|I originally got this recipe at
(Base recipe: Vanilla)
Traditionally, this vanilla cream is used as a filling beneath glazed fresh fruits in a completely prebaked tart or pie shell. The classic version uses as many as 6 large egg yolks for 2 cups milk; I usually use 4 yolks, but you can cut that down to only 2 or 3 yolks or 2 whole eggs and the recipe will still work.
[Unless I'm planning to make meringue, I always do this recipe with the whole
eggs, and it's fantastic.]
The vanilla bean imparts the best flavor to the cream, but vanilla extract, added at the end of the recipe, is a fine substitute. This cream is most often flavored with vanilla or almond, but for a change, you may wish to try some of the other flavor variations that follow.
Makes: about 2 1/3 cups; enough to generously coat one 9-, 10-, or 11-inch tart or adequately coat two 9- inch tarts or pies
Advance Preparation: pastry cream can be made ahead and refrigerated, tightly covered, for up to a week
Cooking Time: 12 to 15 minutes
SSpecial Equipment: 2 1/2-quart heavy-bottom non-reactive saucepan; wooden spoon; whisk; strainer; mixing bowl; plastic wrap
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- Scant pinch of salt
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 4 large egg yolks (or 2 to 3 large yolks or 2 whole large eggs)
- 2 cups milk
- 1 vanilla bean, slit lengthwise, or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut up
- Whisk together the flour, salt, sugar, and cornstarch, in a non-reactive saucepan. In a mixing bowl, whisk the milk into the yolks (or whole eggs), then whisk them into the sugar-starch mixture. Whisk well to be sure all the cornstarch and flour is picked up off the pan bottom and dissolved. With a knife, scrape all the inner seeds out of the vanilla bean, if you are using it, and add to the pan, then add the whole vanilla bean; if you are using vanilla extract, do not add it until the end of the recipe.
- Set the pan over medium heat and cook the custard mixture for
about 12 minutes, until it thickens and comes to a boil: Stir with a
wooden spoon on and off for the first 5 minutes, then stir
constantly for about 7 minutes longer, until the mixture really
thickens and reaches a boil, and you see fat heavy bubbles work up
to the surface and burst between stirs. Occasionally use a whisk
instead of the spoon to break up and remove any lumps. Then boil for
1 full minute (count to 60) while stirring constantly, covering the
entire bottom of the pan with the spoon. Remove the pan from the
heat. The cream is sufficiently cooked if it is smooth and thick and
will generously coat the spoon--it should hold a clearly defined
line when you draw your fingertip through the cream clinging to the
back of the spoon.
- Remove the vanilla bean, if used; wash and dry it for reuse. If you suspect that the cream may be lumpy, pass it through a strainer set over a bowl. Stir in the butter and the vanilla extract, if using. Spoon the cream into a bowl. To prevent a skin from forming, press a piece of buttered plastic wrap onto the surface, or dab it with butter or sift on a very light coating of confectioners' sugar. Cool, then cover and refrigerate.
- Praline Pastry Cream: Fold 1/4 to 1/2 cup powdered peanut or almond brittle into the warm, finished pastry cream. (Grind the broken pieces of brittle to a powder in a food processor or blender or put in a plastic bag and pound with a hammer.)
- Coffee Pastry Cream: Dissolve 2 tablespoons instant coffee powder in the milk before whisking it into the egg yolk mixture.
- Chocolate Pastry Cream: Melt 3 to 4 ounces finest-quality semisweet, bittersweet, or unsweetened chocolate in a double boiler, then stir it into the warm, finished cream. The amount of chocolate depends on how much chocolate flavor you desire; I prefer the maximum.
- Mocha Pastry Cream: Melt 3 ounces semisweet chocolate in a double boiler. Stir in 4 teaspoons instant coffee powder dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water. Stir this into the warm, finished cream.
- Almond Pastry Cream: Stir 1 teaspoon almond extract into the pastry cream along with the butter. You can also add 1/2 cup (2 ounces) ground blanched almonds to make this into Frangipane, an excellent filling for fruit tarts.
- Orange Pastry Cream: Add 1 tablespoon grated orange zest to the custard mixture before cooking. Stir 2 to 3 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur into the warm, finished cream.
- Butterscotch Pastry Cream: Substitute 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar for the granulated sugar.
- Liqueur-Flavored Pastry Cream: Stir 2 tablespoons rum, kirsch, or Other liqueur into the pastry cream along with the butter.
- Whipped Cream Pastry Cream: Set the pastry cream aside to cool, then chill while you whip 1/2 cup heavy (36% butterfat) cream until stiff. Fold the cold creams together.
- Instant Pastry Cream: For desperate moments when time is precious, prepare 1 small package French vanilla pudding, instant type, using 1 cup milk. Whip 1/2 cup heavy cream (36% butterfat) until stiff and fold it into the pudding along with 1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract. Or, for even better (although still packaged) flavor, use cooked-style vanilla pudding prepared as directed on the box and chilled; mix with the whipped cream, then add the vanilla or almond extract.