Crème Pâtissière – aka Pastry Cream in English – is one of the most well-known basic French Pastry recipe. Made with simple ingredients, it is the most deliciously creamy custard-like filling to use in cakes, desserts and baked goods!
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What is Crème Pâtissière
Crème Pâtissière is a thick cream that has the consistency of a pudding or a custard. Made out of Milk, Egg Yolks, Sugar and a Flour, it is a classic French Recipe that is often used to fill cakes and baked goods.
The Milk is thickened with the Egg Yolks and the Flour (or Starch) in a pot on the stove. Pastry Cream is often flavoured with Vanilla, but can be made with many different flavouring ingredients such as Coffee Powder, Lemon or Chocolate.
What is the difference between
Crème Pâtissière and Crème Anglaise
Although they are basically made the same way on the stove and with similar ingredients, there are two main differences between the two creams:
- Crème Pâtissière uses Milk (or a combination of Milk and Cream) while Crème Anglaise is made with Cream only.
- Crème Anglaise has a thiner consistency as it is thickened with the Egg Yolks only – it does not require any Flour or Starch like Crème Pâtissière
Pastry Cream Ingredients
You will only need a few very basic ingredients to make a Crème Pâtissière – that’s what makes it so easy to prepare.
To make a basic Vanilla Pastry Cream, you will need:
- Full Cream Milk
- Egg Yolks
- Caster Sugar
- Flour or Starch – I personally always use Corsntarch
- Vanilla Bean or Paste
- Optional: unsalted Butter
The cream does not especially require the use of butter, but it can be added to the preparation for a creamier (and richer) finish. It is up to you, depending on how you will use it, to decide to add butter or not.
How do you make simple Pastry Cream
The making of Pastry Cream is very similar to the making of a Lemon Curd for example.
You need to heat up your liquid (Milk here), then pour it over pre-stirred Egg Yolks, Sugar and Flour or Starch. Finally, the whole preparation needs to be cooking on the stove until thick.
Let’s look into each steps in detail:
- If flavouring the cream with Vanilla, start by infusing the Vanilla Bean sliced in half in the warm Milk in a small pot on the stove. After infusing for 5 minutes, scrap the seeds out and place them back into the milk. You can also use Vanilla Paste instead if you cannot find fresh Vanilla Beans.
- In a seperate heat-proof bowl, whisk the Egg Yolks and Caster Sugar. The more air you incorporate into it while whisking, the lighter the cream will be.
- Add the Cornstarch to the Yolks/Sugar and whisk until there are no more lumps.
- Carefully pour the hot Milk over the Yolk/Sugar/Starch, while continuously whisking. This is to make sure the hot milk does not cook the egg yolks straight away.
- Transfer back into the pot and heat up on a low heat. Keep whisking until the cream starts to thicken, then directly remove from the heat.
Check out this video to see How Pastry Cream is made!
How long do I need to cook Crème Pâtissière?
A great tip that I picked up from Pastry School is that there is actually a rule to determine how long the Pastry Cream should cook.
For 1 litre of Milk, the cream needs to cook 1 minute. That means that if you are making a smaller batch of 250ml (1 cup) for example, you need to cook the cream for 15 seconds.
The cooking time starts when all the ingredients are incorporated into the pot and you see the first bubble of a boil.
Cooking the Pastry Cream the right time not only allows to get the perfect custard consistency, it also makes sure that the Egg Yolks are properly cooked to avoid any risks.
How long does Pastry Cream last?
Pastry Cream needs to be kept in the fridge and will keep up to 5 days when refrigerated. However, I recommend to use it within 3 days for a fresher cream (or as soon as possible).
Make sure the cream is well covered with plastic wrap touching the top. A thick crust will form on the top of the cream if not properly covered.
It is not recommended to freeze Pastry Cream as it will loose its consistency and become wet and soggy when being thawed.
How to use Crème Pâtissière
The ways to use Crème Pâtissière is almost infinite! You can use it a a filling between two layers of cake or pastries (think Mille-Feuille), in a tart covered with fresh fruits or baked in a tart shell (Baked Custard Tart).
Or inside Choux Pastries (Eclairs, Choux Buns), baked inside a Cake, as a layer in a Triffle or a Parfait,… like I said – so many possibilities!
Here are a few recipes that use Pastry Cream:
- Coffee Choux Buns
- Plum and Vanilla Custard Tart
- Raspberry & White Chocolate Profiteroles from Only Crumbs Remain
- Boston Cream Pie from Sugar and Soul
- Vanilla Custard Cookie Cups by Liv for Cake
- Homemade Mille-Feuille from Pastry and Beyond
- Lemon Ricotta Cake with Pastry Cream from Ginger with Spice
- Strawberry Tartlets with Pastry Cream Filling
Tips to make the perfect Pastry Cream:
- To avoid lumps while baking, make sure the Cornstarch (or Flour) is well whisked with the Yolks and Sugar before being incorporated into the Milk.
- Make sure to whisk well while the cream is cooking and that you are picking up the cream at the bottom and on the edges that will start to thicken faster than at the centre.
- If your Pastry Cream seems to be too thick (hard to whisk, sets in a block), try adding a little bit of Milk and whisking vigorously.
- If the Crème Pâtissière is too runny, add some Flour or Starch (a little bit at the time) and place it back on the stove until it starts to thicken.
- Got lumps in your Crème Pâtissière? First, try to whisk it vigorously to break the lumps. If it does not seem to work, use an Immersion Blender on low speed to break out the lumps.
- Always work with low heat. If the heat is too high, chances are your eggs will curd before the cream has time to thicken and you will end up with a lumpy cream. It will take a bit longer to make, but chances of success are much higher!
More Classic French Desserts Recipes:
- Cherry Clafoutis
- Sablés Bretons (Salted Butter Cookies)
- French Buckwheat Crepes
- Easy French Apple Cake
- Easy Raspberry Coulis
- Chocolate Bavarois Cake
- Spiced Red Wine Poached Pears
- French Triple Chocolate Tart
- Easy French Apple Tart
- Easy Strawberry Coulis
French Creme Patissiere Recipe:
Crème Pâtissière (Pastry Cream)
- 2 cups (500ml) Full Cream Milk
- 1 Vanilla Bean (or 1/2 teasp. Vanilla Paste)
- 4 Egg Yolks
- 2 tbsp (30gr) Caster Sugar
- 1/4 cup (30gr) Cornstarch, (Plain Flour can be used instead, or your prefered Starch)
- 2 tbsp (30gr) Unsalted Butter – Optional
- Place the Milk and Vanilla Bean/Paste in a small pot and heat up on very low heat. Leave to infuse for about 5 minutes without boiling the milk. If using Vanilla Bean, remove the bean from the pot, scrap the seeds and put them back in the pot with the milk.
- In a seperate heat-proof bowl, whisk the Egg Yolks and Sugar until foamy. Add the Cornstarch and stir until incorporated.
- Carefully pour the warm milk over the Yolk/Sugar while beating, then transfer the whole preparation back in the pot on low heat.
- Keep whisking until the cream starts to thicken. When you see the first bubble (the cream starts to boil), keep whisking for 30 seconds then directly remove from the heat.
- Optional: for a creamier finish, add the butter and stir until melted.
- Transfer the Pastry Cream into a heat-proof container and cover with plastic wrap. The wrap should be touching the surface of the cream to insure it does not dry out.
- Place in the fridge and leave to set for at least an hour. Keep in the frigde for up to 3 days, until ready to be used.
- The cooking time depends on the quantity of Milk. As a general rule, count 1 minute for 1 litre of Milk after the fist boil.