Making Pastry Cream is one of the first techniques taught to us in Pastry School. Also known as Cream Patissiere, it is a staple in the French pastry kitchen due to its versatility. It is similar to a custard in that you cook it on the stove and must be stirred constantly to ensure that the eggs will not curdle, resulting in small pieces of scrambled egg in the cream. That is why it is also best to strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve to ensure that there are no bits and lumps.
The basic recipe of pastry cream is always made from a mixture of milk, eggs, sugar, and flour. Once you know the method and proper technique on how to make it, there are numerous things you can use it for.
Where Can I Use Pastry Cream?
Though you can eat a spoonful of pastry cream, it is meant to be a base or as a filling. Popular pastries that use pastry cream are eclairs, cream puffs, boston cream cakes/cupcakes, napoleons and mille crepe cakes. You can also use it as a base for tarts and even mix it with whipped cream to make a lighter version of pastry cream. Aside from it’s creaminess and amazing richness, pastry cream is also a great vehicle for flavor – you can easily make variations by adding flavorings. Vanilla seems to be the most popular, but you can also you chocolate, liqueurs, or even fruit purees.
Making Pastry Cream – Step by Step
Note: If using vanilla extract, liqueur, chocolate, or any other flavorings, add them at this step. Stir until the flavoring has been evenly distributed.
Important Tips For A Successful Pastry Cream
- Always setup everything you need before you start. Be prepared for each step as you cannot stop to measure the next ingredient or search through your cupboards to find a sieve. Measure all ingredients and ready the tools and equipment that you need.
- Remember to keep whisking the pastry cream the entire time it is on the stove to avoid burning the bottom.
- Tempering the eggs is important. This technique not difficult, but requires you to take your time. The goal is to slowly bring up the temperature of the eggs without scrambling them. If you skip this process, the scalding liquid (in this case, milk) will cook the eggs. Instead of becoming smoothly incorporated into the liquid, the eggs will curdle, resulting to small pieces of cooked eggs.
- You might be surprised when you see that the cooled pastry cream does not look creamy at all. It will solidify a bit. Briefly whip it before using.
How to Make Pastry Cream (Creme Patissiere)
Though not meant to be eaten on it’s own, this versatile, decadent pastry cream is used to fill eclairs, cream puffs, cakes, mille crepe cakes and other French pastries.
- 500 grams milk (full fat or 2%)
- 20 grams butter
- 120 grams granulated white sugar
- 100 grams egg yolk (from about 5-6 large eggs)
- 40 grams all-purpose flour
- 6 grams pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste or 1/2 vanilla bean
HEAT THE MILK MIXTURE. In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, butter, and 1/4 of the sugar. If using vanilla bean, infuse the milk by scraping out the seeds and adding them into the saucepan. Set over medium heat and bring to a simmer.
At this point, it is a good idea to set a strainer over a bowl and place it near the stove.
MAKE THE EGG MIXTURE. While waiting for the milk mixture to simmer, whisk together the egg yolk and the remaining 3/4 of the sugar in a separate bowl. Add the sifted flour to the egg yolk and mix again until smooth. Set aside.
TEMPER THE EGG MIXTURE. Pour a little of the hot milk into the egg mixture and immediately whisk to combine. Continue pouring half of the milk mixture slowly into the eggs, whisking thoroughly between additions. Return the mixture back into the saucepan over medium-low heat.
HEAT THE PASTRY CREAM. Continue to whisk the mixture until it thickens. Whisk through the lumps until the pastry cream is smooth.
STRAIN THE MIXTURE. When it has thickened to a pudding-like consistency, pause whisking every few seconds to check if the cream has come to a boil. Once you see large bubbles popping on the surface, whisk for a few more seconds then remove the pan from heat.
ADD FLAVORINGS. If using vanilla extract, liqueur, chocolate, or any other flavorings, add them at this step. Stir until the flavoring has been evenly distributed.
STRAIN AND COOL THE PASTRY CREAM. Pour the cream into the strainer set over the bowl. Push it through the strainer using a spatula. This is to ensure that there are no bits of cooked eggs and any lumps that may be in your pastry cream.
COVER AND STORE. Cover the pastry cream with a piece of plastic wrap pressed against the surface of the cream to prevent a crust from forming. Cool to room temperature. (Note 1)
(Note 1)If not using right away, you can refrigerate the pastry cream up to 3 days. Whip it before using to get rid of lumps.
(Note 2) If you want a lightened pastry cream, add about 1/2 cup of whipped cream after letting the pastry cream has cooled down. Otherwise, your whipped cream will melt!