Doing it my way: Strawberry and Pastry Cream Puffs

Strawberry and pastry cream puffs

Strawberry and pastry cream puffs

I have a set of rules I try to live by every day. One of them is never to judge others and stay away from judgmental people as much as I try to avoid contagious diseases.

I like to live my life the way I please without having my choices as a person, woman or mother judged by anyone. By the same token, I don’t judge anyone and I think that  anyone should be allowed to do or say whatever they want as long as everything happens in a polite and respectful way. I don’t think there is always one right way or answer when it comes to big themes of life such as marriage or parenthood: what works for me doesn’t necessarily work for others and vice versa, but that doesn’t mean that one way is better than the other one.

Today I’m once again sharing my experience and feelings with you about something that happened to me without any further agenda. Today it is just me being me.

As you know, I don’t have a sweet tooth but Her Majesty does. A big one! Since she was in kindergarten, she has been asking me to make cookies and cakes for school parties and home playdates. To be honest with you, I wasn’t that keen to do it, mainly because of the various food allergies that Her Majesty’s schoolmates and friends suffer from. God forbids any kid gets an allergic reaction to something I have made! Just the thought makes me hyperventilate! Anyway, one day I decided to put aside my anxiety and fears and make her happy. 

The cookies and cakes I make come from the most traditional Italian cuisine: they are made from very few basic ingredients and lots of fruit or jam. I’m not against the general concept of kids eating a treat. I just believe that some treats are healthier than others and I try not to let Her Majesty eat super-sugary and super-rich sweets. Less is more doesn’t work only in fashion!

False modesty aside, my food usually gets some pretty enthusiastic reactions and I had no reason to believe that it would be any different this time. To my huge disappointment, most of the kids simply ignored my treats and went for the more colorful, sprinkled, super-sweet and most of the times store-bought cakes and cookies.

Strawberry and pastry cream puffs

Strawberry and pastry cream puffs

What did I do as a result? Oh well, another mother – a better mother – would probably have found some sort of common ground by both changing the recipes of her treats to make them more appealing to the toddlers and trying to educate them to a healthier taste at the same time. The point is that I’m not that kind of mother. I’m the kind of mother that, on the night of the school open house, reading the letter that her daughter left for her mommy on her school desk noticed that her nine-year old daughter misspelled one word and wrote her back saying that she made a mistake, while her father watched the whole thing in disbelief, thinking about how many therapy sessions his daughter would need to go through in order to cope with a mother like that and overcome the trauma… 😉

So back to what I did. I quit! I decided I didn’t need the aggravation (and yes, my pride had been hurt!) and I stopped cooking for school parties and playdates altogether. Every time Her Majesty had a playdate, I made sure I had plenty of fruit so I could offer fruit shakes and fruit salads as a snack. And the Evil Queen kept dismissing the never ending requests of Her Majesty for her to change her mind and lived happily ever after! Or at least she thought so!

Recently things have started changing, mainly for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, Her Majesty and her girlfriends have been paying more attention to what they eat lately. They are reaching that age when they get more body-conscious because they see their body changing and they start realizing that the lucky time when they can eat whatever they want to without gaining an ounce of weight is unfortunately coming to an end. Mothers play a big role too. Her Majesty’s best friend is the only kid I know that doesn’t eat burgers. Her mother is a very well-educated woman and she had the intelligence to teach her daughter over the years how to eat healthy and how to eat everything (except burgers, that is!) in moderation.

Secondly, some of Her Majesty’s girlfriends have Italian ancestors and are fascinated by Italian lifestyle and customs. When they come over, they ask me if this or that is authentic Italian food and they are eager to taste the real thing.

Soooo, making a long story short, I’m still not volunteering for any school event, but I’m willing to make treats for playdates when Her Majesty begs me to!

For our last playdate, the begging had been going on and on for over two weeks and, taken by exhaustion, I yielded!

Her Majesty adores pastry cream, so I decided to make these very simple and yet delicious puffs: puff pastry, vanilla pastry cream, fresh strawberries, some powder sugar, a bit of your time and… voila’! Les jeux sont faits! Can’t get any better than this! 😉

Strawberry and pastry cream puffs

Strawberry and pastry cream puffs

Ingredients:

2 sheets, frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 lb box of strawberries
3 Cups, whole milk
3 Tbsp, sugar
2 yolks
4 Tbsp, flour
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 vanilla bean
Powdered sugar for dusting

Directions:

Wash the strawberries under running water and let them dry completely. Slice the strawberries and put them aside.

Lay the sheets of pastry on a floured surface. If there is any crack in the pastry, press together to seal and roll over the sealed part so that you have a smooth sheet.

Cut each pastry sheet into rectangles of the same size. Put some parchment paper on a baking sheet, place the pastry rectangles on the parchment paper and bake them according to the directions on the puff pastry box. When ready, remove the pastry rectangles from the oven and let them cool completely.

In the meanwhile, in a small pot, pour the milk and add the lemon zest. Cut the quarter vanilla bean in half lengthwise. With the help of a knife, gently scrape the seeds out of the bean and add the seeds to the milk.

Start warming the milk on a very low heat. In a bowl, whisk the egg and the sugar. Add the flour and whisk until you obtain a smooth mixture.

When the milk is hot, remove it from the stove and, with the help of a colander, filter the milk in order to eliminate the lemon zest. Put the milk back on the stove on a very low heat, add the egg mixture to the milk and keep whisking for 10/15 minutes or until you obtain a smooth cream.

Take one pastry rectangle, place some pastry cream on top of it and add the strawberry slices on top of the pastry cream, placing them into two adjacent rows. Take another pastry rectangle and put it on top of the strawberries. Dust with some powdered sugar. Repeat the same process for the rest of the pastry rectangles.

As I said: easy peasy lemon squeezy! 😉

Have a wonderful week!

F. Xx

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0 thoughts on “Doing it my way: Strawberry and Pastry Cream Puffs

  1. Marisa @missmarzipan.com

    Great job, mama! It’s so hard to navigate the world of young ones and their foodie whims! I used to make something similar to this (not quite as pretty) with homemade lemon curd, store bought puff and fresh strawberries. It was a favourite… but I will need to wait for summer to roll around again to do it justice 😀

    1. Francesca Post author

      Thank you, MM! I think as parents we try to do our best and make the right choices. Does we always succeed? Of course, not! It’s called being a human being! The most important thing is to learn from our experiences and treasure them.
      I’m sure your lemon curd is to die for! 🙂

  2. White House Red Door

    Terrific post and so true! Please know you are not alone! One year my middle guy asked for macaroni and cheese for his birthday dinner. Before my mind could even begin to form the shopping list… hmm, should I use gruyere or cheddar, must remember to save fresh breadcrumbs, etc. He quickly followed up the initial request with, “the orange kind, from the box.” I was crushed. But there is light at the end of the tunnel! Happy to say that as the kids have gotten older, they are appreciating the homemade dishes more- and telling me so. 🙂

    1. Francesca Post author

      Thank you so much for the support! I have been through the “mac&cheese trauma” too. This dish does not belong to the Italian culinary tradition so I had to work and experiment a little bit before announcing that I was ready to serve my own version. Her Majesty took a bite and told me that she liked “the one from the purple box, the box with the white bunny” way better! 🙁
      Of course I reacted like a little girl: end of discussion and end of mac&cheese. I don’t even remember the last time we had it. I truly think Her Majesty is more mature than I. 😉

  3. Gather and Graze

    Gorgeous post Francesca… this is my kind of dessert/treat! I would devour you’re home-baked treats without a second thought to anything shop bought that may have been on the table. I think it was probably an age thing for the kids and them being simply dazzled by the bright food colouring and sugary sprinkles added! As they get older, they’ll realise what good food really is and you’ll be in favour once more… I can guarantee it! M.xx

  4. Fae's Twist & Tango

    Everything is beautiful and tasty about this strawberry pastry cream puffs. Life is so difficult for the youths these days. They have so much stress and pier pressure to go through than our time. You are a talented good Mom, and Your Majesty knows it too. 🙂

    1. Francesca Post author

      Thank you for your kind words, dear Fae!
      I agree with you: my life as a kid was much easier than Her Majesty’s. Nowadays, they have so little time to relax and just enjoy being kids with not a care in the world!

  5. Heather @ Sweet Precision

    Oh Francesca, I can completely understand how you feel! It’s always such a disappointment when you make something for an event and people don’t really eat that much. However, I have no doubt that your sugar cookies and crostata were delicious! Sounds like Her Majesty was in for a treat with the cream puffs that you made. As always, you make your dishes sound completely appetizing and effortless at the same time 🙂

    1. Francesca Post author

      Thank you, sweet Heather! Yes, it can be very frustrating but if there is something I learned in these past years is that, when it comes to kids, you never know. They are totally unpredictable and never stop surprising you.
      Having said that, my feelings were really hurt and I reacted like a six-year old. So, so typical of me! 😉

  6. Mary

    How can anyone not love this special treat – wow Francesca it’s looks incredible and I’ll bet tastes just as great as it looks. Her Majesty must be quite pleased by the Queens’ efforts. I know that one day Her Majesty will be able to look back at these tender years of her youth and realize what an incredible Mom she has.

    1. Francesca Post author

      Nothing – I think – with the burger itself. However, when you add cheese and bacon and sauces and French fries … let’s be honest … delicious but not the healthiest meal around! Still my family and I really enjoy it once in a while! 😜

  7. Antonia

    Francesca, I can completely understand your frustration in the past! I love your compromise here on a sweet indulgence. I think this is beautifully balanced, and looks a amazing 🙂

  8. Gabi Coatsworth

    I think I gained two lbs just reading about these things! I tried to make a cake today (one I used to make with absolutely no problem in England, and it was a disaster. (Tasted OK but was about 1/4″ thick…). And here you are, making it look so easy. Oh well, back to the recipe book.

  9. StefanGourmet

    Her majesty and her friends are very lucky they have you to make them such a great treat. (It also looks great thanks to Stefano’s beautiful photography!) It is a shame they are too young to have a glass of Moscato d’Asti with this 😉 I like the idea of adding lemon zest to pastry cream — it freshens it up but I had never heard of it before.

    1. Francesca Post author

      I agree with you! They’ll have to wait a few years to complement it with the right drink! 😉
      Yes, the lemon zest is a nice touch and I’m glad you like the idea of it!
      I’ll pass on your kind compliment to Stefano! 🙂

  10. thesinglegourmetandtraveller

    How could anyone refuse those! So appealing and appetising. I did laugh at your post … I remember when my kids were young and trying to keep to your own values but not making them too different from their friends. I think I probably did (but it’s so long ago I don’t really remember) do fairly traditional party food (though hopefully nothing too awful) but we always ate good ‘proper’ food and sat together at meal times (no TV or computers allowed!) and they grew up to appreciate it and become good cooks themselves.

  11. apuginthekitchen

    You crack me up Francesca, my feelings would be hurt also, what did you make? Little ones will usually pick the sprinkled sugary foods as a general rule of thumb. Your lovely pastries were well appreciated as well they should be, simple and beautiful and delicious Mai oui, it certainly does not get better than this.