would know from experience, of course.
- 1 cup half and half (or whole milk…or cream…mmm)
- 1 tsp real vanilla extract (don’t cop out, you’ll thank me later)
- 3 egg yolks, preferably free range (they have a beautiful golden yellow shade)
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
- Heat the milk slowly on medium heat, until almost boiling (small bubbles). Remove from heat.
- In a bowl (big enough to pour the milk into…but don’t yet!), whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch until smooth. Set the bowl on a non-skid surface, like a tea towel, and whisk the egg mixture while pouring in half the hot milk (See? Good thing you waited!) in order to temper the eggs. Gradually pour in the rest of the milk, whisking constantly.
- Pour the mixture back in the pan, and cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly until it thickens and comes to a slow boil, about two minutes (Be patient – you may not think it’ll thicken and you may start to panic, but then magic happens and you can resume breathing). Don’t overcook the cream, because you still want it to be spreadable when it cools.
- Pour the cream into a clean container, and let it cool to room temperature, about 10 minutes.
- Whisk in the butter. The goal is to incorporate the butter without totally melting it.
- Cover the pastry cream with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap directly on the top of the cream so it doesn’t form a skin. Refrigerate until well chilled, at least an hour, and up to 3 days.
Enough for 10 4” tart pans
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed
- 2 large egg yolks
- 6-8 tbsp half-and-half (or, again, cream)
- Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt.
- Cut in the butter using a pastry cutter or 2 knives, until the dough resembles cornmeal and the butter is no bigger than a pea.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks at 4 tbsp of cream.
- Add to the flour mixture and mix until just combined. If the dough doesn’t come together, add the remaining cream 1 tbsp at a time until it does (you shouldn’t need more than 8 tbsp. Give it a little push all together too, otherwise it may just appear to still be crumbly.)
- Gather the dough into a ball, press into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Remove the dough from the fridge and unwrap. Divide the dough into the portions that you need (I made 5 4” tart shells using half of the dough). Roll out the disk until it is about ¼ inch thick and 1 inch wider in diameter than your tart pan. Drape the dough into the tart pan, press the dough into the pan and up against the sides of the pan, and (my favourite part) roll the rolling pin over the top of the shell to cut off the extra dough and make clean, straight edges.** Wrap any extra dough portions individually in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 3 days. Thaw for 3-4 hours before rolling and shaping). *** If you have more patience than I do, put your pastry shells in the freezer for 30 minutes to let it firm up.
- Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- For partially baked tart shells: bake until no longer translucent, 5-8 min. For fully baked shells: bake until golden brown, 12-15 min (for me).
- Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before filling. Store fully baked shells wrapped tightly in plastic at room temperature for up to 3 days.