Diplomat Cream
There is no better filling for a strawberry tart than Diplomat Cream (or Crème à Diplomate) as my French pastry chef colleague, Gilles Lavergne, called it. He is the one who first put me on to this combination and I've been using it ever since. The slight tartness of the whipped crème fraîche that is folded into the Diplomat Cream is the perfect balance——a pair made in heaven——to the sweet strawberries. Diplomat Cream is like a pastry cream with two additions: a little gelatin, which gives enough firmness to the cream to keep the berries from sinking, and the whipped crème fraîche. You can use Diplomat Cream for any purpose where you would use pastry cream.
NOTE: This recipe yields a large quantity of Diplomat Cream, suitable for large tarts. For a smaller version that yields half the quantity, see Strawberry Tarts with Diplomat Cream.

YIELD: ABOUT 1200g (2# 10 oz)

  • 500 grams milk (2 cups + 1 Tablespoon)
  • 2 vanilla bean, split & seeded
  • 225 grams sugar (1 cup + 2 Tablespoon)

  • 80 grams egg yolks (4 large)
  • 50 grams bleached AP flour (1/3 cup)

  • 10 grams gelatin sheets (4 sheets)
  • - Or: 10g Knox powdered gelatin (1 Tablespoon) softened in 30g cold water (2 Tabllespoons)
  • - If using gelatin sheets, soften for 10 minutes in enough cold water to submerge the sheets, then drain and squeeze out excess water and discard.
  • - If using powdered gelatin, both the gelatin and cold water go into the recipe.
  • - For both sheets or powder, after softening, melt in microwave 30 seconds on high power.

  • 450 grams chilled crème fraîche (2 - 8 oz containers)
  • 50 grams heavy cream (3 Tablespoons)
  • 5 grams vanilla extract (1 teaspoon)

  • 1370 grams = Total 48 oz (3#)

  1. BRING milk to a simmer with vanilla bean (split and seeded) pod and seeds, along with half the sugar, using a large sauce pan or small Dutch oven. Cover, remove from heat, and let steep 30 minutes.
  2. WHIP yolks on high speed in a Kitchen Aid, with whisk, until slightly thickened, about 4 minutes. MIX other half of sugar with the flour and beat into yolks for 1 minute.
  3. REMOVE vanilla pod from the milk and whisk the milk vigorously to disperse the vanilla bean seeds. Temper hot milk into the beating egg yolks until combined. .
  4. RETURN to pan and cook until pastry cream comes to a boil, whisking constantly. Continue to boil and whisk, about 3 minutes, to cook the flour. Remove from heat.
  5. SOFTEN gelatin in cold water. Drain and squeeze out excess water. Melt in microwave 30 seconds at full power and whisk into the hot pastry cream.
  6. PASS through a tamis (or fine mesh strainer) into a bowl large enough to hold both the pastry cream and the whipped crème fraîche.
  7. COOL to room temperature over an ice bath, stirring often. Keep plastic wrap pressed on surface of pastry cream to prevent skin from forming when not stirring. The pastry cream will be very stiff at this stage, until the whipped crème fraîche is folded in; then the consistency will be just about right.
  8. WHIP crème fraîche and heavy cream to soft peaks with vanilla while pastry cream is cooling, REFRIGERATE until needed.
  9. WHISK the pastry cream vigorously before folding in the whipped crème fraîche, to make sure it is completely smooth and lump-free.
  10. WHISK ⅓ of the crème fraîche into the cool pastry cream, then fold in the balance.
  11. KEEP REFRIGERATED and use within one week, or freeze for longer storage.
Recipe Ancestry Notes:
Recipe adapted from an original recipe given to me by Gilles Lavergne: 5/20/99.