It's been so quiet for so long out here that I am not even sure how to begin this post. So, I'll get to the point straight away as to why I felt the need to put some space between me and this little blog of mine.
If you are a food blogger, you will probably understand what I have to say...or maybe it's just me. The food blogging world is relentless with its constant bombardment and preoccupation with the visual imagery of food that it tends to get a bit overwhelming. It felt so intense that somewhere, in the multitude of food blogs that I follow on various social media channels, it all got a bit pretentious and all-consuming and somewhere along the line, I stopped enjoying this space.
And as I tuned off, I became critical of my own blog, especially of my posts over the past one year. The photographs seemed over-exposed/under-exposed, too grainy and lacking in focus and composition. And as for the writing, barring a few posts, it all read as repetitive and a tad boring, if I may say so myself. It was clearly time for a time-out!
But, as I stayed away, I kind of missed this place. I missed the creativity it sparked in me. I missed the baking and the little stories I wove around them. And yes, I missed interacting with the people I've met through this blog, even if this blog can boast of all of five readers!!
This blog was never solely about the food. It was about the memories and stories that food evokes and about how food is the medium around which we create new memories. And somewhere in the social media onslaught, I lost touch with that.
That meant clearing out my social media to follow a smaller bunch of food blogs that I can relate to. And of course, getting back to this blog with a resolve of keeping it simple. Of course, the critic within me tells me that I need to still work on my photography and my writing, which I believe will always be an evolving challenge.
These should be the last few days of the strawberry season and to ease back into the blogging groove, I kept it simple with these strawberry tarts. The base is a regular short crust pastry that I filled with creme patissiere, which is just the French term for a thick and creamy custard. And, if making creme patissiere seems like too much cooking for you, which it is NOT, you can use whipped cream or even hung yoghurt if that's what your palate prefers.
The main focus are those fresh strawberries on top that I macerated with a wee bit of sugar. Recipes will suggest that you brush them with jam to make them glossy but these were so fresh that they needed nothing.
That buttery, flaky crust contrasts with that creamy, soft, chilled vanilla custard and then topped off with those fresh strawberries makes just the most delightful tea time treat for the weekend!
It's been a while but I hope life's been treating you well...xx!!
Makes two 4.5-inch tarts
For the Shortcrust Pastry
- 1 1/4 cup plain flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 tablespoon white sugar
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
- 1/8 to 1/4 cup ice water
For the Creme Patissiere
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons caster sugar
- 1/2 tablespoon plain flour
- 1/2 tablespoon cornflour
- 175 mls milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 100 gms strawberries, hulled and halved
- 2 tablespoons sugar
For the Creme Patissiere
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until they turn a pale gold colour. Whisk in the flour and cornflour and set aside.
- Place the milk and vanilla bean paste in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring to a gentle simmer, stirring frequently. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool for 30 seconds.
- Slowly pour half of the hot milk onto the egg mixture, whisking all the time, then return the mixture to the remaining milk in the pan. It is important to slowly pour the hot milk onto the cold eggs before you return the mixture to the pan to prevent the eggs from scrambling.
- Bring the mixture back to the boil and simmer for one minute, whisking continuously, or until smooth.
- Pour the cream into a clean bowl and dust with icing sugar to prevent a skin forming. Cool as quickly as possible, by sitting the bowl of pastry cream in another larger bowl of ice water. When cooled, refrigerate until needed.
For the Shortcrust Pastry
- Put the flour, salt, butter and sugar in a mixer and pulse until you get crumbs.
- Pour 1/8 cup water in a stream and mix until the dough comes together into a ball.
- Place the dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Pre-heat the oven to 170 deg C.
- After 30 minutes, take the chilled dough and roll it out on a lightly floured surface until 3-4 mm thick.
- Roll out the dough and fit into 4 1/2-inch tart pans with removable sides. Don't stretch the dough when placing it in the pans or it will shrink during baking. Cut off the excess by rolling the pin across the top of each pan.
- Line the tart shells with a piece of aluminum foil and fill them with dried beans or rice. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the beans and foil, prick the bottom of the shells all over with a fork, and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes until lightly browned. Set aside to cool.
- Mix the strawberries with sugar in a bowl and keep aside while the tarts are being baked.
- Before serving, fill the tart shells with the chilled pastry cream. Arrange the berries decoratively on top of the cream.