How to make pastry cream
How to make pastry cream
30 August 2021

What is it for?

Pastry cream (or crème patisserie) is one of the most important recipes in the pastry kitchen. From tarts to eclairs to trifles, this versatile cream pops up in so many places and is one of the first things you learn as a pastry chef.

Contrary to the “cream” crème patisserie actually contains no cream. It is made up mostly of milk that has been sweetened, flavoured and thickened with flour.

There are quite a few ways to produce different flavours of pastry cream. Most flavours are created from infusing the milk with things like vanilla or spices ect. Caramel pastry cream is slightly different and involve caramelizing the sugar before adding the milk.

Chocolate flavours are also normally created by emulsifying the finished hot pastry cream with chocolate.

Ingredients roles / custard powder

Like in every recipe, each ingredient affects the finished product in some way. Removing or replacing ingredients always has consequences that need to be balanced.

Knowing what each ingredient does allows you to find a suitable replacement when looking to change the recipes for dietary reasons or to mix up the flavours.

The Flour/ Custard powder acts as a thickening agent, making sure the final product is firm and stops the finished product ending up like runny custard.

The eggs are also a thickening agent. They also provide a rich flavour and stabilize the mix to make sure the individual ingredients don’t separate.

The milk is needed mostly to provide the bulk of the cream and also to provide flavour. This is the most common thing to swap out since using liquids of the same viscosity (like fruit purees) can do the same job.

The sugar is important for the obvious reason of providing sweetness, but also helps to emulsify the mixture and stop liquid from separating from the mix one set.

The butter is something that not many recipes include. This is a shame since adding butter at the end when making pastry cream gives it a great shine and also adds a touch more richness to the finished product.

Vanilla pastry cream

1 Litre Whole Milk

80 Egg yolk

1 Whole egg

70g Custard powder

200g Caster sugar

20g Cold and diced butter

1 Vanilla pod

Method

Place the milk into a saucepan and scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod. Add both the pods and seeds to the milk. Heat the milk until it reaches a light simmer

Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolk, egg, sugar and custard powder in a heatproof bowl to a paste. When the milk has reached a simmer, pour the milk into the bowl and whisk until incorporated.

Transfer this mix back to the pan and cook on a medium heat whilst whisking well to make sure that nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Bring the mixture up to the boil (it should look like very thick custard) and then take off the heat.

Add in the butter and whisk to incorporate before pouring through a sieve into a bowl or high sided tray.

Cover with cling film (so that it touches the top of the cream to avoid condensation).

Set in the fridge until cold.

Caramel Pastry Cream

This recipe is a variation of a classic pastry cream. Caramelising the sugar first instead of just adding it to the mix gives you an amazing colour as well as a much deeper and more interesting flavour.

This recipe is perfect for things like choux pastry and filling tarts. If you would like a lighter cream then just fold in some whipped cream into the finished and cooled pastry cream. This is know by the name ‘creme diplomat’. The amount of cream you fold in just depends on how rich or light you need the cream to be.

200g Caster Sugar (1)

570ml Whole fat milk

2 vanilla pods

90g Egg yolk (about 5)

30g Caster sugar (2)

45g Custard powder

2 Sheets gold leaf gelatine

325g Cold and diced butter

Method

Place the milk into a saucepan and scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod. Add both the pods and seeds to the milk. Heat the milk until it reaches a light simmer

Take off the heat and place a fresh saucepan onto a medium heat. Once the pan is hot, slowly add in the sugar (1) a third at a time and stir with a wooden spoon to make sure each addition is melted completely before adding the next.

Once all the sugar is melted, continue to cook until the sugar is a golden brown colour. This should only need 10-20 seconds

Then SLOWLY add in the milk (about a quarter at a time) by pouring in a little, incorporating it into the mixture and then adding more.

Once all the milk is in, return to a low heat and bring up to a light simmer so any sugar clumps can dissolve.

Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolk, egg, sugar (2) and custard powder in a heatproof bowl to a paste and when the milk mixture has reached a simmer, pour into the bowl and whisk until incorporated.

Transfer this mix back to the pan and cook on a medium heat whilst whisking well to make sure that nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Bring the mixture up to the boil (it should look like very thick custard) and then take off the heat.

Add in the butter and whisk to incorporate before pouring through a sieve into a bowl or high sided tray and cover with cling film (so that it touches the top of the cream to avoid condensation).

Set in the fridge until cold.

With storing pastry cream, I wouldn’t recommend keeping it more than 3 days in the fridge. Pastry cream also doesn’t respond well to freezing so keeping it fresh is always recommended.

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