Blackberry and Pastry Cream Parfaits: the secret to romantic picnic success

Despite the mixed signals from Mother Nature, summer has arrived in sunny California and Middle Name Silly and I are feeling the heat!

When a delightfully breezy day came upon us yesterday, we packed up some chilled goodies - ravioli salad, pink lemonade, and farm-fresh cherries, oh my! - and put the pedal to the metal to a shady spot at our favorite local park.

Then - oops! - I totally forgot cups for the lemonade. Thank the bottled drink gods for straws.

Middle Name Silly was also thankful for these blackberry pastry cream parfaits I snuck into the picnic basket and later pulled out with a flourish.

Go ahead - knock someone's summer flip flops off with sexy, silky parfaits in fancy-pants glasses! ♥

Fresh Berry and Pastry Cream Parfaits (makes 2 parfaits)
1 cup fresh blackberries or berries of your choice, rinsed and lightly patted dry
1 cup Pastry Cream (recipe below)

Drop a few berries in the bottom of two pretty clear glass dishes. Spread a few spoonfuls of the pastry cream on top of the berries. Repeat layers as desired and top with a few more berries. Grab a well-deserving companion and indulge in the creamy goodness! ♥

A couple uses for leftover pastry cream (such a shame!):
♥ PIE! 'Nuff said.
♥ Nix the frosting and pile the pastry cream between layers of cake.
♥ A rich dip for strawberries.
♥ A filling for late-night-snack-cookie-sandwiches. Shh, no one has to know!

Pastry Cream (recipe adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours) - makes about 2 cups

2 cups whole milk
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits at room temperature

♥ Helpful tip: Dorie starts out her recipe by heating the milk to a boil in a small saucepan. However unless your saucepan has a handy pour spout, things can get messy pretty quickly. My solution? Pour the milk into a glass liquid measuring cup and pop it in the microwave for 1 minute, and then in 30 second intervals until the milk is steaming hot. You'll have more control when pouring, and your pastry will come together even faster!
While the milk is heating, sift the cornstarch into the sugar and whisk in the egg yolks in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan until the mixture is thick and well-blended. Still whisking, drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk - this will temper (warm) the yolks so they won’t curdle. While continuously whisking, slowly pour in the rest of the milk. Place the pan over medium to medium-low heat and, whisking constantly an thoroughly (making sure to get into the edges of the pan), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil - still whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes until the mixture suddenly thickens, then remove the pan from the heat.
Whisk in the vanilla extract and let sit for 5 minutes. Then whisk in the bits of butter, stirring until they are fully incorporated and the pastry cream is smooth and silky. Scrape the cream into a bowl and press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface of the cream to create an airtight seal - this prevents the dreaded "skin" from forming. Refrigerate for about 2 hours or until cold.
Alternately, you can cool the cream quickly by placing the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and stirring occasionally until chilled.

♥ This pastry cream can be kept tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.


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