Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Strawberry cream flans: for Wimbledon watching

This year, I'm watching every single minute of Wimbledon... all day every day for two weeks, with no obligations to work, play or interact with society in any way whatsoever. It's bliss. I didn't get tickets in the ballot to get into the courts (and nor did any of the people I "helped" by sending them forms for it, on the understanding that I would be their plus one!) so I've mastered the Red Button, printed off the draws and gone full geek from the sofa.

So how have I managed to cook and blog, I hear you say... Well, fortunately, I can angle the telly towards the kitchen, so this wimbledon-themed recipe was researched, cooked and eaten whilst watching the tennis though the hatch (which is why every kitchen needs a hatch). Strawberries were an obvious choice, and Audrey Ellis's Cookery for All Seasons from 1977 has a full page spread of strawberry flans: a sweet sponge base topped with thick crême patissiere and luscious ripe strawberries - perfect! And 1977 was the last time we won a ladies singles title - a good omen?

I've always wondered how to make crême patissiere, or "creme pat" as they call it on the Great British Bake Off. All the contestants seem to be able to whip up a batch from memory, something which I can only do for chocolate cake and pancakes (from years of near constant practice). The recipe in this book was very heavy on the sugar compared to some other versions, so I reduced it by about a third. It also only uses plain flour where others use a mix of plain flour and cornflour; using cornflour will make a thicker creme pat if you want to pipe it somewhere or it needs to hold its shape, like in the middle of a vanilla slice. And the optional butter adds a a little gloss to the final cream - I've suggested some other optional extras at the end of e recipe for when you've nailed the basics. It's not hard to make a good creme pat, but there is a technique to it.

Many strawberry tart/flan/pie recipes use either a ready-made flan base or a pastry base (ready-made or otherwise). I chose this recipe because I wanted to make my own sponge base, although I did fill the spare holes in the muffin tray with a couple of shortcrust pastry cases. The original recipe makes double the amount below and suggests cutting the sponge in half to make two flans. I can never make that work, and also, who am I going to feed two flans to?! So I just halved the ingredients and made individual flans by baking them in a muffin (or Yorkshire pudding) tin rather than a fluted flan tin.

(Makes 10-12 individual flans)

250-300g strawberries 

Flan base
2 large egg yolks
65g icing sugar, sifted
125g self raising flour
65g butter, melted
1 large egg white

Pastry cream / crême patissiere
2 egg yolks
25g plain flour (or half and half plain flour and cornflour)
50g caster sugar
250ml whole milk
2-3 drops vanilla extract
A knob of butter (optional)


1. To make the flan bases, beat the 2 egg yolks with the sifted icing sugar until pale and thick, then fold in the flour and melted butter. Beat the egg white until stiff and fold into the mixture.

2. Add a tablespoon of the mix to each hole of a greased, 12-hole muffin tin and flatten the surface with a palette knife. If there are any spare holes you could fill them with pastry cases (add baking beans and blind bake).

3. Bake at 160C (fan) for 15 minutes until they spring back when pressed. Cool in the tin, then on a wire rack.

4. To make the creme pat, beat the egg yolks, sugar and flour together. Heat the milk and vanilla extract until starting to boil, then slowly pour over the mixture with the whisk going. Continue beating until combined then return the mixture to the pan. 

5. Heat gently and stir constantly - it will thicken quickly. Don't worry if you get lumps, just keep whisking and they'll soon go. When the cream is smooth and as thick as custard, remove from the heat and whisk in the butter if using. Dust with icing sugar to prevent a skin forming and cool.

6. To assemble the flans, slice the top off a sponge base and press down the soft middle with the back of a spoon. Add a tablespoon of creme pat and top with hulled, halved strawberries.

Enjoy with a cup of tea (pre 6pm) or glass of prosecco (post 6pm). Come on Tim! I mean Go Andy/Jo/Kyle/Heather/Aljaz/Katie! 

Crem pat optional extras:

- add some orange or lemon zest and a squirt of juice to sharpen the taste
- add a tablespoon of cocoa powder with the flour, or melt chocolate into the milk, for chocolate creme pat
- add a teaspoon of instant coffee powder to the hot milk
- add a shot of liqueur such as Amaretto, Cointreau, rum or brandy for a sophisticated dinner party twist.

1 comment:

  1. Your flans look so summery and I adore homemade creme pat! Thanks for linking up to #TreatPetite