Pastry cream, also called Creme Patissiere, is a rich, thick and creamy
custard made from a mixture of milk, eggs, sugar, flour and cornstarch (corn
flour). Vanilla, liqueurs,
chocolate, coffee and fruit purees are some complementary flavorings that
can be added to the cream. If a lighter pastry cream is desired, a
little whipped cream can be folded into the pastry cream once it has thickened
cream is classified as a filling. It has a smooth and
creamy texture that is a staple in pastry kitchens. It is used to
fill all sorts of cakes, tarts, cream puffs, eclairs, Napoleons, and
other pastries. A pastry cream is similar to a custard in that it is cooked on the stove and must be
stirred constantly to ensure that it does not curdle, resulting in
small pieces of cooked egg in the cream. Once made, it is best to
immediately cover the surface of the cream with plastic wrap as this
will prevent a skin from forming on the top of the cream. If not
using right away refrigerate until needed, up to 3 days. Before
using, bring to room temperature and stir or whisk to get rid of any lumps
that may have formed.
Vanilla seems to be the most
popular flavoring for Pastry Cream. Traditionally a vanilla bean is added
to the milk and once heated, the vanilla seeds are removed from the pod
and added to the hot milk. Not one to waste, I then like to wash and dry
the vanilla pod and add it to my canister of white sugar. Open the sugar
canister after a few days and the room will fill with the lovely sweet
scent of vanilla. Use the vanilla scented sugar in your baking or I even
like it in my hot chocolate or to sweeten a bowl of fresh fruit.
Vanilla beans are usually packaged in small plastic cylinders and are sold
in specialty grocery stores and health food stores. Buy vanilla beans that
are shiny and black, tender, plump and moist, preferably with the white
powder of vanillin on them. Never buy hard, dry and shriveled beans
because they are past their prime.
I know that vanilla pods can be expensive and also hard to find, so either
pure vanilla extract or pure vanilla bean paste can be used instead. Try
to use "pure" vanilla extract, not the
imitation vanilla extracts which are made with synthetic vanilla (from
glycoside found in the sapwood of certain conifers or from coal extracts)
and leave a bitter after taste. Products labeled Vanilla Flavoring are a
combination of pure vanilla extract and imitation vanilla extract. There
is also a relatively new product called Vanilla Bean Paste that combines
tiny vanilla seeds with pure vanilla extract. I love this product as you
get the convenience of vanilla extract yet with all those lovely tiny
black vanilla seeds from a vanilla pod. Plus it is much cheaper than
vanilla pods. Nielsen-Massey makes Vanilla Bean Paste and it can be found
in specialty food stores or on-line.
a medium-sized heatproof bowl, mix the sugar and egg yolks
together. (Don't let the mixture sit too long or you will
get pieces of egg forming.) Sift the flour and cornstarch
(corn flour) together and then add to the
egg mixture, mixing until you get a smooth paste.
Meanwhile, in a saucepan
the milk and vanilla bean just to boiling (just until milk starts to foam up.) Remove from heat and
add slowly to egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent curdling. (If you get
a few pieces of egg (curdling) in the mixture, pour through a strainer.) Remove
vanilla bean, scrape out seeds, and add the seeds to the egg mixture. (The
vanilla bean can be washed and dried and placed in your sugar bowl to give the
sugar a vanilla flavor.) Then pour the egg mixture into
a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until boiling, whisking constantly. When it boils, whisk mixture constantly for another 30 - 60 seconds until it
becomes thick. Remove from heat and
immediately whisk in the liqueur (if using). (Stir in vanilla extract if using
instead of a vanilla bean.) Pour into a clean bowl and
immediately cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming. Cool
to room temperature. If not using right away refrigerate until needed, up to 3 days. Whisk
before using to get rid of any lumps that may have formed.
Makes about 1 cup
Preparation time 20 minutes.
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