Strawberry and Vanilla Tart
Serves: 8-10
For the puff pastry tart shell:
  • 500g (or 1 pound and 1 ounce) frozen, store-bought (or home-made) puff pastry
  • flour for dusting
  • egg wash (optional)
  • 1 egg white
  • 50g (or ⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon) powdered sugar
For the filling:
  • 480ml (or 2 cups) whole milk
  • ¾ vanilla bean
  • 80g (or ⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon) granulated sugar
  • 40g (or ¼ cup + 1 tablespoon) custard powder or cornstarch
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 20g (or 5 teaspoons) granulated sugar
  • enough gelatin to set 250ml of liquid
  • 200ml (or ¾ cup + 4 teaspoons) heavy whipping cream
  • 500g (or about 1 pound) small strawberries, washed and hulled
  • powdered sugar for dusting
Start with the shell:
  1. Preheat your oven to 220°C/430°F (standard oven setting). Thaw frozen puff pastry according to the directions on the package.
  2. NOTE: mind that store-bought puff pastry comes in a lot of different shapes or sizes, so take a good look at the pastry you want to use for this recipe before you start rolling it into shape. If it's cut into little squares or rectangles, this may save you a lot of rolling.
  3. Dust your countertop and rolling pin with flour and roll half of the pastry into a 30cmx24cm (or 12-inchx9-inch) rectangle. The pastry should be about 3mm (one-tenth of an inch) thick. Place the rectangle on a baking sheet.
  4. NOTE: if your puff pastry comes in small squares like mine did, simply place the desired amount of squares on your countertop, making sure they slightly overlap each other, and roll the seams down with your rolling pin.
  5. Roll out the remaining pastry until it's about 3mm (one-tenth of an inch) thick. Using a sharp knife, cut straight 1,5-cm (half-inch) strips. Gently press and stack the pastry slices along the edges of the rectangular pastry sheet, until each edge is stacked with 4 extra layers of pastry.
  6. NOTE: if your pastry is less sticky than mine, you may want to use a bit of egg wash (one egg and a tbsp of water mixed together) to stick the pastry sheets together.
  7. Prick the base of the pastry shell with a fork. You literally want fork pricks covering the entire center of the shell as this will prevent the center to rise in the oven while the edges puff up. Bake the pastry shell for 11 minutes, then take it out of the oven. Brush the entire top of the pastry shell (center and edges) with egg white and dust with powdered sugar. Bake for an additional 4 minutes or until golden brown and caramelized. Take out of the oven and leave to cool to room temperature.
In the meantime, make the filling:
  1. Combine the milk, the vanilla bean and 80g of sugar in a small saucepan. In a small bowl, stir together the custard powder (or cornstarch) with a little splash of milk. It should turn into a smooth paste. Add a little more milk to make it fairly liquid. Add the yolks and 20g of sugar and whisk until frothy and well combined. Over low heat, gently heat the milk mixture until scalding.
  2. Take the milk off the heat and drizzle it into the cornstarch and egg mixture, whisking constantly. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and gently heat over medium-high heat, stirring continuously with a rubber spatula, until the mixture thickens into pastry cream. Transfer the hot pastry cream to a heatproof bowl, press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming and leave to cool to room temperature.
  3. Once both the pastry cream and pastry shell have come to room temperature, soften the gelatin according to the manufacturer's instructions. If you're using sheet gelatin like I did, this means soaking it in cold water for 10 minutes. Pour a splash of cream into a clean saucepan (cover the bottom) and whip the remaining cream to soft peaks. Gently heat the splash of cream until it's hot to the touch. Take it off the heat and add the gelatin (if you're using sheet gelatin, squeeze out the excess water first). Stir until the gelatin has completely dissolved.
  4. NOTE: if the gelatin doesn't dissolve properly, carefully heat the mixture over low heat until it does.
  5. Mix together the pastry cream and the gelatin-cream mixture. Once combined, fold in the whipped cream with a rubber spatula. You now have Crème Suisse! Pour the crème Suisse into the cooled pastry shell and place in the fridge to set for at least 3 hours.
  6. Decorate as desired with fresh strawberries and powdered sugar. This tart is best enjoyed as soon as the crème Suisse has set!
Recipe by The Tough Cookie at