How to make a classic pastry cream from scratch – a complete guide to a luxuriously smooth custard filling for wide variety of pastries, cakes and tarts.
What is pastry cream?
Pastry cream (or crème pâtissière in French) is a classic custard filling for eclairs, fruit tarts and pastries. Silky smooth and rich, this custard is incredibly versatile and used in many different pastries and desserts.
Is pastry cream the same as custard?
Yes, pastry cream IS one form of a custard.
What’s the difference between custard and pudding?
While terms “custard” and “pudding” may be used interchangeably, the main difference is that custard is typically an egg-based filling, while pudding doesn’t contain eggs.
Creme Patisserie Ingredients:
You don’t need a lot of ingredients to make this delicious filling. Egg yolks, milk, vanilla, sugar, flour and cornstarch.
Just a few notes on a few ingredients:
- Milk – You can use any kind of milk. Whole milk, 2%, or even non-dairy milk, like almond milk.
- All-purpose flour – It’s used as part of thickening agent. For gluten-free version, you may omit the flour and increase cornstarch by 1 tablespoon.
- Cornstarch – It’s a thickening agent. And I like to use it in combination with flour as an extra insurance.
Why do you use flour AND cornstarch together?
Cornstarch is activated when it’s cooked at 95°C (203°F) and may lose its thickening power when stirred too much. So, in case cornstarch fails to thicken, flour is there to back it up.
How to make pastry cream:
Making a classic pastry cream is quite easy. But it requires your undivided attention at the beginning. In return, you’ll be rewarded with luxuriously smooth and creamy custard to be devoured any which way!
- Heat the milk: In a medium saucepan, bring the milk and vanilla extract to a boil. Once it boils, turn the heat off.
- Prepare egg yolks: In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks with sugar until pale. Stir in flour and cornstarch.
- Temper egg yolk mixture: Take about ½ cup of hot milk and add it into the egg yolk mixture, while stirring vigorously. (Tempering helps to prevent scrambled eggs in your custard and makes it nice and smooth.)
- Cook custard: Now add the tempered egg mixture back into the remaining milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until it thickens, 5-7 minutes.
- Chill custard: Transfer the custard to a clean bowl and cover with a plastic wrap, so it touches the cream and refrigerate it for at least 2 hours.
When tempering the yolks, place a wet towel under the bowl, so that it doesn’t move around when you pour hot milk and whisk at the same time.
How do you get super smooth custard?
To ensure extra smooth texture, place a sieve over the bowl and run the custard through it.
How to properly cover custard:
Make sure to place a plastic wrap in contact with the entire surface of the custard to prevent any skin forming.
Pastry cream is too thick?
Don’t be alarmed if your chilled pastry cream looks too thick. Simply whisk it until smooth again.
What is creme diplomat?
If you take it one step further and fold in whipped cream into the cooled custard, you’ll get creme diplomat – incredibly light and fluffy filling. It’s my personal favorite!
How far ahead can I make pastry cream?
Pastry cream can be made ahead up to 3 days in advance.
Store pastry cream in the fridge with a plastic wrap touching the entire surface of the custard to prevent unpleasant skin forming.
What do you use creme patisserie for?
As mentioned earlier, vanilla pastry cream is quite versatile and used is many different desserts.
How to Make a Pastry Cream
- 2 cups milk Note 1
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 egg yolks
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour Note 2
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream optional
- In a medium saucepan, bring milk and vanilla extract to a boil. Once it boils, turn the heat off.
- Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whisk egg yolks with sugar until pale. Then stir in flour and cornstarch.
- To temper the egg yolk mixture, take about ½ cup of hot milk and add it into the egg yolk mixture, while stirring vigorously. (TIP: Place a damp towel under the bowl with egg yolk mixture to prevent it from sliding all over while you pour hot milk and whisking simultanuously.)
- Now add the tempered egg mixture back into the remaining milk. Cook it over medium heat, stirring frequently, until it thickens, 5-7 minutes
- Pour the cooked custard into a clean bowl and cover it with plastic wrap so it touches the entire surface of the custard. Refrigerate it for at least 2 hours to set.
- Optional step: whip heavy whipping cream till hard peaks form. Fold in the whipped cream into the chilled pastry cream and gently fold until well combined. This's called creme diplomat.
Tips & Notes:
This post was originally published on May 25th, 2013.