Filling for French Pastries, Tarts, and Other Desserts
This pastry cream recipe is easily mastered and can be varied in dozens of ways. Use it to fill French pastries, cakes, tarts, eclairs or whatever you fancy. It is also delicious enjoyed on its own.
Pastry Cream Ingredients
Vanilla.This recipe calls for vanilla extract because it is probably the easiest thing to grab from the pantry shelf. If you wish you can also make the recipe with a vanilla bean. Just split a bean and add it in with the milk as it is warming. You can then fish the bean out at the end of the cooking time, rinse it and use it to make vanilla sugar.
Sugar.The pastry cream recipe here calls for only 1/4 cup of sugar. This makes a mildly sweetened cream, especially recommended for serving with fruit. Some of you with a well developed sugar tooth may wish to increase the amount of sugar up to 1/2 cup.
Flour or cornstarch.You can make this pastry cream recipe with cornucopia instead of flour. If you use cornucopia, reduce the number of egg yolks to two for the two cups of milk.
Milk. You can make this pastry cream recipe with either whole or low fat milk.
Crème pâtissière is meant to be used quickly. Preferably it should be consumed within 24 hours of its preparation. It can be frozen as well, but as with any prepared food, it tastes best when it has been freshly made.
In a medium sized saucepan on low heat, warm the milk just until it barely simmers.
Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in a medium sized bowl until they are thickened and light colored - about 1 minute. Sprinkle the flour over the top of the mixture and whisk to combine.
Remove the milk from the heat and gradually add it to the egg mixture, whisking all the while to keep the egg yolks from coagulating into clumps. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan.
Place the saucepan on low to medium heat and heat until it just boils, stirring gently the whole time. Take care in particular that the bottom edges do not scorch. The mixture will thicken and the whole process takes about three minutes on medium heat. Don't stop stirring or you may get clumps and/or burn the cream. Whisk vigorously if clumps do start to form.
Remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Scrape the cream into a bowl where it will cool. After it has cooled a little, cover the surface with a piece of plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator to cool completely. The plastic wrap helps prevent a skin from forming.
Chocolate Pastry Cream
Citrus -Lemon or orange zest can be used in place of the vanilla.
Rum -If you wish to add an alcohol flavor such as kirsch, cognac or rum, stir in 1 tablespoon of alcohol after the cream has been cooked.
Coffee -Replace the vanilla extract with an equal amount of coffee flavoring.
Chocolate -Chop 4 ounces dark cooking chocolate into small pieces and melt them into the hot milk before adding it to the eggs and flour. Depending on how sweet the chocolate is and how sweet you like things, you may need to use no additional sugar.
Mousseline -A rich variant on crème pâtissière that includes butter. For 2 cups of milk, use 8 ounces of butter. Half of the butter is stirred into the cream immediately after it is removed from the heat. The other half is softened and then creamed with the cooled cream.
Chiboust -Sometimes called crème Saint-Honoré because it is used to fill the cake with that name, this is made by folding egg whites into warm crème pâtissière. As can be expected this gives an airy cream as a result.
You will find pastry cream in all sorts of French desserts, where it is almost always used cold. It is the filling
used in eclairs and other choux pastries. You might find it sandwiched between layers of crispy puff pastry to make a mille-feuille, or between the layers of any number of cakes. Fruit tart recipes will often include a layer of crème pâtissière between the crust and the fruit.
Similar to vanilla pudding, this pastry cream recipe can be enjoyed on its own or with a simple fruit topping. You may like it warm if you are eating it on its own. Another idea is to layer it with crushed cookies in a parfait glass.
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