r_vanillapastrycream_jf07

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2 cups whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split half lengthwise (or tablespoon pure vanilla extract)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
6 egg yolks
4 tablespoons flour or corn starch
3 sheets puff pastry (available already made in grocery freezers)
ripe mango, peaches, raspberries, or strawberries, or any combination of each, thinly sliced

Bring milk with vanilla bean or vanilla extract to a boil. Set aside and keep hot.

With a wire whisk or mixer on medium speed, beat the sugar and egg yolks together until the mixture whitens and forms a ribbon (mix right away being careful not to burn the yolks by letting the sugar sit on them).

Gently stir in flour or corn starch.

Strain out vanilla bean, and pour the hot milk into the egg mixture, beating or mixing all the while. Pour the mixture back into the sauce pan and bring to a boil again, stirring constantly with a wire whisk so that the mixture doesnÕt stick to the bottom of the saucepan. Boil for one minute, stirring vigorously so to cook the cornstarch or flour and thicken the cream. Pour the cream into a bowl and lightly rub the surface with a lump of butter to keep a skin from forming as it cools.

This is not a dessert that can be assembled in advance. You can make the sheets of puff pastry and cream ahead, but you need to assemble it no more than two or three hours before you serve it.

Bake puff pastry until a bit more than golden brown. When the sheets are cooled and the cream is cooled, make a three-layer cake, lining each pastry layer with cream and fruit winding up with a layer of pastry on top. (I like mango and raspberry together best.)

Dust the top pastry layer with confectioner sugar before you are ready to serve, or drizzle melted white chocolate in an abstract fashion. Cut into rectangles or squares with a serrated knife. Serve with raspberry puree or just plain.

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