I’m pretty certain you’ve all come across Crème patissière before. Pronounced “Krehm pah-tee-see-ehr”, it is also known as pastry cream, & confectioners’ custard. It’s that flour-based custard cream that’s used to fill desserts such as eclairs, tarts, & mille-feuille.
It is the basic of crèmes, & is the most widely used cream type when it comes to pastry making as it is used as a base foundation to make other types of creams such as Crème diplomate, Crème mousseline, Crème chiboust & Crème frangipane.
I make between 650g to just over 1kg of Crème patissière every week to fill the inside layer of ‘Gateaux Basque with prunes’, & also to mix some with Crème d’amandes (almond cream) to end up with Crème frangipane, which, once baked in the tart case becomes the foundation for my fresh fruit tarts.
So here’s the recipe below. Sorry if the recipe reads long – I tried to explain why every step is done in that way, … because, knowing the ‘whys’ of how things work, is one step closer to getting a good result!
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Crème patissière (pastry cream) recipe:
Ingredients (to make 650g):
500ml fresh milk (full fat)
1 x vanilla pod
6 egg yolks (free-range or organic)
150g sugar (castor or granulated)
50g plain flour (sifted)
… ice cubes
… cling-filmed tray/ vat (cling-film the bottom & the sides with one sheet). Keep it cool in the fridge until needed.
… stainless steel mixing bowl
- 1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolk. (Refer to paragraph at the end about what to do with the left-over egg whites)
- 2. Add the sugar in one go. Whisk straight-away & thoroughly until the sugar dissolves. The golden rule here is to never leave a mound of sugar lying around in the egg yolk. Sugar has the same tendency as salt, it absorbs moisture, so if you don’t whisk it together at first instance, it’ll suck moisture from the yolk. Bits of yolk would dry, & leave orange ‘granules’ in your crème.
- 3. Sift the flour in, & fold it in until the flour just disappears. Never over-mix the flour, as it will produce gluten, which will give your crème a tough texture. (If you want to read more about flour & gluten, click here.) – - – - – - – - Here, flour also acts as a heat-shield to protect your eggs from cooking like omelette when you add the hot milk later on. – - – - – - – - Some Crème patissière recipes call for cornstarch instead of flour, or sometimes ask you to use both. It produces slight difference. Cornstarch gives you a ‘clearer’ crème, whilst flour results in a more ‘milky’ look. The texture is also slightly different too – cornstarch one is a little ‘jelly-like’ & ‘bouncy-er’. If you are using your Crème patissière as a base to create other crèmes, then it is best to stick to just flour.
- 4. Flatten the vanilla pod with the side of your knife (so that it is easier to cut), & cut it in half, lengthways. De-seed. The use of vanilla in Crème patissière is important as it keeps the ‘eggy’ smell down. If you are using vanilla essence instead of pod, add the essence right at the end, after the Crème patissière has cooled down.
- 5. Place the seeds & the pod-skin in the cold milk. … Boiling milk with the vanilla is the best way to enhance the vanilla flavour to its fullest.
- 6. Heat the milk in a pan over the hob (the size of the pan must be big enough to be used to cook the crème at a later stage).
- 7. Let it reach just before the boiling stage.
- 8. Pour small amount of the hot milk (roughly 1/4) in to the egg mixture in the mixing bowl. Whisk & mix. Pour the rest in. Whisk & mix. … It is best to start off mixing with small amount of hot milk, because you’d have better control over the mixture & make sure you won’t be left with lumps.
- 9. Sieve all of it back to the pan. … Sieving gets rid of the vanilla pod-skin.
- 10. Put it over high-heat, & whisk ‘all the time’. … The key word here is high-heat. Cooking over weak heat takes too long, & it’ll produce gluten that would toughen your crème, as opposed to the smooth texture you are after. So, always whisk, energetically, to ensure that the crème doesn’t get burnt on the bottom & sides of the pot.
- 11. After it reaches boiling point (bubbling on the surface), keep cooking for another 2 minutes. You want to cook the flour thoroughly.
- 12. Pour the hot mixture in to the cold cling-filmed tray. And use the the ice & water method, called an ‘ice bath’, whereby you place your tray in a bigger tray that is filled with ice & water. … Ideally, it shouldn’t be over 1cm deep, so that it cools quickly. – - – - – Not only is this important so as to stop its cooking process, it is vital to cool it ’til below the ‘temperature danger zone’ (between 5 degrees and 60 degrees) where most bacteria grow most rapidly to dangerous levels, some doubling in number within twenty minutes. – - – - If you don’t have a tray & using a bowl instead, use stainless-steel. And use the ‘ice bath’ method with another larger bowl.
- 13. Cling-film the top surface. The film should lie right on the surface. This is to stop the top surface from forming a skin.
- 14. Once mostly cool, place the crème in the fridge until needed. Make sure your fridge is set below 5 degrees. If not sure, best to buy a fridge thermometer.
- 15. Blend well with spatula before using.
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Suggestions for left-over egg whites:
make meringues, macarons, add one whole egg to make fried egg (or indeed what about a yolk-less fried egg?), or you can freeze it until you need it! To freeze, spoon egg whites in each section of a ice cube tray & pop it in the freezer. Then remove the egg white cubes in a freezer zip-lock bag, label it with the date & store.