Now I know there is something terribly Margot Leadbetter about a vol-u-vent. I mean they truly went out of fashion in about 1979 but thrashed about a bit into the 80s (mainly in our house where mum used to fill them with raspberry jam or lemon curd and we'd have competitions to see who could get the most vol-u-vents in their mouth at the same time without choking or snorting jam and pastry all over the table. Don't judge). But they are just so flippin handy. What's not to like about a mini pastry shell that cooks in 15 minutes and sits there waiting to be filled with all manner of things?
I'm sure there are people in this world sneering at the very thought of a shop-bought vol-u-vent but frankly I'm here to declare my undying love for them. Especially when they're filled with creme patissiere and summer berries.
If you wanted to be totally lazy (which is of course totally acceptable) don't bother with the creme pat and just use a tin of custard instead. The filling will be slightly runnier, but it'll still taste good.
I've always wanted to make creme patissiere, mainly because everyone has such a tizzy about it on the bake off and I wanted to see if it's really that hard. And I don't think it is. But then I had a recipe to follow and only the children to judge me and they were too busy stealing berries to bother about how my custard was looking.
To make your own little summer berry tarts you will need:
Vol-u-vent cases (in the freezer aisle - although so maligned are they that it took three trips to different supermarkets to find them - Morrisons came up trumps.) I used 18 cases but had creme pat left over so you could probably do 24. 4 egg yolks 100g caster sugar 25g plain flour 1 vanilla pod, split 350ml whole milk Strawberries Blueberries Raspberries Apricot jam (optional)
Makes up to 24 mini tarts
Bake your vol-u-vents as per the packet instructions. I brushed mine with milk before baking.
Meanwhile make your creme patissiere. (I'm still not brave enough to take pictures while making a custard - so do use your imagination). Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until pale and thick. Sift over the flour and stir in well.
Heat the milk and the vanilla pod in a sauce pan over the medium heat until it just starts to boil. Remove the vanilla pod. I then pour the milk into a jug to make it easy to pour and wash out the pan so it's ready for the custard.
Whisking all the time pour the warm milk onto the egg and sugar mixture. When it's well mixed tip it back into the pan and bring to the boil over a medium heat. Stir constantly. I prefer to use a whisk to stop lumps. Keep stirring until the custard thickens. You probably won't see the custard boil because you'll be constantly stirring, but when it hits boiling point it does suddenly start to thicken up.
If you think it's going lumpy take it off the heat and whisk like mad until it's smooth again. It needs to be a spoonable texture. It thickens a little more as it cools.
I sieved mine into a bowl just to be on the safe side and then covered it with cling film and left it to cool. You must put the cling film right on top of the custard to stop a skin forming.
Once your vol-u-vents are out of the oven leave them to cool and then push down the disc in the centre of each little tart shell. Then simply fill with cooled creme pat and top with artfully arranged berries. If you have children who are creative and mildly patient they might like to put the fruit on for you.
If you want to be really fancy, at this point you can heat up some apricot jam and a splash of water in a sauce pan and brush it over the fruit and the tart shells. I'll be honest and say I could only be bothered to do half of mine because it's a bit fiddly, but it does look lovely and adds a nice sweetness to the berries.