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Pastry Cream

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Pastry Cream or crème patissière is decadent rich, thick cooked custard. This is a staple in French dessert recipes and is fabulous spread in between cake layers. It can be flavored with liqueur, vanilla or citrus extracts, almond paste, coffee and even fruit. Pastry cream is quite versatile and can be made with milk or cream depending on your needs. This recipe can be doubled easily if you need more for several cake layers.

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

: 35 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Yield: 4 cups

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups whole milk or 35% cream
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 large egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preparation:

  1. Pour milk into a medium saucepan and warm over medium high heat until it is scalded, steaming but not boiling. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl stir together the sugar, flour and salt until completely combined. Add the egg yolks one at a time and whisk until mixture is smooth. This mixture will be thick and paste like when it is mixed and might be crumbly depending on the size of the egg yolks used.
  3. Pour about 1 cup of scalded milk into the egg mixture and whisk until smooth. Pour the remainder of the scalded milk into the egg mixture in a thin stream, whisking constantly until completely combined. If you can't coordinate whisking and pouring simply pour milk into the bowl and whisk until smooth, repeat until all the milk is used from the saucepan. Place a strainer or china cap over a clean medium bowl and set aside.
  4. Pour the combined egg and milk mixture back into the saucepan and heat over medium heat, whisking constantly. If your eggs heat up too much the finished pastry cream will have a scrambled egg, like texture so heat slowly. Heat until the mixture thickens to a pudding like consistency taking care not to burn the bottom.
  5. Spoon this thickened pastry cream into a bowl through a fine mesh strainer. Do not scrape the bottom of the pot because you will most likely have a later of overcooked pastry cream which will ruin the texture of the good cream. You can use a spoon to push the pastry cream through the strainer or gently tap the edge of the strainer on the bowl to force the cream through. You are trying to catch cooked bits of egg which will wreck the texture of the finished cream.
  6. Scrape the bottom of the strainer to get most of the pastry cream and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Press the wrap onto the top of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming on the surface.
  7. Chill pastry cream completely before using it. Pastry cream can keep in the fridge for several days if covered and kept away from aromatic products such as onion or garlic.

Tips and Tricks:

  • If you want to make fruit pastry cream simply fold in drained cut fruit after the pastry cream has been chilled completely.
  • If you want a lighter mousse like finished product fold whipped cream into the chilled pastry cream.
  • Chocolate pastry cream can be made by melting several ounces of semisweet chocolate into the scalded cream.
  • Cornstarch can be substituted for flour in this recipe.
  • Do not heat the pastry cream in an aluminum pot because this type of cook wear can make the cream look grayish.
  • Always refrigerate cakes that are filled with pastry cream because it is egg based which is an ideal platform for bacteria growth. You can freeze cakes filled with pastry cream but the texture will not be perfect after the cake thaws.
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