The order was for my three different fillings: lemon, vanilla bean pastry cream with berries, and pecan-chocolate. I used the same crust for all three from my cookbook, The Modern Baker. All of them turned out really nicely (Well, ok, that's not entirely true; the only hiccup was that I had to re-make my vanilla bean pastry cream. The first recipe I used was B-A-D.)
The whole experience took me back to my days living in France, when the highlight of my week was going to the bakery on the corner and buying a tarte au citron. I completely fell in love with the French way of making pastries, and while I'm certainly no expert, I have such a respect for the method. There was this one boulangerie in particular in Nancy, where I lived, that had the best lemon tarts in the city. I would make a trip across town on foot just for one of those tarts.
It's the little things in life, I guess. For me, happiness is a french-style mini tart. Period.
Vanilla bean pastry cream (adapted from a recipe by Ina Garten)
6 extra large egg yolks (at room temperature)
3/4 cup sugar
3 Tbsp cornstarch
2 cups milk
1 vanilla bean, the insides scraped out
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 Tbsp heavy cream
Using a mixer, beat the egg yolks and sugar on medium-high speed for about 3 minutes, until the mixture is lightened in color. On low speed, beat in the cornstarch.
Scrape the vanilla bean into the milk and bring the milk to a simmer in a large saucepan.
With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour the milk into the egg mixture (temper it by pouring only a little bit at first, and then pour in the rest of the milk). Pour the entire mixture back into the saucepan.
Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon, until the mixture is thick, about 10 minutes. Bring to a boil and cook on low heat for about 3 more minutes. Mixture should be smooth.
Remove from heat. Mix in butter, vanilla extract and cream. Strain into a bowl using a wire mesh strainer. Place plastic wrap directly on the custard surface and refrigerate until cold.