Pastry Cream

This rich, creamy filling, while delicious as is, can also be flavored in an almost infinite number of ways to create the perfect complement to your cake, pie, or pastry. Make sure you have all of your ingredients and equipment on hand before you begin; once the egg yolks begin to cook, they won't wait for you to find your strainer! This base recipe calls for 1/2 cup (99g) of sugar, which makes a filling that's just barely sweet. If you're planning to use it for a pie filling and you want it to be sweeter, increase the sugar to 3/4 cup (149g).

Prep
20 mins
Total
45 mins
Yield
3 cups; 5 cups with the optional whipped cream
Pastry Cream

Instructions

  1. In a medium-sized saucepan, stir together 2 1/2 cups (568g) of the milk, the sugar, salt, and the vanilla bean. (If you're using vanilla extract or Vanilla Crush, add it at the end.) Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

  2. Meanwhile, whisk the cornstarch, flour, and egg yolks with the remaining 1/2 cup (113g) milk.

  3. Whisk some of the hot milk mixture with the egg yolks to temper them. This keeps the yolks from turning to scrambled eggs when you add them to the simmering milk.

  4. Pour the egg/milk mixture back into the remaining simmering milk. Doing this through a strainer will help prevent lumps later. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly with a whisk, until the mixture thickens; its temperature should reach 165°F. This is important: if the pastry cream doesn't reach 165°F on the stovetop it won't set properly as it cools, and may be soft and runny.

  5. Remove from the heat and strain through a fine strainer into a bowl set in an ice bath. Stir in the butter and vanilla extract (if you're using it). If you're going to flavor the pastry cream with chocolate or some other flavor, this is the time to do it (see variations below).

  6. Rub a piece of butter over the surface of the cream, top with a piece of plastic wrap (make sure it touches the top of the pastry cream so it doesn't develop a skin), then refrigerate until cool.

  7. Use chilled pastry cream as is for a sliceable cream pie, or a stiff filling for éclairs. Fold in the optional whipped cream, just before using, for a softer filling.

  8. Pastry cream will keep, covered in the refrigerator, for up to 5 days. After that it may start to weep.

Tips from our Bakers

  • If you've never made pastry cream before, be sure to set up a bowl with a strainer over an ice bath before you apply heat to anything. Once the pastry cream comes to a full boil, it's important to stop the cooking immediately, or it can curdle and separate. Taking it off the stove and straining it into the bowl in the ice bath can be the difference between silky pastry cream and a sad (weepy) result.
  • Butterscotch Pastry Cream: Add 1/4 teaspoon butter-rum flavor and/or 1 cup (6 ounces) butterscotch chips to the pastry cream after straining, stirring until the chips have melted.

    Caramel Pastry Cream: Add 3/4 cup chopped caramel (7 1/2 ounces, or 21 to 23 unwrapped individual caramels) to the hot, strained pastry cream, stirring until melted and the mixture is smooth.

    Chocolate Pastry Cream: Add 1 cup (6 ounces) chopped chocolate to the hot, strained pastry cream, stirring until melted and the mixture is smooth.

    Hazelnut Pastry Cream: Omit the butter and increase the sugar to 3/4 cup (149g). Add 3/4 cup (8 1/4 ounces) praline paste to the hot, strained pastry cream, stirring until combined.

    Orange Pastry Cream: Increase the sugar to 3/4 cup (149g). Add 1 teaspoon orange extract; 1/4 teaspoon orange oil; or 3 tablespoons orange zest to the hot, strained pastry cream.

    Peanut Butter Pastry Cream: Add 3/4 cup (203g) smooth peanut butter to the hot pastry cream, stirring until melted and the mixture is smooth. If you're using a natural or freshly-made peanut butter, omit the butter from the recipe, or the pastry cream will be greasy.

    Pistachio Pastry Cream: Omit the butter and increase the sugar to 3/4 cup (149g). Add 3/4 cup (8 1/4 ounces) pistachio paste, or blanched pureed pistachio meats.