August 15, 2011

Pastry cream

Who knew pastry cream tasted so good and was so easy to make.  Well, I know it now.  I'm building my way to making a berry tart and after the tart shell, next up is a luscious pastry cream that acts as the filling. 
Contrary to what you might think (or what I thought anyway), there is no cream in pastry cream or what the French call "creme patissiere".  It is rich and creamy, custard-like, in texture but made with milk and egg yolks and thickened with flour.  I think one of the most common use for pastry cream is as the filling for a fruit tart.  Additionally, it could be used as a filling for eclairs, cream puffs or profiteroles, and as part of a napoleon dessert.  I also learned recently that pastry cream is also often used as a base for different types of souffles.

The pastry cream is simply cooked over the stovetop, then strained through a mesh strainer. 

You'll need: 2 cups of whole milk, 6 large egg yolks, 6 tablespoons of flour, 1/2 sugar, a pinch of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla, and 2 tablespoons of butter. 

Start by mixing together the flour, sugar, and pinch of salt.  Whisk the egg yolks together in another bowl. 

Heat up the milk on the stovetop until it begins to steam.  Then, add the flour mixture and whisk constantly to prevent lumps and make sure it's nice and smooth.  Whisk this and cook for about 2 minutes until it thickens.  Then, add a little bit of this hot milk mixture to the egg yolks to temper the yolks.  (If we don't do this, the eggs could cook and scramble when it hits the hot milk). 
Pour the tempered egg yolks into the pot of thickened milk.  Cook this, whisking constantly, until it begins to boil. 
Take the pot off the heat.  Whisk in the vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons of butter until incorporated and butter is melted.  Strain the pastry cream through a mesh strainer to get rid of any bits of cooked egg and ensure we have a smooth and silky final product.
I pour the finished pastry cream into a glass bowl.  Cover it with some plastic wrap directly on the surface of the cream to prevent a skin from forming and chill it in the refrigerator.  I made my pastry cream the morning I used it so it sat in the fridge for about 6 hours.  In retrospect, I think it would be a good idea to make this the night before and let it sit overnight so it fully firms up.

Once chilled, the pastry cream is ready for a tart or to be used as the filling for eclairs or cream puffs.


Pastry Cream
From Ready for Dessert; My Best Recipes by David Lebovitz

- Makes 2 1/2 cups or enough to fill one 9-inch tart shell -

2 cups (500 ml) whole milk
6 tablespoons (60 g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
Pinch of salt
6 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons (1 ounce/30 g) salted or unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl.  Lightly whisk egg yolks together in another bowl.

In a saucepan, heat the milk over medium heat until it begins to steam.  Slowly add the flour mixture, whisking constantly to prevent lumps, until the mixture begins to bubble and is thickened.  This takes about 2 minutes.

Take about a ladle of the hot milk mixture and whisk it into the egg yolks to bring their temperature up a little.  Then pour the warmed yolk mixture into the rest of the thickened milk.  Continue to cook, again whisking constantly, until the pastry cream starts to come to a boil.

Take the pan off the heat and add the butter and vanilla extract.  Whisk together until butter is melted.  Strain the pastry cream through a mesh strainer and into a bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap directly touching the surface of the pastry cream and chill, preferably overnight.  Just stir or whisk if necessary before using.  The pastry cream can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.



  1. Thank you! This helped me make delicious pastry cream.

    1. So happy to hear it! Thank you for letting me know. I think it's delicious too. : )

  2. Thank you for posting this recipe, I just finished making it and it couldn't be easier and so delicious! By the way, I added 2 tsps. sugar, I like it a little sweeter. Do you think we can double the recipe?

    1. Glad to hear that! I can't think of any problems with doubling this recipe in a nice big pan.

  3. hi! do u think its possible to use low-fat milk instead?

    1. Hi there - I've never done it but I would imagine that you can as long as you use a bit more flour/cornstarch for a bit more of a thickening boost. I think there are a few recipes out there using low-fat milk. Good luck! I'd love to know how it goes if you try it.



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