Crème Pâtissière (Pastry Cream)

I actually have several recipes for pastry cream. I use one that’s thickened with flour and egg yolks only as a base for soufflés or even ice creams or other desserts where I want a stable but soft custard. I use one thickened with a mix of egg yolk, flour and cornstarch for a firmer custard that I might lighten with a bit of whipped cream as a filling for cream puffs.

The quantities on the first type of pastry cream are as follows:

3 egg yolks
50g (1/4C) sugar
20g (2.5T) flour
250ml (1C) milk
1 tsp vanilla paste

For a firmer pastry cream:

3 egg yolks
50g (1/4C) sugar
15g (2T) flour
10g (2T) cornstarch (corn flour)
250ml (1C) milk
1 tsp vanilla paste

The directions for mixing both are the same. Beat the egg yolks with half the sugar until thick and pale and ribbon consistency. Add the flour and or cornstarch (aka corn flour) and continue to mix until smooth and well combined.

Heat milk and remaining sugar until steaming. Temper the yolk mixture with some of the hot milk mixture, then add the yolk mixture back to the milk in the pan and cook until thick and smooth stirring constantly to prevent the egg from scrambling. (I use a piano whisk because I find it’s the best for making a perfectly smooth sauce). I also like to test the temperature of the custard made without cornstarch because if it goes above 180°F/82°C it will curdle, I usually cook it to about 170°F/76°C to 175°F/80°C. The one thickened with cornstarch must actually come to the boil in order to thicken properly, the cornstarch protects egg mixture from scrambling.

After I remove it from the heat I add the vanilla (or about 30g/1 oz of chocolate if I’m making a chocolate flavored cream). If I’m adding a liqueur I might add it earlier to allow the alcohol to cook off.

You can also make a pastry cream using only cornstarch as a thickener, it does tend to make the resultant custard a bit more translucent, and much firmer than a flour or flour / cornstarch mix custard.  Never add cornstarch without first mixing it with a small amount of liquid into a paste because it’s nearly impossible to keep it from clumping if you just toss it straight into a larger quantity of liquid. That being said you can always strain the clumps out of a lumpy custard, but I’ve found that mixing the yolks first with the sugar and starch really prevents most of the trouble you might find with any clumping.