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Pastry Cream

Pastry Cream

Pastry cream, also known as crème patisserie in French, is the wonderfully thick version of crème anglaise (or custard).  This is a perfect basic recipe to have in your baking toolbox.  It is versatile and can be used in many desserts such as fillings for cakes (e.g., in my Very Berry Cake or a Fraisier cake like the one Nabil and I ate on our honeymoon layover in Montreal, Canada), tarts, and inside pâte à choux (e.g., my Choux Chantilly – use pastry cream instead of Chantilly cream).  It’s also amazing to eat by the spoonful since it’s essentially vanilla pudding.   

This recipe has a pleasant vanilla flavor that tastes rich due to the high ratio of egg yolks.  It also thickens nicely when the all-purpose flour is cooked correctly.  When testing recipes, I realized that I truly DISLIKE the flavor of cornstarch in pastry cream.  In fact, I disliked the flavor so much that I actually threw out a batch without eating it.  I would highly recommend using flour over corn starch.    

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Ingredients
Pastry Cream Ingredients
Preparing the Ice Bath:

Create an ice bath by placing ice and water into a large bowl with a slightly smaller bowl sitting on top of the ice.  Place the ice bath aside while making the pastry cream.

Making the Pastry Cream

Put the egg yolks and vanilla into the bowl of a stand mixer (or you can use a large bowl if using a hand mixer) and mix on medium-low speed for approximately 30 seconds.  Reduce the speed to low and slowly sprinkle in the granulated sugar.  Then, increase the speed to medium and beat for approximately 2½ minutes (or until the color changes to a pale yellow and the mixture has thickened).  Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula.

Making Pastry Cream

Reduce the speed to low and add the sifted flour.  Mix for 30 seconds and then scrape down the bowl.  Turn the mixer to low and slowly pour in the milk.  Pouring slowly and keeping the speed low will keep the milk from splashing out of the bowl. 

Cooking the Pastry Cream
Pouring pastry cream through fine mesh strainer

Pour the custard through a fine mesh strainer and into a medium saucepan.  This will catch any bits of unmixed custard.  Stir gently and constantly while cooking over medium heat.  Make sure the whisk touches the sides, corners, and bottom of the pan while stirring to avoid scorching the cream. 

When the pastry cream starts to boil, continue cooking (and stirring constantly) for 1.5-2 minutes.  During this time, it should thicken as the flour is cooking.  This stage of cooking is very important for the correct consistency.  If you don’t cook it for long enough, the flour will not thicken the pastry cream and it will be too thin.  If you cook it for too long, the pastry cream can curdle and become unusable. 

Remove the pan from the stove top and pour the pastry cream into the interior bowl of the ice bath.  This will allow it to stop cooking immediately.  Whisk the cream in the bowl for about 1 minute (or until you’re unable to see steam any longer) and then add one half of the butter.  Stir until the butter is completely incorporated before adding the second half of butter.  Stir to combine.

Storing the Pastry Cream
Pastry Cream

Pour the pastry cream into an airtight container, press a piece of plastic wrap against the top (this will prevent a skin from forming), and then refrigerate for at least 1 hour to set. 

You can keep the cream in the fridge for 4 days. 

Using the Pastry Cream
Pastry Cream

To use, remove the pastry cream from the fridge and stir until the texture is smooth.  It should be thick and glossy. 

This recipe will make approximately 3 cups (680g) of pastry cream. 

More Baking Basics:
Pastry Cream
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I’d love to know how it turned out! Please let me know by leaving your thoughts below. Or snap a photo and share it on Pinterest or Instagram (@windycitybaker).

Pastry Cream

Total Time30 mins
Course: Dessert

Ingredients

  • ½ cup + 1 Tbsp (132g) egg yolks (approximately 6 egg yolks)
  • tsp (6.5g) vanilla paste
  • ½ cup + 1 Tbsp (110g) granulated sugar
  • 6 Tbsp (50g) all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 2 cups + 3 Tbsp (550g) whole milk
  • 2 Tbsp (27g) unsalted butter, softened and cut to ½-inch (1.25cm) pieces

Instructions

Preparing the Ice Bath

  • Create an ice bath by placing ice and water into a large bowl with a slightly smaller bowl sitting on top of the ice.  Place the ice bath aside while making the pastry cream.

Making the Pastry Cream

  • Put the egg yolks and vanilla into the bowl of a stand mixer (or you can use a large bowl if using a hand mixer) and mix on medium-low speed for approximately 30 seconds.  Reduce the speed to low and slowly sprinkle in the granulated sugar.  Then, increase the speed to medium and beat for approximately 2½ minutes (or until the color changes to a pale yellow and the mixture has thickened).  Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula.
  • Reduce the speed to low and add the sifted flour.  Mix for 30 seconds and then scrape down the bowl.  Turn the mixer to low and slowly pour in the milk.  Pouring slowly and keeping the speed low will keep the milk from splashing out of the bowl. 

Cooking the Pastry Cream

  • Pour the pastry cream through a fine mesh strainer and into a medium saucepan.  This will catch any bits of unmixed pastry cream.  Stir gently and constantly while cooking over medium heat.  Make sure the whisk touches the sides, corners, and bottom of the pan while stirring to avoid scorching the pastry cream. 
  • When it starts to boil, continue cooking (and stirring constantly) for 1.5-2 minutes.  During this time, the pastry cream should thicken as the flour is cooking.  This stage of cooking is very important for the correct consistency.  If you don’t cook it for long enough, the flour will not thicken the pastry cream and it will be too thin.  If you cook it for too long, the pastry cream can curdle and become unusable. 
  • Remove the pan from the stove top and pour the pastry cream into the interior bowl of the ice bath.  This will allow the pastry cream to stop cooking immediately.  Whisk the pastry cream in the bowl for about 1 minute (or until you’re unable to see steam any longer) and then add one half of the butter.  Stir until the butter is completely incorporated before adding the second half of butter.  Stir to combine.

Storing the Pastry Cream

  • Pour the pastry cream into an airtight container, press a piece of plastic wrap against the top of the pastry cream (this will prevent a skin from forming), and then refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow the pastry cream to set. 
    You can keep the cream in the fridge up to 4 days. 
    To use, remove the pastry cream from the fridge and stir until the texture is smooth.  The pastry cream should be thick. 
    This recipe makes approximately 3 cups (680g) of pastry cream. 
Pastry Cream

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