Vanilla Pastry Cream

Vanilla Pastry Cream Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Pastry cream is one of the most versatile recipes in a professional pastry kitchen (and your home). It is used for the filling of eclaires, napoleons, fruit tarts, banana cream pie, trifle, and just scooped out of the bowl with a spoon. It is essentially “kick-ass” vanilla pudding, to quote one of my former bosses. It can be scented with vanilla, in fact I always start there and then add flavors to it. I’ve made everything from Thai chili-chocolate to passion fruit pastry cream. Here is the basic vanilla pastry cream recipe to start with!

This is an old post with old photos (I’ve come a long way with my camera since then)…

Pastry Cream :

2 cups milk

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Pinch salt

1/2 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 egg

3 egg yolks

For the pastry cream:

Bring the milk, 1/4 cup of the sugar, butter, salt and vanilla bean to a gentle boil in a medium saucepan.

Boiling Ingredients for Vanilla Pastry Cream | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Remove from heat.

Vanilla Pastry Cream Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Whisk together the cornstarch and the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. Add the egg and yolks to the cornstarch and mix into a smooth paste.

Vanilla Pastry Cream Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Slowly, and in small amounts, whisk a little of the hot milk into a the egg mixture. This is called tempering the eggs, which you need to do to get them to the same temperature of the hot milk in the pan, so they won’t curdle.

Vanilla Pastry Cream Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Once the egg mixture is warm to the touch, pour it back into the milk in the pan.

Vanilla Pastry Cream Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Return the custard to the stove and bring to a boil, whisking continuously for 2 to 3 minutes. The pastry cream will thicken almost immediately but it is important to cook out the starch so that it isn’t grainy and so your pastry cream won’t separate. (separating pastry cream is when the liquid releases from the cream, easily prevented by cooking for 2-3 minutes!) When the pastry cream is done it will be smooth and glossy.

Vanilla Pastry Cream Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Vanilla Pastry Cream Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Vanilla Pastry Cream Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Strain the pastry cream into a shallow container.

Vanilla Pastry Cream Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Because the pastry cream is so think you will need to press it through the strainer with a rubber spatula.

Vanilla Pastry Cream Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Cover with plastic wrap pressed directly on the surface of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Set the container in the freezer for 15 minutes (this cools down the eggs quickly) and then refrigerate for up to a few days.

Vanilla Pastry Cream | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François