As much as I love pastry cream, I think crème Suisse, or Swiss cream, is even better. It is made by ‘lightening’ a batch of vanilla pastry cream with softly whipped cream and it has a delicious, almost intriguing vanilla flavor and a velvety soft, fluffy texture. It’s simply amazing!
I like to use real a vanilla bean in this recipe, as I think it gives the crème Suisse (or the pastry cream for that matter) a somewhat softer, smoother flavor than vanilla extract or paste. Having said that, don’t hesitate to substitute the bean with paste or extract if it’s all you have on hand! I’ve used both with great results.
This is my version of crème Suisse with gelatin, but under ‘Building Blocks’ you can also find a version in which I left the gelatin out. Without the gelatin, crème Suisse is a great filling for cream puffs, trifles or other spoonable desserts. However, the addition of gelatin makes this crème Suisse the perfect filling for cakes, tarts or even mille-feuilles (aka: vanilla slices).
Oh, and if the gorgeous tart in the picture has made you hungry, check out the recipe for My Mom’s Strawberry and Vanilla Birthday Tart!
- 480ml (or 2 cups) whole milk
- ¾ vanilla bean
- 80g (or ⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon) granulated sugar
- 40g (or ¼ cup + 1 tablespoon) custard powder (or cornstarch)
- 4 large egg yolks
- 20g (or 5 teaspoons) granulated sugar
- enough gelatin to set 250ml of liquid
- 200ml (or ¾ cup + 4 teaspoons) heavy whipping cream
- Combine the milk, the vanilla bean and 80g of sugar in a small saucepan. In a small bowl, stir together the custard powder (or cornstarch) with a little splash of milk. It should turn into a smooth paste. Add a little more milk to make it fairly liquid. Add the yolks and 20g of sugar and whisk until frothy and well combined. Over low heat, gently heat the milk mixture until scalding.
- Take the milk off the heat and drizzle it into the cornstarch and egg mixture, whisking constantly. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and gently heat over medium-high heat, stirring continuously with a rubber spatula, until the mixture thickens into pastry cream. Transfer the hot pastry cream to a heatproof bowl, press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming and leave to cool to room temperature.
- Once the pastry cream has cooled, soften the gelatin according to the manufacturer's instructions. If you're using sheet gelatin like I usually do, this means soaking it in cold water for 10 minutes. Pour a splash of cream into a clean saucepan (cover the bottom) and whip the remaining cream to soft peaks. Gently heat the splash of cream until it's hot to the touch. Take it off the heat and add the gelatin (if you're using sheet gelatin, squeeze out the excess water first). Stir until the gelatin has completely dissolved.
- NOTE: if the gelatin doesn't dissolve properly, carefully heat the mixture over low heat until it does.
- Mix together the pastry cream and the gelatin-cream mixture and, using a rubber spatula, fold in the whipped cream. Use immediately as a filling in cakes, tarts, or mille-feuilles (vanilla slices). Place assembled product in the fridge for at least 3 hours to let the gelatin set.
- Tip: if desired, gelatin can be left out. Check out 'Crème Suisse' under 'Building Blocks'.