Pastry cream is one of my favorite foods. If it’s part of a dessert menu, you can bet I’ll choose it.
But what is pastry cream? It is a thick custard made on the stovetop that has relatively few ingredients. The traditional way of making it, though, is fussy. Normally, you have to “temper” the eggs with hot milk to avoid making sweet scrambled eggs. After a few attempts anyone can do it. Still, though, tempering is an unnecessary step. You can actually make it with a non-temper technique which is significantly easier and with less clean up.
With a no-egg tempering technique, you can put all ingredients (except two) in a pot, and whisk-away to creamy, comforting deliciousness.
Pastry cream has many uses:
- You can eat it by itself or add some fruit, nuts or berries
- You can use it to fill cakes, cupcakes, tarts and pies
- Eclairs and profiteroles (cream puffs) are a popular choice, too. I’ve already shared a recipe for pâte à choux (dough for cream puffs, etc.). Whip up a batch of those, plus the pastry cream and you’ll have yourself a nice eclair for dessert or breakfast
You can also add lots of flavors to pastry cream, making it extra versatile. Vanilla bean (or extract) is traditional. But you can use any flavor extract, citrus peels (remove before eating), shredded coconut, melted chocolate or cocoa powder, maple syrup… Get creative!
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No-Temper (Tantrum) Pastry Cream
• 5 egg yolks (Save the egg whites for my rose water meringues. See recipe, below)
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1/4 cup cornstarch
• 2 cups whole milk or Half & Half
• Flavoring (choose from 1/2 vanilla bean, 1 teaspoon vanilla or other flavored extract, a few peels of citrus, 1 teaspoon orange blossom water, etc.)
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 1 pinch of kosher or sea salt (not iodized table salt)
- In a medium size pot (about 1- or 2-quarts), add egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, salt and milk or half & half. Whisk briskly (do not let the sugar sit on the egg yolks too long or the sugar will burn the yolks)
- Place the pot on the stove top and bring it to low heat. Whisk continuously until the custard mixture thickens (it takes about 10 – 12 minutes). Just when you think it’s never going to thicken, it does. Keep whisking! Continue whisking on the heat until you reach a thick consistency like pudding
- Remove from heat and whisk in the butter and flavoring of your choice
- You may use or eat this immediately. Alternatively, if you prefer this cold, or are using the pastry cream in something that requires it to be room temperature or cold, transfer the pastry cream to a shallow bowl or small baking sheet and cover it directly with plastic wrap so a “skin” doesn’t form. Refrigerate until ready to use. You’ll likely have to re-whisk the pastry cream if you’ve chilled it to bring it back to a creamy texture
What to do with those leftover egg whites? See the recipe for rose water meringues.