Chances are you have heard of crème pâtissière, if not by this name maybe confectioners custard or just plain old pastry cream. If you haven’t heard of it before you may have already tried it without ever really knowing! 

Crème pâtissière, one of the key components in the pastry world and is used as a foundation on which many other creams and fillings are made. If you have ever had a profiterole, éclair, danish pastry, galette de rois, mille-feuille, or fruit tart, you have probably already sampled the delights of this rich pastry cream!

Crème pâtissière is a thick rich creamy custard, usually flavoured with vanilla, that can be used as a base and a filling for many desserts. If you equip yourself with this recipe, you have just opened up your world to millions of dessert options.

This pastry cream is endlessly versatile you can add butter, cream, meringue, chocolate, coffee, zests, alcohols, (the list goes on and on) to create a myriad of custardy concoctions! If you can think of it, you can probably make it work with crème pâtissière.

Unlike a standard custard, this one is not thickened by eggs alone. With the addition of starch, usually in the form of flour or cornflour, we can achieve a thick, stable, full bodied crème pâtissière.

In this recipe I use either flour or Bird’s custard powder depending on the intended use of our pastry cream. I can already hear the gasps and the outrage at the sheer mention of custard powder! But just hear me out before you jump ship!

When I plan on using the crème pâtissière for filling or mixing with another ingredient I stick to plain flour for thickening. This give me a lovely light coloured crème pâtissière, which is delicious but falls short when it comes to a visual impact. This often not a problem when hidden away as a filling in some sort of pastry delight!

If I am using the custard for decorating, like for the top of a tart, I use custard powder. I just find the custard powder gives the crème pâtissière a fantastic vibrant colour, which really stands out, making it ideal for presentation.

Consider it more as an ingredient that will enhance a fantastic recipe, not as means to actually make a good custard. I can assure you a good custard can not come from custard powder alone.

Watch the video, then try the recipe and see what you think, you might be surprised!

— Al Brady


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INGREDIENTS

300ml milk
1 vanilla pod
4 egg yolks
50g caster sugar
25g flour or custard powder


METHOD

Heat the milk with the vanilla pod and leave to infuse for 30 minutes. If you don't have a vanilla pod, you can use 2tbsp of good quality vanilla extract or skip this step entirely and replace the 50g of sugar with vanilla sugar and continue as normal.

Place the egg, egg yolk, sugar and flour in a mixing bowl. Mix all the ingredients together with a balloon whisk until mixture is at ribbon stage. Ribbon stage is when you lift the whisk out of the mixture it should fall slowly forming a ribbon that will hold its shape for a few minutes. It is a good indication that the sugar is dissolving in the little water the yolks provide.

Remove the vanilla pod from the milk and gradually stir the milk into the egg mixture, a bit at a time, to avoid creating any lumps. Return the mxiture to a clean saucepan and cook over a low heat stirring quickly and constantly with a balloon whisk. At this stage, the custard will appear lumpy. This is not a time to panic, this is exactly what is meant to happen! Be strong, continue to cook the custard and keep whisking. As the custard thickens it will eventually become nice and smooth. Once the custard has thicken, simmer gently for 3-4 minutes stirring continuously, in order to cook out the flour.

Once cooked pour the crème pâtissière onto a plate or into a bowl, cover the surface of the custard with cling film, to prevent a skin from forming, and leave to cool. Once the crème pâtissière has cooled, it will have firmed up and is ready to be used. Place the cooled custard into a bowl and beat vigorously to loosen the custard and use as required.


WATCH THE VIDEO


Want to flavour your crème pâtissière  try these out for size...

Coffee
Add 1-2 teaspoons instant coffee powder to the milk and heat up to infuse in the usual way.

Lemon/Orange/Lime
Add the zest to the milk to infuse, make the crème pâtissière in the normal way and add the juice to cooked custard to taste.

Chocolate
Add 75g of your favourite chocolate, to the cooked custard and whisk in (off the heat) until smooth. 

Fruit
Add your chosen fruit puree to taste once the custard has cooled, and mix thoroughly.

Alcohol
Add 1tbsp of alcohol of your choice (Grand Marnier, Limoncello, Kirsch, brandy, rum, etc.) to the cooked custard while it is warm.  
Feel free to add more!

This is just a small glimpse as to what can be accomplished with your crème pâtissière!

Experiment a little and create something truly delicious!