Pastry cream, or crÃ¨me patissiÃ¨re, is a staple that every baker should know how to make. Pastry cream is a thick custard that can be used as a filling for any number of cakes, tarts or pastries. It is made with milk, eggs, sugar, cornstarch (or a mixture of flour and cornstarch) and flavoring. Vanilla is the most popular flavor for pastry cream, but the cream can be flavored with any number of different things, from extracts to liqueurs to chocolates to fruit purees.
Pastry cream is made by bringing the milk almost to a boil, then tempering a mixture of eggs, sugar and cornstarch with the hot milk. The mixture is returned to the stovetop and cooked, stirring constantly, over a low heat until it has thickened. Vanilla beans can be infused into the milk at the beginning of the cooking process, or extract can be stirred in at the end. The use of cornstarch (or flour) is what sets pastry cream apart from other custard sauces, giving it is very thick consistency that makes it so versatile.
How to Use Pastry Cream
Pastry cream can be piped into eclairs or cream puffs, spread into the bottom of a fruit tart or used as a layer in a cake, such as Boston Cream Pie. Many custard sauces tend to be thin and fluid, so they can’t be piped into pastries in the same way that pastry cream can be. Pastry cream can also be lightened by folding whipped cream into it, for a stiffer custard that can act as a filling in cakes.
HOW TO MAKE PASTRY CREAM:
- In a heavy saucepan, stir together the milk and 1/4 cup of sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and egg. Stir together the remaining sugar and corn-starch; then stir them into the egg until smooth. When the milk comes to a boil, drizzle it into the bowl in a thin stream while mixing so that you do not cook the eggs. Return the mixture to the saucepan, and slowly bring to a boil, stirring constantly so the eggs don’ t curdle or scorch on the bottom.
- When the mixture comes to a boil and thickens, remove from the heat. Stir in the butter and vanilla, mixing until the butter is completely blended in. Pour into a heat-proof container and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled before using.