A few days ago, I added a new recipe category to my website: Building Blocks!
In this category you can find recipes for… well… building blocks: elementary recipes you can mix and match to create you’re own culinary marvels!
First off: homemade pastry cream!
I’m so glad I’ve finally (FINALLY!) discovered pastry cream. Pastry cream, or crème patissière, is a gorgeously thick custard made with both egg yolks and cornstarch (or custard powder). Because of the addition of cornstarch, pastry cream is a lot thicker than custard sauces (crème anglaise) and does not have to be watched like a hawk during cooking, as the cornstarch prevents the yolks from curdling, even if you bring the custard to the boil!
Not only is pastry cream incredibly versatile, it’s also ridiculously delicious! You can serve it on its own or with a big dollop of softly whipped cream if you’re craving an easy yet luscious dessert, or you can use is as a classy and delectable filling in a variety of pastries.
You can even use it to jazz up mousses!
In other words, it’s basically something every foodie should learn to cook. Seriously, no matter how much you pride your fantastic desserts and no matter how much of a creative cooking genius you are, you can’t respect yourself as a home cook – or any cook for that matter – if you are unable to whip up a simple pastry cream.
Besides, why would anyone want to miss out on pastry cream? It’s great… Now that I know how to make it, I can’t believe I didn’t like it as a kid… Although, come to think of it, I was always given the choice between vanilla or chocolate pastry cream, so I guess it makes sense that I never tried the vanilla version…
I was just a little chocoholic!
But still, to all the chocoholics out there: loving vanilla doesn’t mean you’re cheating on your true chocolate lover! There’s no point in being monogamous when it comes to desserts…
So let’s start cooking…
Start by splitting and scraping a vanilla bean. You could substitute the vanilla bean for vanilla extract or vanilla paste. I prefer to use either bean or paste, because I love those little specks of vanilla in my pastry cream.
Combine the scraped bean and the vanilla seeds in a small saucepan with some milk, cream and sugar.
Meanwhile, whisk together a little cornstarch, two egg yolks, a little more sugar and a splash of the milk mixture.
Next, let the milk mixture come to a gentle simmer.
Fish out the vanilla bean and slowly pour the milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking the egg mixture continuously.
Pour the mixture back into the saucepan.
Gently heat the mixture, whisking continuously, until it thickens into a gloriously thick pastry cream. Wait for a few bubbles to appear, then take it off the heat.
Congratulations, you have made pastry cream!
Pour the pastry cream through a sieve to make sure there aren’t any lumps in it.
See those gorgeous little vanilla specks? I just love those!
At this point, you can serve the pastry cream as a warm dessert. If you plan to either serve the pastry cream at room temperature or cold, or use it as a filling, press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming.
Let it come to room temperature before placing it in the fridge to chill.
Use the pastry cream as a silky smooth filling for all kinds of pastries or serve it at room temperature in a cute little bowl all on its own or with a little dollop of whipped cream and some fresh berries to fancy it up a bit.
- 180ml (or ¾ cup) milk
- 60ml (or ¼ cup) whipping cream
- 40g (or 3 tablespoons) granulated sugar
- ¼ of a vanilla bean
- 20g (or 7½ teaspoons) cornstarch or (custard powder)
- 2 egg yolks
- 10g (or 2½ teaspoons) granulated sugar
- Using a sharp knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. In a small saucepan, combine the scraped vanilla bean and the vanilla seeds with the milk, cream and 40 grams of sugar.
- Place the cornstarch or custard powder in a small bowl. Add a splash of the milk mixture to it and stir to a paste. This prevents lumps. Add a splash more of the milk and stir smooth. Add the yolks and the 10 grams of sugar and whisk together. In the meantime, gently heat the milk mixture to a simmer.
- Once the mixture is simmering, fish out the vanilla bean and discard. Slowly add the hot milk mixture to the egg mixture in a thin stream, whisking the egg mixture continuously. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan. Heat over low to medium-high heat while whisking continuously until the mixture thickens and bubbles are starting to appear. You now have pastry cream!
- Pour the pastry cream through a sieve to make sure there aren’t any lumps or stray bits vanilla bean in it.
- NOTE: At this point, you can serve the pastry cream as a warm dessert. If you plan to either serve the pastry cream at room temperature or cold, or use it as a filling for cakes, pies or other pastries, proceed to the next step.
- Press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming. Let it come to room temperature before placing it in the fridge to chill.
- Use the pastry cream as a silky smooth filling for all kinds of pastries or serve it at room temperature in a cute little bowl all on its own or with a little dollop of whipped cream and some fresh berries to fancy it up a bit.
Just a quick note to say that your proportions (for my palate anyway) are spot on!! I have been tweaking and tweaking my recipe and the only piece missing was the percentage of sugar you use! The method of adding the splash of the milk mixture also alleviated much of the drama involved with cooking in lumps! Thanks for the fantastic post!
The Tough Cookie says
Thanks abeaconcook! I’m glad you like the recipe 🙂
Is it possible to substitute in some AP flour for the cornstarch? I tend to usually have flour more often than cornstarch in my pantry
The Tough Cookie says
Hi Adam, yes, feel free to substitute!
Hi Nila, I found your blog through Serious Eats, specifically the German Buttercream recipe you posted. You listed this pastry cream as an alternative base to yield a thicker buttercream frosting. Would 1 of these recipes be enough to serve as the custard base, or would your recommend a little more? I’m inclined to use a little more, but I don’t have a lot of experience with this, so I thought I would ask you.
Thanks so much!
The Tough Cookie says
Hi Travis, I’m so glad you found me! You can certainly use one of these pastry creams to make German buttercream. Use at least the same weight of unsalted butter (so for this amount of pastry cream, at least 280g) to turn the pastry cream into buttercream. You may need to add some more butter to make the buttercream a little thicker, but 280g is a good starting point. That should give you about 2 1/2 cups of buttercream 🙂
I’ve been searching for some kind of egg custard that I can use as a sort of frosting for s chocolate cake I’m baking for my mother’s birthday. She’s not fan of chocolate and mint together, so I’m planning on making a mint custard frosting for it.
As mentioned, I’ve been searching for a long time and finally came across your recipe (that according to your Serious Eats German buttercream recipe, holds better during warmer weather). I believe that not only would it be fine for a Summer garden party, but it also seems to have the texture/consistency/thickness that I’m looking for.
I do have a few questions, if you don’t mind…
What is the shelf-life for this pastry cream? Could I make it a couple of days ahead, keeping it in the fridge? Would it be fine if it sat on the table (already on the cake) for a few hours?
I’m trying to reduce the carbohydrate count a bit, how much would it affect if I increased the heavy whipping cream to replace some of the milk? Or would it be better to just substitute the milk for soy milk or something like that?
I’ve found as many recipes saying to add the mint leaves (and/or extract) at the end, once you’re done cooking, than ones saying to add a them right as you start heating the milk. Have you had any experience with this? If so, which would you suggest? I’m a bit concerned that there won’t be much flavour infused if I do it at the end, but also maybe the mint might turn bitter if I chop it up and cook it.
Sorry for such a lengthy comment, and all the questions too!
The Tough Cookie says
Hi Rut, I see it’s been a while since you commented. I guess you already made the cake?