Saturday, July 19, 2008

Why I'm Not a Vegan: A Recipe for Pastry Cream

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"Tell Ja-zeen that she really should make vegan things.  Because all this butter and dairy. . . it's not right and it's not healthy."

There's a damn fine reason that I'm always in the back baking and rarely up front at the counter with the customers.  I'd have whipped off my wooden soled clog and chucked it at that nitwit's head.  Because I hear something like this, someone butchering my name and proselytizing, and I'm ready to throw down.

I've got nothing but love for the vegans.  Really.  Walking such an ardent and thoughtful path is a beautiful thing.  My mom, she lived much of her life a dedicated vegan.  She even went above and beyond:  growing her own organic produce, running marathons, using only holistic beauty products.  And then she died of colon cancer.  Oh.  Before she died but after she was diagnosed, she went on an epic bender.  She ate everything:  dairy, meat, a couple filet-o-fishes. Because she was pissed.  She'd denied herself for so many years.


Personally, I believe deeply in the need for the humane treatment of our farm animals.  I don't think there's any good reason for factory farming.  But don't walk into my shop, a clearly marked pastry establishment built on kindness, dairy and eggs, and pontificate on the evils of my trade.  I might suggest taking a trip to France instead.  They invented the cream and butter logged benchmarks of pastry:  eclairs, napoleons, palmiers.  They'd LOVE to listen to your admonishments.  Better yet, take a trip to Tibet and protest their exuberant use of Yak butter in everything from candles to cooking.

So dear sir with the bean curd stick up your butt, perhaps you should change your approach from that of arrogance to  that of respect.  Because all animals, farm and human, deserve as much.  Who knows, you may even convert me.

In the meantime, here's a French pastry staple.  Pastry Cream.  And please do use free-range and organic dairy and eggs.  Happy animals make for happy pastries.

PASTRY CREAM




If you make pastry, you must make pastry cream.  Thin it for sauce, use it as the base of soufflé, lighten it with whipped cream for a fruit tart or napoleon filling.  It's a requirement in the pastry kitchen.  I use cornstarch to stabilize the eggs, so there's little danger of overheating but you still have to whisk constantly to avoid burning or lumping the custard.

INGREDIENTS

1 pint whole milk

1/2 vanilla bean seeds scraped out, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ounce cornstarch

3 ounces granulated sugar

2 eggs

2 ounces unsalted butter

-in a mixing bowl, combine eggs, cornstarch, vanilla beans & extract and sugar and whip on high with the whisk attachment until light and fluffy.

-in the meantime, bring your milk to a boil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.

-turn the mixer to low and slowly add the boiling milk.  Whisk on high until fully incorporated and then transfer the whole mess back to the saucepan and return to the burner.

-place over medium heat and whisk briskly and constantly until the mixture boils and thickens. Take from heat, add butter and whisk until it's completely incorporated.

-pour the custard in a bowl and immediately place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the cream to prevent a skin from forming.  Allow to cool before using.
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