Kitchen Tips: How to Make Pastry Cream
How to make perfectly smooth and creamy vanilla Pastry Cream Recipe at home! Today’s recipe includes a step-by-step how-to video at the bottom of the post! Learn how to make perfect pastry cream every time! Great for Cream Puffs, Eclairs, and Boston Cream Pie!
Today’s recipe explaining how to make Pastry Cream is a continuation of my “Kitchen Tips” series. Past classic staple kitchen tips include my Chocolate Ganache recipe and Whipped Cream recipe, among others!
Today we are tackling a surprisingly simple homemade Pastry Cream recipe!
Fellow from-scratch bakers (and aspiring from-scratch bakers!), how many times have you been excited to follow a recipe for “homemade” cream puffs or eclairs only to find that the recipe called for an instant pudding mix for the filling in lieu of the real deal? If you’re here today, I’m guessing box mixes just don’t cut it for you any more than they do for me, and you’re up for the challenge (it’s not much of a challenge, I promise!) of making your own pastry cream.
The thing is, real homemade pastry cream isn’t even very difficult to make! As with most homemade recipes, there is some technique that you need to know know, but the recipe itself calls for just a handful of common ingredients and takes less than half an hour to prepare (not counting the idle time spent chilling).
Today I’ll be walking you through all the tips and sharing everything you need to know to make my favorite pastry cream recipe. Ready?!
How to Make Pastry Cream
- Heat together cream, milk, sugar, a split vanilla bean, and salt in a saucepan. Stir frequently until the mixture comes to a simmer then remove from heat and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together room temperature egg yolks and additional sugar, then add the cornstarch and whisk again until slightly thickened.
- Once your cream has cooled, slowly drizzle a small amount of the cream mixture into the egg mixture while whisking. Add the remainder of your cream mixture to the egg mixture, pouring in a slow stream while whisking, until the two mixtures are completely combined.
- Transfer your cream/egg mixture back to the saucepan and return to the stovetop. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until thickened.
- Remove from heat and pour through a fine mesh strainer. Add butter, one piece at a time, whisking after each addition until butter is completely melted and incorporated. (see photos above)
- Cover with a piece of plastic wrap directly in contact with the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming. Allow to cool to room temperature then transfer to the refrigerator and allow to chill for several hours before using.
A Word on Tempering
In step 3 above, I mention tempering, or slowly adding a small amount of the hot cream mixture to the egg mixture. This allows us to slowly increase the temperature of the eggs without cooking them.
Tempering is so important, and while it’s easy to do, so many people will make the mistake of skipping this step or failing to respect how critical it is for perfect pastry cream. To temper my eggs, I often scoop a 1/3 cup measuring cup of the cream mixture and whisk my egg mixture quickly and continuously while I add the cream in a slow stream. Once this is done, you can slowly, while still whisking, drizzle the remaining cream mixture into your egg mixture. When everything is combined, you’ll then return this mixture back to the saucepan.
It involves a bit of back and forth with your pastry cream (from the saucepan, into the bowl, back to the saucepan…), but it’s important to follow this method. Add the cream all at once or try to pour your egg mixture into your cream instead and you’ll actually end up cooking your eggs. Instead of silky smooth pastry cream, you’ll have scrambled egg soup. At this moment I can’t really think of anything less appetizing, so temper those eggs!
Are Pastry Cream and Custard the Same?
Pastry cream and custard are similar, but they are not quite the same. The main difference between pastry cream and custard is that custard is actually less firm. Custard is typically thickened only with eggs (which you might recall is how we made the custard for our Creme Brulee), while pastry cream is thickened with a starch. In this recipe, we are using 3 tablespoons of cornstarch to thicken our pastry cream.
How Long Can I Keep Pastry Cream?
Pastry cream will keep in the refrigerator for up to five days. Pastry cream should always be kept chilled and should be stored in an airtight container.
And if you’d like to try out this pastry cream recipe but aren’t sure what to do with it, stay tuned for Wednesday’s recipe! I’ll be sharing how to make my grandmother’s choux pastry recipe and how to make the best homemade cream puffs.
Be sure to check out the Vanilla Pastry Cream video at the bottom of the recipe! If you enjoy watching, make sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel where I’ve already uploaded over 100 recipe videos that you can watch for free!
Vanilla Pastry Cream Recipe
- Recommended tool: Fine mesh strainer
- 1 cup milk 236ml
- 1 cup heavy cream 236ml
- 1/3 cup (67g) + 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar divided
- 1 vanilla bean¹ split in half lengthwise
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 5 large egg yolks room temperature
- 3 Tablespoons cornstarch
- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter softened and cut into 4 pieces
- Combine cream, milk, 1/3 cup (67g) sugar, vanilla bean, and salt in a medium-sized heavy bottomed saucepan. Place on stovetop over medium heat. Stir frequently until sugar is dissolved and mixture comes to a simmer. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes (stir occasionally).
- Meanwhile, in a separate large bowl, whisk together egg yolks and 3 Tablespoons of sugar. Whisk vigorously for about 15 seconds, until sugar is beginning to dissolve.
- Sprinkle cornstarch over egg/sugar mixture and whisk until combined and slightly thickened.
- Once your cream mixture has cooled, slowly drizzle about 1/3 cup of the cream mixture into the egg mixture while whisking constantly (this will temper your eggs and gradually adding the heated cream will prevent them from cooking!). Slowly, while still whisking, drizzle in the remainder of your cream mixture until the cream and egg mixture are completely combined.
- Pour mixture back into saucepan and return to stovetop over medium heat. Whisk frequently until thickened.
- Remove from heat and pour mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a heatproof bowl (vanilla bean should be caught by the strainer and should be discarded now).
- Whisk in butter, one piece at a time until completely combined. If you didn’t use a vanilla bean, stir in the vanilla extract at this point, too.
- Place a piece of plastic wrap directly in contact with the surface of the pastry cream (to prevent a skin from forming). Allow pastry cream to cool at room temperature for about 30 minutes or until pastry cream is near room temperature, then transfer to the refrigerator to chill for at least 2-4 hours before using.
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