How To Make The Classic Pastry Cream (VIDEO)
The classic pastry cream is an easy recipe and, above all, very quick to make: you will need very few ingredients and all of them are certainly already in your pantry!
What is Pastry Cream
Pastry cream is the best-known and most-used cream in pastry: it is served as a spoon dessert or used for filling sponge cakes, cakes and tarts, cannoli, cream puffs, profiteroles, semifreddo, and various other sweet products, even cold.
This sweet and yellow cream is very simple to prepare and in the classic recipe, it calls for the use of a few simple ingredients: egg yolks, sugar, milk, and flour, now increasingly replaced with rice starch or cornstarch.
Custard and Pastry Cream Difference
The main difference between Pastry cream – also known as Crème Pâtisserie – and Custard is how you use them. Custard is firm, yet creamy, while Pastry Cream is thicker because they contain more starch. In fact, Pastry cream is a Custard thickened with flour or cornstarch. Furthermore, custard can be served hot, while pastry cream is almost always served cold.
Today, I’m going to show you how to make classic pastry cream in the recipe of a great Italian Chef, the Master pastry chef Iginio Massari, with some small changes. I confess that I love to enjoy this delicious cream even on its own, and I often prepare it in the afternoon and accompany it with biscuits. It is absolutely divine!!!
Italian Classic Pastry Cream Ingredients
- Whole cow milk
- Egg yolks
- Granulated sugar
- Corn starch or rice starch – You can use rice starch if you want a softer cream. For a thicker texture, use all-purpose flour.
- Pure vanilla extract – Master pastry chef Iginio Massari’s recipe calls for vanilla pods, but those who have been following me for a while know that I prefer using pure vanilla extract, which is cheaper, and you can store it much longer than vanilla pods!
- Zest of 1/2 lemon
Watch the Pastry Cream Video Recipe
How to Make the Classic Pastry Cream – The Best Italian Recipe
Heat the milk. Add milk, vanilla, and lemon zest in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
Make the yolk cream. In a large bowl add the egg yolks, sugar, and sifted cornstarch, and mix with a hand whisk until smooth and creamy, but do not whip it.
Combine. Now pour milk through a strainer, 3 times, and mix. Transfer to the fire and continue cooking, stirring constantly with a whisk. When the pastry cream thickens, transfer it to a cold container (I place it into the freezer for 20 minutes), so that the pastry cream cools quickly. Continue stirring until the temperature reaches 50 °C., that is below the cooking point. If the cream remains shiny, it means that you have a good cream. Now cover the whole surface with plastic wrap to prevent skin from forming on the surface, and put it into the refrigerator until you need it.
Your Italian Pastry Cream is ready! Use it to make your own desserts, or serve it as a dessert along with cookies.
Tools You Need to Make a Perfect Pastry Cream
Tips and Tricks to Make a Perfect Pastry Cream
Before going to see doses and preparation in detail, there is still some advice to give: despite being a simple cream to make at home, it still hides some pitfalls, starting with the possibility of finding lumps. Or it may be too thick or too runny for your needs. Let’s see how to solve these problems.
How to avoid lumps in classic pastry cream recipe
Even if I personally prefer the classic ingredients, Maestro Iginio Massari’s recipe and that of many others uses potato starch, rice starch or corn starch, which help make the product more velvety and avoid the possible formation of lumps.
If, despite everything, the cream makes lumps, I suggest an inelegant solution, that is to use an immersion blender in the still-hot cream. It’s not an optimal choice and will make many turn up their noses, but in emergencies, it can save our preparation!
How to thicken a too-liquid cream
When you need a thick cream (for example because you have to fill cannoli), my advice is to use flour and slightly increase the quantities compared to the original doses. In this way, your pastry cream should be firm and perfect. Consider that you will only be able to see the final consistency when the cream has cooled. If even the cold cream turns out to be too thin, you can use flour or gelatin or, there’s little you can do, you have to start over. It happens to everyone, don’t worry!
How to thicken pastry cream when it’s still hot
- Thicken the cream with the flour. If you realized at the end of cooking that your cream remained too liquid, to recover it you can proceed by adding 1 tablespoon of flour or starch for each liter of milk you used to make the cream and continue cooking until you see that it is thickened as you wished.
- Thicken the cream with the gelatin. The alternative solution is to add some fish gelatin sheets after having softened them well in a bowl with cold water. The trick is to intervene immediately when the cream is still hot, so working immediately with the whisk you will avoid lumps forming. The same problem occurs if you don’t stir continuously while adding the thickener.
How to thicken pastry cream when it has cooled down
If you notice that your pastry cream is too runny after it has cooled down, you have 2 solutions:
- Isinglass. Warm the cream in a saucepan and add the isinglass in the dose of 2 sheets for each kilo of cream.
- Gelatin powder. My favorite solution though is to use gelatin powder. This route is great because, if you use the right gelatin powder, you can use it on cold cream too! Just make sure that the instructions for the jelly indicate that it is also suitable for cold use.
The procedure is very simple: add the gelatin powder to the cold cream (in the quantity indicated on the package) a little at a time, sifting it and mixing it with a whisk to avoid the formation of lumps. Your custard will thicken in seconds! If lumps do form anyway, your last chance to save the cream is to use an immersion blender to make it smooth!
How to make a thick cream a little more liquid
If your pastry cream is too thick after it has cooled down, just add warm or hot milk a little at a time until you reach the desired consistency, and mix well.
Classic Pastry Cream Storage Instructions
Store your cooled pastry cream in the refrigerator for 2–3 days. Freezing is not recommended.
Italian Classic Pastry Cream
- 500 ml Whole cow milk
- 1/2 teaspoon Pure vanilla extract or 1 vanilla pod
- Zest of 1/2 lemon
- 125 g Egg yolks (about 7 yolks)
- 130 g Sugar
- 40 g Corn starch or rice starch
- Put a large glass bowl into the freezer for 15 minutes.
- Add the milk into a saucepan. Add the vanilla seeds and vanilla pods cut into small pieces (or the vanilla extract) and the lemon zest, only the yellow part. Heat over medium heat until it boils.
- In a large bowl, add egg yolks, sugar, and rice starch. Use rice starch to have a softer cream, and if you want it thicker, use corn starch in the same quantity. Whisk until creamy, but don't whip the mixture.
- Remove from the heat the boiling milk and pour it into the yolk mixture through a sieve, in three times, to have uniformity of density.
- Return to the stove and continue cooking over low heat, stirring constantly with the whisk.
- When the cream has thickened, pour immediately it in the cold bowl to cool quickly. Whisk the pastry cream until the temperature drops to 50 °C, below the cooking point.
- Your pastry cream is ready!