How to Make Pastry Cream

10 servings
20 min

Pastry Cream is a rich, thickened custard that is used in a multitude of desserts from cream puffs to cream pies. This recipe is simple and made from six common ingredients.

Pastry cream is one of those items that you make continuously in pastry school. So much so that the recipe and process become second nature. Pastry cream's use is wide, but most commonly you'll find it used as a filling.


This pastry cream recipe pairs beautifully with my Chantilly Cream. The two make a beautiful vanilla cream pie when piped into a baked pie shell.

What is Pastry Cream?


Pastry cream, otherwise known as crème pâtissière, is a custard with starch added (cornstarch or flour). Most commonly flavored with vanilla, pastry cream can be infused with other ingredients including chocolate, lemon, and coffee. This thickened custard is versatile in its use. You will often find it in pie shells, between puff pastry layers (Napoleans or Mille-Feuille), and inside cream puffs.


Ingredients

  • Whole Milk - Whole milk is necessary for proper pastry cream. Its higher fat content contributes to a rich mouthfeel and creamy texture. A milk with a lesser fat content will yield poor results in this recipe.
  • Egg Yolks - The combination of egg yolks and cornstarch is what gives pastry cream its thickened consistency. They contribute to the overall texture and flavor.
  • Sugar - Sugar is necessary for sweetening the cream, in addition to helping slow the egg's cooking process and keep them from scrambling.
  • Cornstarch - As stated above, the cornstarch assists in thickening.
  • Pure Vanilla Extract - Vanilla is the prominent flavor of this classic cream filling. Pure vanilla extract is added at the end of cooking so the flavor is prominent and not cooked off. If using a vanilla bean, the bean is steeped with the hot milk at the beginning of cooking. You can also use vanilla bean paste.
  • Butter - Adding butter at the end of cooking provides a luscious creamy texture.


Instructions


Boil the milk: In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring whole milk to a boil, stirring frequently. Once boiling, immediately remove from the heat. *If using fresh vanilla bean, split the bean and scrape out the seeds. Add the bean and seeds to the milk and then bring it to a boil. After boiling, infuse for 10 minutes before removing the vanilla bean pod.

Whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch: While the milk is heating, whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy (pale yellow in color). Add the cornstarch and whisk together until no lumps remain.

Temper the egg mixture with the hot milk: In a slow steady stream, add approximately a ¼ cup of the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Continue this process until all milk has been slowly added.

Cook until thickened: Pour the mixture, through a strainer, back into the small saucepan. Cook the mixture over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until thickened and slightly boiling.

Add butter and vanilla extract, and chill: Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and pure vanilla extract. Let the mixture cool slightly before transferring to a bowl or container. Cover the surface with plastic wrap, to prevent it from forming a skin. Chill for at least two hours before using. Store in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for up to 5 days.


Uses

  • Cake Filling - This cream is perfect between two cake layers. Pair with fresh sliced strawberries or use in the classic Boston cream pie.
  • Pie or Tart Filling - Your favorite cream pie is made with pastry cream, from chocolate to banana. Pastry cream is also a prominent filling for fruit tarts. For a simple vanilla cream pie, make a batch of this recipe and scoop the cooled cream into a baked pie shell. Top with Chantilly Cream or Whipped Cream.
  • Dessert Cups - A simple, yet satisfying dessert. Pipe pastry cream into little cups or jars with graham cracker crumbs and fresh fruit.
  • Napoleons - Pipe this cream between baked puff pastry layers and decoratively arrange with fresh fruit or berries.
  • Cream Puffs and Eclairs - Make a batch of Choux Paste and pipe this cream into cooled puffs. Garnish with chocolate ganache or glaze.

Frequently Asked Questions


How do you store pastry cream? Cover the surface of the cream with a piece of plastic wrap. Gently press the plastic wrap against the surface. This prevents the cream's surface from forming a skin. Store in a small bowl or airtight container in the refrigerator.

How long does pastry cream last? Pastry cream lasts for up to five days in the refrigerator.

Can you freeze pastry cream? I would advise against freezing pastry cream. It will lose its texture because the starch and protein bonds will break. This results in weeping, runny custard.

How do you make Diplomat Cream? Fold a small amount of freshly whipped cream into your completely cooled, prepared pastry cream. It lightens the pastry cream without diminishing the rich flavor.

Why is my pastry cream lumpy? You've cooked the cream at too high a temperature, or you have not stirred enough as the cream came to a boil. Immediately after cooking, run the cream through a sieve.

Why is my pastry cream thin? You have mixed something improperly within the process or have not cooked the final mixture long enough for it to thicken.

Whether you are an avid or novice baker, learning how to make pastry cream is a vital addition to your baking repertoire. Once you have successfully made this recipe a few times, this skill becomes second nature. Use it in pies, cream puffs, pudding cups, and more!


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Recipe details

  • 10  servings
  • Prep time: 5 Minutes Cook time: 15 Minutes Total time: 20 min
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Ingredients


  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoon unsalted butter

Instructions


In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring milk to a boil, stirring constantly. Once boiling, remove from the heat. *If using fresh vanilla bean, split the bean and scrape out the seeds. Add the bean and seeds to the milk and then bring it to a boil. After boiling, infuse for 10 minutes before straining.
While the milk is heating, whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy (pale yellow in color). Add the cornstarch and whisk together until no lumps remain.
In a slow steady stream, add approximately a ¼ cup of the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Continue this process until all milk has been slowly added.
Pour the mixture, through a strainer, back into the small saucepan. Cook the mixture over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until thickened and slightly boiling.
Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and vanilla. Let the mixture cool slightly before transferring to a bowl or container. Cover the surface with plastic wrap, to prevent it from forming a skin. Chill for at least two hours before using.

Katelyn | Sugary Logic
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