A simple yet delicious recipe for Creme Patissiere ( Vanilla Pastry Cream ) – a rich, creamy custard used in many types of dessert! This recipe is gluten free, and also dairy free friendly.
Pastry Cream (or Creme Patissiere) is a quintessential part of pastry making, so it’s an essential skill to learn if you love baking, pastries, and dessert. Creme patissiere is basically a delicious, rich, creamy custard thickened with starch and eggs. It’s an important component for many desserts – like custard or chocolate pudding, eclairs, profiteroles, mille feuille, creme bavarois and a great filling for fruit tarts, pastries, and cakes too.
The egg mix – Whisk the eggs, with the corn starch, vanilla and sugar before adding the hot milk.
If you’ve never made creme parissiere (pastry cream) before, you should definitely try it. It’s such an easy and delicious recipe with a lot of great uses.
There is some confusion about custard-based desserts and their terminology, so I’m going to clear that up before I get into the pastry cream recipe.
Creme Anglaise is a pouring custard. A runny version of Pastry cream. It isn’t typically thickened with a starch (although some use a little cornstarch to avoid scrambling), and usually only uses eggs / egg yolks. It’s like a thick sauce, that can be poured over desserts.
Creme Chantilly is lightly whipped cream sweetened with sugar and (usually) flavored with vanilla.
Creme Patissiere is a thicker custard. It’s thickened using starch and eggs/egg yolks and can be piped. It’s mostly used to fill pastries and other desserts.
Creme Legere is pastry cream (creme patissiere) with sweetened and flavored whipped cream (chantilly) added. Most people call this creme diplomat as well.
Creme Diplomat is creme patissiere mixed with chantilly, gelatine and any extra flavorings (optional). It’s basically creme legere made with stabilized whipped cream.
Creme Bavarois is a dessert on its own. It’s like panna cotta, but made with creme patissiere. It’s creme patissiere mixed with chantilly, but with extra gelatine (so that it sets like a pudding) and extra flavorings.
Creme Patisserie is the base for all these pastry essentials, so I hope you give this recipe a go!
While the pastry cream is cooling, cover it with plastic wrap that is touching the entire surface. This ensures that the creme patissiere will not form a skin.
This recipe is also gluten free, because I use cornstarch instead of flour to thicken it. Some pastry cream recipes use both flour and cornstarch, but that’s not necessary. I also find that using cornstarch alone makes the pastry cream less likely to taste floury.
If you would like to make this recipe dairy free, substitute the milk with a plant-based milk like almond milk, coconut milk, cashew milk or even soy milk.
Since vanilla is the key flavoring in this pastry cream recipe, PLEASE make sure you use good quality vanilla. It’s the one flavoring that I never skimp out on. Use good vanilla extract (not essence), and if you can use vanilla bean paste or vanilla beans, even better.
I personally don’t like my pastry cream to be too sweet. So I only add 6 tbsp (1/4 cup + 2 tbsp) of sugar for every 2 cups of milk. Feel free to adjust the sweetness to your taste.
Eggs play two roles in creme patissiere (pastry cream). It adds richness (especially the yolks), and also thickens the custard as well. I use large eggs in this recipe, where an egg weighs 2 oz / 57 g on average. So if you’re using different sized eggs, you can adjust accordingly. But a little extra egg (or egg yolk) won’t mess up your pastry cream.
Alright, so let’s get to the creme patissiere (pastry cream) recipe!
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There is inactive time in this recipe to allow the creme pattisiere to chill, about 2 hours - overnight. Make this the day before it's required, so that it's completely chilled by the time you need it.
- 2 cups milk
- 6 tbsp sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 2 ½ tbsp cornstarch
- 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste / extract / 1 vanilla bean pod
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1 large egg
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter softened
If using vanilla beans, split the bean and scrape the vanilla seeds/caviar out of the beans.
- Add the bean and caviar with the milk into a saucepan. Heat the milk over medium high heat and bring it to a boil.
While the milk is being heated, place the sugar, egg and yolks, cornstarch and salt in a bowl. Whisk until you have a thick, smooth mix. (If you are using vanilla bean paste or extract, add it to the egg mix too). Place the egg mix on top of a towel or napkin (to prevent it from slipping), and then set it aside until the milk comes to a boil.
As soon as the milk starts to bubble, remove it from the heat. Slowly pour about a half of the hot milk in a thin stream, into the egg mix, WHILE WHISKING CONSTANTLY to temper the egg mix. When the eggs have been tempered, add the egg mix back into the hot milk in the saucepan.
- Heat the custard base, over medium heat, while whisking vigorously until it starts to thicken - this should take about 1 - 2 minutes.
While whisking, let the custard come to a boil (the custard will release bubbles). Cook for a further 1-2 minutes after you see the first bubbles break the surface. Remove from the heat and add the butter. Whisk in the butter, until it’s completely mixed in.
Pour the custard into a bowl and immediately cover the surface with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic wrap is touching the whole surface. This is to prevent a custard skin from forming on top.
- Let the custard cool down to room temperature and then let it chill in the fridge for a few hours, until it’s completely chilled.
Use as needed after the pastry cream has been chilled.
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