Mix together 3/4 cup sugar with 5 egg yolks and work up the mixture with a spoon until it is creamy and light-colored. Add 1/3 cup flour, mixing it in but not working it after it is combined. Add gradually 2 cups milk that has been scalded with a piece of vanilla bean and stir until well combined. Turn the mixture into a saucepan and cook, stirring vigorously, until it comes back to the boiling point. Boil for 2 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean, strain the crème, and let it cool, stirring occasionally to prevent a crust from forming.
All the surplus strawberries are made into preserves in France. They are popular and used in many ways in desserts. Wherever you see “au confiture” it means that the dish is made in some way with preserves or served with them. Crêpes, beignets, fruit dishes, all can make use of strawberry preserves. In fact, preserved strawberries decorate more fruit desserts than do the maraschino cherries that are used so extensively here. This recipe for making the preserves is, as you will see, a little different from the method employed by most Americans. Its advantage is that the berries are not cooked so much over the heat, and we believe this prevents the best of the flavor of the fruit from being cooked away. Another advantage is that the berries will not float on the top of the liquid part of the preserves but will be distributed evenly through the mixture.
Strawberry Preserves (Confiture de Fraises)
Use 1/2 pound sugar for each pound strawberries. Clean the berries, remove the hulls, and let them drain well. Put the sugar in a preserving kettle and add just enough water to dissolve it when brought to the boil. Cook until a little syrup dropped in cold water forms a soft ball (238° on a sugar thermometer). Add the berries and put the saucepan where the berries will remain hot but not cook. Leave for about 10 minutes, skimming the top if necessary. Remove the berries with a skimmer and put in a bowl. Cook down the syrup to the soft-ball (238°) stage again, add the berries to it, and let them stand in a hot place for 15 minutes. Remove the berries again and cook the syrup down again. Add the berries and cook until the juice falls in thick, clinging drops from the side of a spoon. Let this cool for 24 hours before filling sterilized glasses.
We make an old-fashioned strawberry shortcake which is very delicious. But I won't guarantee it is the same as that served at strawberry festivals in the small towns of America. Ours is rich and light.
Sift together 2 cups flour, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 3 teaspoons baking powder. Using the hands, mix in 1/2 cup butter. Add 2 beaten eggs mixed with 1/2 cup milk. Mix all together but do not work the dough. Let stand for about 20 minutes. Roll the dough about 1 1/2 inches thick into a circle about 7 1/2 inches in diameter, put it on a baking sheet, and let stand for 10 minutes. Bake in a hot oven (425° F.) for 15 to 20 minutes. Split the cake in two. Clean the berries, cut in pieces, and sprinkle with sugar and a little lemon juice. Put a piece of the cake on a serving plate, put some strawberries on the lower piece, fit on the top piece, and put more berries on top. Decorate with whipped cream.
Strawberry Shortcake à la Ritz
Cut a sponge cake in two layers. Clean the strawberries, cut in pieces, and sprinkle with sugar and a little lemon juice. Let them marinate for a few minutes, then mix with whipped cream. Put the berry-and-cream mixture between the two layers of the cake and decorate the top with whipped cream and whole strawberries.