Vanilla Pastry Cream (aka creme patissiere, creme patisserie, or creme pat) is silky and delicious - no wonder it's a component of countless desserts. Fruit tarts (like this one), eclairs (I have a great step-by-step tutorial here), cream puffs, Portuguese custard tarts, trifle, profiteroles, mille-feuilles, Boston cream pie, and so many more.
I've made a lot of pastry cream over the years and this recipe is definitely the easiest. All the ingredients are placed in a saucepan and cooked together until they thicken. Strain, chill, and use! Here's how I make it.
To begin, place sugar, cornstarch, and a pinch of salt in a heavy-bottomed 2-quart saucepan.
Whisk them together to break up any cornstarch clumps.
Add milk. I like to use whole milk.
Whisk to mix.
Add egg yolks. Just check out the color of those yolks - it really pays to buy free-range eggs from a local farm.
Whisk to mix.
Add butter. No need to soften, just throw it in cold.
Next scrape the seeds from half of a vanilla bean pod. Cut the pod lengthwise and scrape the seeds out.
Add them to the saucepan. Now it's time to start heating our mixture.
You can substitute pure vanilla extract if you don't have vanilla bean pods, but wait until the pastry cream is finished cooking before you add it (or it may taste bitter).
Whisk constantly over medium-high heat until the mixture reaches the boiling point.
Continue to boil, whisking constantly, for a full minute.
Mmm - see how the mixture has thickened? Now turn off the heat.
Immediately pass the pastry cream through a sieve. Actually, you don't have to do this step, but it'll remove any lumps.
See? There were some bits of cooked egg and some vanilla bean strands, but not anymore!
The last step is to cover the pastry cream with plastic wrap, directly on the surface of the cream, and chill completely before using.
Oh, and don't throw that vanilla bean pod away. See all those old vanilla bean pods in the jar? I've been saving them for years to make vanilla sugar.
Every time I use a pod, I put it in the jar...
And whenever the level of sugar in the jar gets low, I top it off with more. The sugar will absorb the flavor of the vanilla. I use it for baking and sweetening beverages.
Vanilla Pastry Cream (Creme Patissiere or Creme Patisserie)
makes 2 cups
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- pinch table salt
- 2 cups whole milk
- 4 large egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- seeds of 1/2 vanilla bean pod (or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract)
- In a 2-quart heavy bottom saucepan over medium-high heat, cook all ingredients (except vanilla extract, if using), stirring constantly, until it begins to boil; continue whisking for a full minute.
- Remove from heat and strain through a sieve.
- Cover pastry cream with a layer of plastic wrap directly on the surface; chill completely before using.
adapted from Martha Stewart
- When using vanilla extract instead of vanilla beans, stir in to thickened pastry cream AFTER it is removed from the heat.
- To make vanilla sugar, place used vanilla bean pod in jar and cover with sugar. Use for baking or sweetening beverages.