Today, let’s dive into French desserts with a classic French filling: Crème Pâtissière, also known as vanilla pastry cream. This versatile custard is perfect for filling doughnuts, French fruit tarts, cream puffs, banana cream pie, Boston cream pie, and more!
If you’re making crème patissière for the first time, read through the post before starting. It’s easy to make, but there are a few tips and tricks to know during the cooking process!
Here’s what you’ll need for this french pastry cream recipe. Find the amounts in the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post.
- Whole milk: This is the base of our creamy custard. Full-fat milk gives the best results.
- Large egg yolks: They bring a rich, luxurious texture to the crème pâtissière. Save the egg whites for pavlovas, meringues or Swiss meringue buttercream!
- Sugar: Regular white granulated sugar.
- Cornstarch: This is our thickener.
- Vanilla: Use a scraped vanilla pod, vanilla extract, or vanilla bean paste.
- Salt: Just a pinch to enhance all the flavors.
- Butter: Adds shine and richness to pastry cream.
Step 1 – Warm the Milk. In a medium saucepan, gently heat your milk with the scraped vanilla bean on medium heat until it just simmers. You’re looking for tiny bubbles around the edge.
Step 2 – Mix the Egg Mixture. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, salt, and cornstarch until smooth and glossy.
Step 3 – Temper the Eggs. Gradually add half of the hot milk mixture to your egg yolk mixture in a thin stream, whisking constantly. This prevents the eggs from scrambling.
Step 4 – Cook the Cream. Pour the tempered egg mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring the hot pastry cream constantly with a rubber spatula or whisk, until the mixture thickens.
Step 5 – Add Butter and cover. Remove from heat and stir the butter into the hot custard. Pour the custard into a clean bowl, and lay a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming.
Step 6 – Chill. Let the crème pâtissière cool to room temperature, then refrigerate in an airtight container.
Tips for Perfect Crème Pâtissière Every Time
- Cook it long enough: It’s vital to cook your creme patissiere for the right length of time. Why? There’s an enzyme called amylase in egg yolks that can thin out your custard as it cools by breaking down the starch. To tackle this, once your mixture thickens and starts to bubble, keep cooking and whisking it for a full minute. This will deactivate the amylase and ensuring your custard stays beautifully thick and creamy..
- Strain for Smoothness: For an ultra-smooth pastry cream, strain it through a fine-mesh sieve.
Feel free to experiment with flavor additions!
- Chocolate Crème Pâtissière: Make chocolate pastry cream by melting some high-quality chocolate and mix it into the warm cream.
- Coffee-Infused: Add strong brewed espresso or coffee extract to your cream for a coffee-flavored twist.
- Citrus Zest: Infuse the milk with lemon, orange, or lime zest for a bright, citrusy flavor.
- Coconut Crème Pâtissière: Use coconut milk instead of whole milk and add shredded coconut for a tropical twist.
- Pistachio Pastry Cream: Mix in finely ground pistachio paste for a unique and nutty variation.
- Matcha Pastry Cream: Whisk in some matcha powder for an earthy, green tea flavor.
- Salted Caramel: Swirl in homemade or store-bought caramel sauce and a pinch of sea salt for a sweet and salty flavor.
- Raspberry or Strawberry: Add pureed and strained raspberries or strawberries for a fruity pastry cream.
- Chai Spice: Infuse the milk with chai spices like cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and cloves for a warm and spicy flavor.
- Liquor-Infused: Stir in a small amount of rum, brandy, or your favorite liqueur after cooking for an adult version.
- Rosewater Pastry Cream: A few drops of rosewater will give your pastry cream a delicate floral essence.
Yes, you can make crème pâtissière up to two days in advance. Store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator with a piece of plastic wrap pressed directly onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming.
Lumps in crème pâtissière usually occur due to not properly tempering of the eggs or heating the mixture too quickly (which causes the cornflour to become lumpy.) To fix this, you can pass the finished cream through a fine-mesh sieve to remove any lumps.
Freezing is not recommended as it changes the texture, and makes it watery or grainy once thawed. However, if you do freeze it, you can bring it back to a good consistency by reheating and whisking it.
You can flavor your pastry cream by infusing the milk with vanilla beans, citrus zest, or spices. Alternatively, stir in extracts, liqueurs, or purees after the cream has been cooked.
Yes, you can make a dairy-free version by substituting the whole milk with plant-based milks like almond milk, soy milk, or coconut milk. Keep in mind that this may slightly alter the flavor and texture.
- 480g (2 cups) whole milk
- 1 vanilla bean or 2 teaspoons vanilla paste or extract
- 65 g (1/3 cup) granulated sugar
- 30 g (1/4 cup) cornstarch
- 4 large egg yolks
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 45 g ( 3 Tablespoons) unsalted butter
In a medium saucepan, heat the milk until it is just at a simmer - don't let it boil.
While the milk is warming, add the egg yolks, sugar, salt, vanilla, and cornstarch in a separate bowl until smooth
Place the bowl on a dampened kitchen towel to prevent slipping. Add the hot milk mixture to the egg mixture in a steady stream while whisking.
Return the combined mixture to the saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly until it bubbles. Once it starts bubbling, it will begin to thicken. Keep it at a bubble don't stop whisking for 1 minute.
Take it off the heat and whisk in the butter until thoroughly combined. Pour the hot pastry cream into a clean bowl. If you want an extra silky smooth texture, you can push it through a fine mesh sieve first
Lay a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the custard to avoid a skin forming. Let it come to room temperature, then chill it in the refrigerator until completely cold.
When ready to use, give it a whisk to loosen it up again, as it will get very thick in the fridge. Pastry cream can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Freezing pastry cream - You can freeze pastry cream but it may separate and appear curdled upon thawing. To fix this, reheat the thawed creme on the stove until hot and whisk until smooth. Or, heat a small portion in the microwave until hot and then whisk it into the rest of the custard until you get a smooth consistency.
Cook it long enough: It's vital to cook your pastry cream for the right length of time. There's an enzyme called amylase in egg yolks that can thin out your custard as it cools by breaking down the starch. To tackle this, once your mixture thickens and starts to bubble, keep cooking and whisking it for a full minute. This will deactivate the amylase and ensure your custard stays beautifully thick and creamy.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 16
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 113Total Fat: 6gCarbohydrates: 10gProtein: 4g