If you’ve enjoyed French pastries before, chances are you’ve enjoyed crème pâtissière, a.k.a. pastry cream. Once you know how to make a classic pastry cream, you can make delicious French pastries like éclairs and profiteroles.
Pastry Cream (Crème Pâtissière)
Pastry cream is a simple creation made up of milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, cornstarch, and flour. Basically, you’ve got a handful of your basic fridge and pantry ingredients.
Because pastry cream is used as a filling for many French pastries, it’s an excellent recipe to learn and add to your recipe box.
Pastry cream should be creamy, thick, and smooth. In order to obtain this texture and consistency, it’s important to properly combine your ingredients.
The egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch are all mixed with each other until pale and smooth. When the milk is streamed in, the milk should be hot and should be added in gradually.
The gradual addition of the milk ensures that the eggs are tempered first. Tempering just means that you bring the temperature of the eggs up to the temperature of the milk.
This is key to getting a smooth pastry cream rather than scrambled eggs.
Once the egg mixture and milk mixture are combined, the two are whisked quickly in a saucepan over heat, just until it begins to thicken and slightly bubble.
Whisking quickly and acting quickly is how you prevent the pastry cream from burning or obtaining clumps you cannot whisk away.
Another tip I have is to clean your saucepan before you add the entire cream back into the pot. So, after you’ve gradually whisked in the hot milk into the egg batter, temporarily let them be as you quickly rinse your saucepan under running water and then dry the saucepan.
This helps in case any of your milk formed a filmy layer at the bottom of your pot; you won’t have to worry about this layer combining with the batter later to form clumps.
The Perfect Filling
This pastry cream recipe is a dream for tarts, cakes, and delicate pastries like éclairs. The pastry cream will pipe out nicely with a pastry bag, whether you use a plain pastry tip, star tip, or any other kind of fancy tip.
The cream will hold its shape inside your pastries, so you won’t have to worry about it oozing out and making a mess.
While classic pastry cream is flavored with vanilla, you can also flavor this with other ingredients like lavender or almond.
Pastry Cream (Crème Pâtissière)
A smooth and creamy filling for a variety of French desserts, including tarts, pastries, and cakes. Makes 2 1/2 cups.
- 2 cups whole milk (473 ml)
- 3 eggs
- 1 yolk
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar (132 grams)
- 1/4 cup flour (31 grams)
- 1/4 cup cornstarch (32 grams)
- 1/8 tsp salt (.71 grams)
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste (or 2 tsp vanilla extract - about 8 grams)
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the granulated sugar. Add in the flour, cornstarch, and salt, and whisk everything to combine. Whisk until the mixture is thick and appears to be a paler yellow than before.
In a large saucepan, heat the milk until hot, but not simmering or boiling. Pour about 1/4 cup of the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking vigorously as you do. Add another 1/4 cup of hot milk and again whisk vigorously to combine. Gradually stream in the rest of the hot milk, whisking the egg mixture the entire time. Temporarily set this aside; rinse the saucepan under running water to get it clean again then dry the pan with a paper towel.
Pour the entire mixture back into the saucepan and whisk over medium-low heat just until the mixture begins to thicken into a pudding-like consistency and appears to bubble.
Add the vanilla into the mixture and whisk to combine. If your cream has any lumps in it, just keep whisking vigorously to smooth them out. If there are any stubborn lumps, you can force the cream through a sieve to separate the clumps from the pastry cream.
Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and place a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the cream. Refrigerate the pastry cream until chilled. When ready to use, whisk the cream to loosen it up and pipe into your desired dessert.
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