Pastry Cream

Pastry Cream | Butter Baking

We’re not going to be talking about me today.

All I’m going to say is that I’m going away tomorrow night. Just for a long weekend. To the beach. In the middle of winter.

I can’t wait!

Pastry Cream | Butter Baking

And that I love pastry cream.

Yes, pastry cream. You can use it for SO many things.

Like in these. Or in this. Oh, and in these.

Pastry Cream | Butter Baking

It’s a pastry basic. It’s essentially a custard, and you can use it as a tart filling, inside danishes and brioche pastries, as the base of creme diplomat (pastry cream + whipped cream mixed together) and german buttercream, inside pies, as a layer in gateaux, and… well, if you’re anything like me, you can just eat it by the spoonful.

Pastry Cream | Butter Baking

Don’t be scared of making it, okay? There’s just a few things you need to remember:

1. Mix your cornstarch with your sugar, really well, before whisking it into the egg yolks. Don’t forget! Or it will get all lumpy.

Pastry Cream | Butter Baking

2. Whisk your hot milk to the egg yolk mixture slowly. SLOWLY. If you don’t, you’ll end up with scrambled eggs. Or more lumps. So go slow, ‘kay?

Pastry Cream | Butter Baking

3. When you pour the custard back into the saucepan and return it to the heat, whisk. The entire time. Hard. Or you will, once again, have lumpy scramble. And lumpy, scrambled custard is no fun. For anyone.

Once you get all of this down, you can make this in 5 minutes flat. Easy!

Pastry Cream | Butter Baking

PASTRY CREAM
 
Ingredients
  • 1¼ cups milk (310ml, 11 oz)
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 4 egg yolks
Method
  1. Mix together the sugar, cornstarch and salt in a small bowl. This will prevent the cornstarch from going lumpy later.
  2. In a large heatproof bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Whisk the flour mixture to the egg yolks slowly, one tablespoon at a time. It will be thick and pasty. Set aside.
  3. Pour the milk into a medium saucepan. Split the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds, putting them into the milk. Throw in the vanilla pod, too.
  4. Place the pan over a high heat and scald the milk – heat it until bubbles appear around the edges, but it is not boiling.
  5. Once the milk is scalded, remove from the heat and slowly pour it into the egg mixture, whisking continuously.
  6. When all the milk incorporated, pour the custard back into the saucepan and cook over a medium heat. Whisk continuously and vigorously until the mixture begins to thicken and comes to a boil.
  7. Once the mixture thickens and is just beginning to bubble, whisk vigorously (to prevent lumps from forming) for 10 seconds and then turn off the heat.
  8. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a heatproof bowl (discarding the vanilla bean). Cover with plastic wrap, putting the plastic right onto the surface of the pastry cream. This will prevent a skin from forming.
  9. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or until cold. Use as required. Makes 2 cups.
  10. Happy baking!

Adapted from Joanne Chang’s Flour.

 

24 Thoughts on “Pastry Cream

  1. I’m a huge fan if pastry cream too, and find I always end up with an abundance of egg whites in my fridge/freezer. What do you make with yours?
    Ps LOVE your blog. I found you on Instagram :-)

    • Hi Sam! I used to just chuck all my egg whites but recently I’ve started keeping them and using them for macarons and Swiss meringue buttercream! You could also make macaroons and meringues : ) yum!
      Thanks so much, happy to hear you like the blog!!

  2. When I saw your photos I immediately thought, ” Oh my goodness, I am not the only one who would LOVE to eat a bowl of pastry cream with a spoon!” I consider pastry to simply be a scoop or holder for pastry cream! :) Been there, done that with the lumpy scrambled egg goo. Every now and then I can rescue a lumpy disaster with a fine strainer but I would be much happier to do it correctly the first time. I will follow your directions carefully and perhaps end up with a bowl of perfection (or at least close). :) Thanks, Natasha! Enjoy your long weekend! (I love walking on the beach in the winter.)

    • Oh yum, I so love it with a spoon! If you make it, try stirring in some melted chocolate, or nutella, and calling it dessert’ and it’s really great inside crepes with strawberries and/or nutella too!!
      Thanks Wendy, I think I may just go for a beach walk now :-)
      Hope you are having a great weekend!

  3. Great blog; I’m longing to increase my baking expertise and I’ll be sure to refer to yours. I want to make everything on here!
    I’m currently trying to encorporate cooking into my own blog and I’d love it if anyone had a look! http://htlcy.wordpress.com/
    I hope you’ve had a lovely weekend

  4. I am so glad I have just read your tips! I’m making brioche au chocolat today (well, started to make, probably wont finish until next week) and will deffo skim over these tips before beginning with the pastry cream! aaaah, so excited. you have such a beautiful photography style !

    • Hi Em! YUMMM! Brioche au chocolat is actually my FAVOURITE thing. Possibly EVER.
      I have made it before and used this pastry cream recipe :-)
      Hope you enjoy!!

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  6. I do mine pretty much the same way, except I don’t heat the milk before mixing it with the yolks. “Inherited” from my mum who always mixed in cold and heat everything up, stirring the whole time. Never understood why the preheating of the milk. It only makes more mess.

    • Hi! I’ve never heard of that technique! Every custard, ice cream and creme brulee base I have made involves scalding the milk first – don’t the eggs scramble if you don’t warm the milk and add it slowly?! :-)

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  9. Hello there Natasha :) . Thanks for the post on pastry cream! I was researching on how to make Bienenstich (aka Bee Sting Cake), a pastry cream-filled German cake with caramelized honey-almond topping, and stumbled upon your blog. I got the cake just this afternoon from my local bakery and wanted to see if I could give it a go myself.

    Hopefully I’ll get to try your pastry cream recipe sometime soon. I’ll tell you how it goes :)

    ~Eats Meets West

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  11. Looks fantastic and I’m about to give it a go. Question: You refer to mixing some vanilla in with the egg yolks, prior to splitting the vanilla bean and scraping the seeds into the milk. But I don’t see vanilla (extract?) listed as a separate ingredient or an amount of this. Am I missing something?

  12. Jena on July 15, 2014 at 3:40 am said:

    I need a little help here. I make pastry cream from a recipe that doesn’t require me to temper. I just scald the milk then very slowly add a mixture of cornstarch, flour, sugar, vanilla and yolks. Both your process and the latter don’t scramble the eggs. But I do notice that both recipes tell me to stop whisking once it’s thick and I find that knowing when to stop makes a difference in the texture of the cream once it’s cold. Would you mind describing the kind of thickness of the cream that tells you when to stop?

    • Hi Jena. Firstly, I’m surprised that adding yolks into hot milk doesn’t scramble them!
      As for the texture of the pastry cream – I can’t really describe the texture for you, because it depends on the recipe. This recipe here asks you to whisk for 10 seconds or so and it’s already thick, but it has a lot of cornflour.
      Other recipes that I make at work don’t have cornflour, or some have less cornflour, and therefore they take longer to thicken. Particularly when you don’t use cornflour, your egg yolks are the thickening agent, so you really need to boil the mix, whisking, for a good 3 minutes to thicken.
      You know your pastry cream is ready when it is thick, shiny, and lump free. Good luck!

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  14. Petrina on October 1, 2014 at 11:48 pm said:

    Hi natasha,
    Just want to say i love your website and your recipes! They have always been my fool proof go to.

    Just want to ask for a little help.. Something that has never has never happened to me before.. Which is hitting disaster when trying out a recipe here :/ i am pretty sure that ive got the technique wrong somewhere but yet i still cant figure it out. I am currently on my second attempt to make this pastry cream, and like the first, it curdles less than a minute into the last step, which is when i pour it all back into the saucepan. Ive tried googling other sites online and found that the quantities can vary depending on the quality of ingredients one has, but im wary to try out any other sites now as it looks like im soon to be on my third attempt (and running out of eggs!) :( ive even tried googling videos online and i cant think of any way that appears to be wrong.

    Im using argo brand corn starch, and regular caster sugar and salt. Would really appreciate your advice or if theres any way to salvage curdled custard. It literally looks like a glob of paste thats desperately clinging onto the whisk. Thanks so much! I really look forward to trying out the strawberry and cream tart recipe for a party tomorrow, and i had planned to start on the pastry cream the night before, but things dont seem to be working out :(

    • Hi Petrina! So I just need to clarify – is your pastry cream curdling, as in splitting apart, or thickening, into a big lump? If it’s the first, I would worry that you’ve maybe not tempered the eggs with the hot milk correctly, or that the heat of your pan was too high, and you’ve got scrambled eggs.
      But from what you’re describing, I think that your mix is just thickening really fast. Try putting it back on a lower heat or lowering the corn starch quantity. Better luck! :-)

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