This Post Contains Spoilers From The Wise Man’s Fear
This strawberry pastry recipe was inspired by a scene from chapter sixty-six of The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss. When I was on my second readthrough of The Kingkiller Chronicle, I was excited to see the food descriptions at the end of this very plot-heavy chapter. As a reminder for fans of the series, the dinner scene is important because it cements the theory that Kvothe’s mother was actually a Lackless - and that Kvothe himself is sitting next to his aunt but doesn’t know it.
There are several well-described foods served during the dinner scene: an unappetizing sweet soup, pheasant with thick cream sauce, and “chilled fruit pastries.” The conversation sours when Meluan, unaware of Kvothe’s ethnicity, expresses some pretty extreme racism towards the Edema Ruh. Meluan’s rant is interrupted when the “chilled fruit pastries” are served.
Kvothe describes Meluan’s aggressive tearing of her strawberry pastry with well-groomed nails. While most traditional strawberry tarts are shortbread, the fact that this custard-filled variant could be torn made me picture a softer, flatter pastry - when writing my own recipe based on the description, I settled on using all-butter puff pastry for accuracy.
These pastries are light, fluffy, and crisp around the edges. The pastry shells are filled with strawberry jam, and homemade brown sugar pastry cream. I decorate the top of the chilled fruit pastries with freshly sliced strawberries coated in honey.
- 4 large egg yolks
- ½ cup light brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
- 4 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 cup whole milk
- 2 teaspoon vanilla
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and cut into small pieces
- 1 17.3 ounce box defrosted puff pastry
- 1 cup strawberry jam, warmed
- 1 egg yolk + 1 tablespoon cold water, whisked together
- Coarse demerara sugar
- Honey (optional)
- Strawberries for decorating
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, brown sugar, and salt - stir in the cornstarch. In a medium-sized pot, heat the milk over medium heat. Temper the egg mixture by slowly whisking in a small amount of the hot milk.
Slowly whisk the tempered egg mixture into the remaining hot milk. Keep whisking until the mixture thickens for about five minutes. If the cream isn’t thickening, increase the heat a bit. The pastry cream is ready when it's slightly thicker than pudding. Once thick, remove from heat and stir in both the vanilla and softened butter - whisk out any remaining lumps. Strain the pastry cream into a clean medium-sized bowl using a fine mesh strainer or sieve.
Immediately cover the surface of the pastry cream with plastic wrap. Make sure to press down on the plastic wrap so it’s touching the whole surface of the pastry cream. This prevents skins from forming on the pastry cream. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
After the custard is finished cooling, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Counter thaw the puff pastry for about 30 minutes (don’t allow the pastry to get too warm because it will shrink when baking). Line two half sheet pans with parchment paper. Prepare the thawed puff pastry by laying it out flat on a clean cutting board. Cut the puff pastry into 12 evenly sized rectangles.
Place 6 rectangles on each half sheet pan. Using a sharp knife, score around the edges of each rectangle of puff pastry - leaving a several centimeter border. Brush each pastry rectangle with the prepared egg wash and generously sprinkle with demerara sugar - focusing on the border. Bake the pastries in batches for 14 minutes. While the first batch is baking, place the second in the refrigerator to keep the pastry cool.
Remove from the oven, and using a sharp knife carefully cut through the score marks that surround the center rectangle. You want the center of the pastry to collapse while it’s still soft and warm. Transfer each pastry with a depressed center to a wire rack to completely cool. Repeat the process with the second batch.
Once cooled, heat the strawberry jam in a small saucepan over low heat. Spoon several tablespoons of warm jam into each pastry divot - allow to cool for 20 minutes. Slice the strawberries and coat them with honey (optional) - set aside. Using a piping bag with a star tip, pipe the pastry cream in small dots on top of the jam filled divot. Decorate with the honey covered strawberries.
Note: Assemble as close to serving as possible. Pastry cream will separate when warm.