Slightly softened fruits, hidden under a light creamy vanilla-scented blanket… This how I imagined a strawberry gratin and at first it seemed an easy task. I made a quick research on internet, found a reliable-looking recipe and… a disaster. Then, another recipe and another inedible, mushy result. Then I decided to find my own method, turning to foolproof basics. I quartered the fruits, covered them in pastry cream (crème pâtissière), baked for 15 minutes and this obvious, straightforward solution worked perfectly. If you like strawberries and pastry cream in fruit tarts, you will probably enjoy them in this warm, light gratin.
This dessert is an excellent way to use up leftover egg yolks. If you start with whole eggs, click here to browse some egg white using ideas.
If you don’t like the idea of a warm strawberry dessert, you might like this Yogurt Strawberry Mousse I have recently wrote about:
TIPS: I strongly advice to serve this dessert warm (not hot). When it cools down, it somehow loses its charm.
Vanilla is not necessary here, but in my opinion it enhances the strawberry taste.
You can prepare this dessert in two stages (in two days). First make the pastry cream, refrigerate it overnight (well covered) and, if you still have some cream left the following day , prepare the final stage just before serving.
Unless you have health problems which forbid you even its smallest intake, do not skip the butter in the pastry cream! Even if you are on a diet. This is only one tablespoon divided into six portions, but it changes the taste and texture a lot. (The worst thing you could do here though would be substituting butter with margarine…).
Special equipment: 6 x 9 cm/3,5 in shallow round baking dishes (or similarly sized baking dishes)
Ingredients (serves 6):
24 big strawberries
(6 tablespoons almond slivers)
Pastry cream (crème pâtissière, based on Pierre Hermé’s recipe (from “Plaisirs sucrés”), the best I have ever found):
250 ml (about 1 cup) milk
2 tablespoons corn starch
2 heaped tablespoons caster sugar
1/2 – 1 vanilla pod
2 egg yolks
1 heaped tablespoon butter
Prepare the pastry cream.
Bring to boil 3/4 of the milk with the vanilla pod cut in two lengthwise.
Put aside and let it cool down.
Scrape off the two vanilla pieces so that the small vanilla grains stay in the milk.
Combine the yolks, the sugar, the corn starch and the remaining 1/4 cold milk.
Strain the warm vanilla milk, constantly stirring, into the yolks mixture.
Discard the vanilla pod (wash it, dry it thoroughly and put into a confectioner’s sugar jar: you’ll have vanilla scented sugar).
Put back the obtained mixture into the pan and constantly stirring bring to boil.
Put aside when it thickens to the cream consistency.
If the cream is not smooth and you see many lumps, mix it in a blender or rub through a sieve.
When the cream is no longer hot, but still very warm, combine it with butter.
Preheat the oven to 200°C (about 400°F).
Prepare 6 individual baking dishes.
Quarter the big strawberries and distribute equally among the dishes. (If the strawberries are small you can halve them or even leave whole).
Spread the pastry cream equally on the top of each dish, sprinkle with almond slivers and bake for 15 minutes (until the almonds start changing colour).
(You can sprinkle the gratins with some brown sugar and burn it with a torch just before serving, but make sure you don’t burn the almonds).