If you could eat summer, the flavor would be fruit tarts. Crisp, sweet, buttery shortbread crust, filled with decadently cool and creamy vanilla bean French pastry cream, topped with fresh, sweet, tart berries. These are definitely up there at the top of favorite all-time desserts for me!
The filling is one of the most versitile things to know how to make. It is delicious injected into cupcakes, layered with cubes of cake and fruit for a trifle, or piped into eclair shells! It is a wonderful way to showcase the delicate flavor of a real vanilla bean, if you have never tried using one before!
1 vanilla bean
2 cups half and half (not ultra-pasteurized)
6 tablespoons sugar, divided
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 egg yolks
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Cut the vanilla bean on half lengthwise with a sharp paring knife. Use the blade to scrape out the seeds from inside. Add the seeds, half and half, salt, and 5 tablespoons of the sugar to a medium saucepan and turn the heat to medium. Stir frequently to dissolve the sugar. While the half and half mixture heats, whisk the egg yolks, remaining tablespoon of sugar, and cornstarch in a medium bowl until combined. As soon as the half and half begins to simmer around the edges of the pan, use a measuring cup to slowly drizzle 1/2 cup of the hot half and half into the egg yolk mixture, while whisking constantly. Then drizzle the egg yolk mixture into the saucepan while whisking constantly. The mixture will thicken quickly. Continue to whisk for 30 more seconds, then remove from the heat and whisk in the butter until melted. Pour the pastry cream through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pastry cream and chill 4 hours.