Here is the traditional recipe for making Creme Patissiere (pastry cream), one of the main bases of French pastry making and present in many recipes such as cream puff, éclairs, mille-feuille, Paris-Brest, diplomat, tarts and among other recipes.
It’s an easy recipe to make, and everyone loves it. Just a few egg yolks, milk, vanilla, a little cornstarch (or lighter flour), and sugar, and the result is delicious.
My 7 cooking tips for a successful pastry cream:
I have been living in Paris for eleven years now, and little by little, this traditional French recipe became part of our family’s cookbook. Here are some simple tips that will help you to get a rich and creamy cream.
1. Choose a good recipe (like this one 🤗 )
Good pastry cream is, first of all, a good recipe. Although there are a lot of recipes on the Internet, some are wrong or incomplete. So focus on a good, authentic french pastry cream recipe as much as possible.
2. All-purpose flour or cornstarch?
Preferably use cornstarch instead of flour. The cornstarch will make a starch paste, just like flour, but providing a lighter cream in the mouth. Also, you are much less likely to get lumps in the cream. In addition, you will have a gluten-free pastry cream!.
But here again, it’s a matter of taste, and every pastry chef has their opinion on the subject.
3. Flavor the cream
Pastry cream is generally flavored with vanilla. You can use vanilla flavor or pods. If you use a vanilla bean, you will have to split it in half, scrape the grains, and infuse it in the hot milk for at least 30 minutes.
4. Whisk vigorously
The crème pâtissière sticks easily to the bottom of the pan and tends to form lumps. It is important to whisk constantly, making sure to scrape the entire bottom of the pot as well as the corners. If, despite these precautions, a few lumps form, don’t panic! Just pass the cream through a sieve at the end of cooking.
No secret, to obtain a beautiful, smooth pastry cream that does not stick to the pan, you will have to whip vigorously.
5. Let it Cool down without stirring too much.
Otherwise, the custard could become runny. Indeed, the hydrogenated structure of starch granules is very fragile. A little too vigorous lashes after cooking could make them “implode” and make the pastry cream more fluid. In addition, to prevent skin from forming on the surface of the cream, cover it with plastic wrap or a piece of buttered parchment paper, taking care to press the paper firmly against the surface of the cream.
6. Filming the cream on contact
Once your cream is ready, pour the pastry cream into a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Filming the cream well on contact (directly on the cream) will prevent it from forming a crust on the upper part. Just make sure that this same film can withstand a specific temperature.
7. Would you please keep the pastry cream in the refrigerator?
Yes always in the refrigerator and covered with cling film in contact with the cream.
The pastry Cream always contains milk, egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and vanilla. Sometimes butter is also added after cooking to enrich the taste and make the cream more glossy.
- Eggs: They are used to thicken but also to add flavor. Without the eggs, the pastry cream would taste like sweet milk. Eggs thicken the preparation thanks to their proteins and long molecules coiled on themselves. When preparing the crème pâtissière, these proteins unwind and attach to form a network that traps some liquid (a process called coagulation).
- Corn flour or maïzena: cornstarch contains starch. Starch is present in the small granules you smell when you rub flour or cornstarch between your fingers. During cooking, these granules open and become full of water. Long starch molecules then escape from the granules and mix with the recipe liquid. As a result, the milk no longer flows because it is trapped inside the granules and among the starch molecules.
- Milk: The choice of milk has little importance on the success of the custard. On the other hand, whole or 2% milk will give much better results on the flavor side than skimmed milk. The milk should be boiling beforehand: this allows an aromatic element to be infused into it (a vanilla pod, coffee beans, lavender flowers, etc.)
Too runny, too thick, grainy: my unstoppable tips for making up a perfect pastry cream.
What to do when the texture obtained is not the desired one? There is no question of throwing it away. Fortunately, there are many ways to catch it.
Making this creme patisserie recipe is easy but be careful to follow all the steps to the letter. Otherwise, you will end up with a cream that is too liquid, too thick, or grainy.
In these cases, do not panic; a few adjustments are enough to obtain a perfect texture. I will explain how to do it.
My pastry cream is too runny. Why?
You had removed the cream from the fire ahead of time, probably when it began to thicken before boiling. The preparation does not have enough hold to use as a pie filling.
The solution: put it back on the heat for a few minutes to thicken. If the texture still does not suit you, mix a teaspoon of cornstarch in a cold milk base and then add to the cream to cook for a few minutes.
My pastry cream is too thick. Why?
The pastry cream thickens as it cools. So when you take it off the heat, it shouldn’t be too compact. Too thick a cream may be unpleasant and add heaviness to the mouth.
The solution: off the heat, add a bit of cold milk while mixing, add little by little until you obtain the desired texture.
My pastry cream is grainy. Why?
After heating the milk, you should gradually add the egg yolk-sugar-cornstarch mixture to it. If it is not well incorporated, then the cream will feel grainy.
The solution: filter the pastry cream through a sieve. Not enough? A slight tap in the hand blende, and you’re done.
Frequently Asked Questions
What to do with creme patissiere?
You can use the cream patissiere (Vanilla pastry cream) as a base of any fruit pie, such as the strawberry tart, or fill the éclairs (well-known french desserts). You can use creme patissiere for cream puffs, creme patissiere in cake goes well, and for fiiling a mille-feuille, and eclairs au chocolat, pastry cream is essential.
You should attempt making creme patissiere (vanilla pastry cream) if you’ve never made it before. It’s a simple and delicious recipe that can be used in a variety of ways.
How to store creme patissiere?
Creme patissiere (pastry cream) is a plain cream to make but like any cream, it must be depleted quickly. To store pastry cream it is necessary to put it in the fridge as soon as possible.
Place it in a container and cover it with transparent plastic wrap. The Vanilla pastry cream will last about 3 – 4 days. Unfortunately, the presence of egg yolks makes this cream very fragile.
Can creme patissiere be frozen?
It may be possible to freeze the cream, knowing that the appearance, consistency, and taste will suffer quite severely.
Flavoring your Creme
You can always give some different taste flavors to your creme patissiere. My favorite alternatives are:
- Lemon juice /zest: The creme patisserie can be flavored with lemon juice and or a lemon zest that you can add at the end when the creams have cooled down.
- Kirsch: The creme patisserie can be flavored with a few drops of kirsch, which will be added at the end when the pastry cream is cooled down.
- Orange liqueur: add one teaspoon of orange liqueur at the end when the pastry cream has cooled down
- Chocolate: Add two tablespoons of bitter cocoa powder to the milk.
- Coffee: Add a few drops of strong coffee to the milk.
- Caramel: you can add caramel to the milk at the beginning to flavor the pastry cream as well.
How to make a no-fuss pastry cream?
It is not difficult to achieve the perfect pastry cream texture. I would even say that creme patissiere it’s the easiest cream to make.
You need to make sure to cook it for 1 min 30 and no longer. That is all it needs to pasteurize. You’ll know when it’s done when it starts to bubble “hot” and pop.
By following the step-by-step instructions, you do not risk making a mistake. A little sugar in the bottom of the saucepan will prevent the cream from sticking. Whip constantly, and you will have a great cream.
Is this creme patissiere gluten free?
The authentic pastry cream recipe is gluten-free since it is made with corn starch only. Some pastry cream recipes use flour, or both flour and cornstarch, yet that’s not required.
I also find that using only corn starch reduces the risk of the pastry cream tasting floury, and this is a problem you’ll run into with flour-based pastry cream.
One last point about this easy recipe is that since creme patissiere (pastry cream) comes from the French cuisine I must share with you the right way how to write it in: Crème Pâtissière.
[blockquote align=”none” author=] Ready to dive into this recipe? Let’s get started on making this easy pastry cream! [/blockquote]
Easy Creme Patissiere Recipe (Pastry Cream)
- 600 ml milk whole
- 2 vanilla bean pods (split in half)
- 4 large egg yolks
- 4 tbsp cornstarch (cornflour)
- 5 tbsp sugar
- 40 g butter
- 2 tbsp vanilla extract (Optional)
- In a saucepan, pour the milk. Scrape half a vanilla pod with a knife and add the seeds and the pod to the milk. Bring everything to a boil over low heat to infuse the vanilla into the milk.
- Separate the yolks from the whites of 4 eggs, and put them in a bowl. Add 6 tbsp sugar and beat vigorously with a whisk until the mixture turns white and the sugar crystals have dissolved.
- Gradually add 60g (4 tbsp) of cornstarch to the egg yolk and sugar mixture. Mix gently so as not to form lumps.
- Once the mixture is homogeneous, pour half of the vanilla-flavored milk – just boiling – over the cream maker. Mix delicately first, then more vigorously to loosen the cream. When the cream is very soft, pour it back into the saucepan with the remaining half of the milk.
- Return the saucepan to low heat. Constantly whisking until it starts to thicken – this should take about 2 Minutes.
- After you see the first bubbles break the surface. Remove from the heat, pour the custard into a bowl and add the butter. Whisk in the butter until it's thoroughly mixed in and immediately cover the surface with plastic wrap.
- As soon as the pastry cream is ready and cooling down, cover your cream with plastic wrap to avoid the creme patissiere form a skin, which will spoil its texture.
I’d love to hear what you think of this easy pastry cream recipe. Please let me know in the comments section below. Remember that Crème Pâtisserie is always a good idea and happy cooking!