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RECIPE: Crème Pâtissière, Pastry Cream

A cream puff stuffed with crème pâtissière,
pastry cream. Photo by Stu Spivak |
Wikimedia.

 

When we published an earlier tip for a brambleberry tart, we went to link to a recipe for crème pâtissière—pastry cream—and discovered we hadn’t published one. Zut alors!

So here we remedy the situation, and also explain some of the different “crèmes” in French pastry.

Crème pâtissière (CREHM pah-tissy-YAIR) is used to fill cream puffs (profiteroles), napoleons, éclairs, tarts and génoise (sponge cakes), among other cakes and pastries. Traditionally flavored with vanilla, it can be flavored with cocoa, coffee, orange and other flavors.

CRÈME PÂTISSIÈRE RECIPE

Prep time 5 minutes, cook time 10 minutes, chill time 1 hour.

Ingredients

  • 1-¼ cups whole milk
  • 3 egg yolks
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1/8 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Preparation

    1. WARM the milk over low heat in a small saucepan, until it is just hot enough to steam. While the milk is warming…

    2. WHISK together the egg yolks, sugar, flour and cornstarch until the mixture is completely smooth.

    3. ADD half of the steaming milk to the egg mixture, whisking constantly.

    4. ADD the milk and egg mixture back into the pot of hot milk, continue to stir. Heat for 1-2 minutes, until the custard reaches 170°F on a thermometer and is very thick.

    5. REMOVE from the heat, stir in the vanilla extract or other flavor. Chill for an your or longer before filling pastry.

     

     
    THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF FRENCH CRÈMES

    In French baking, there is no word to match the English term custard. Thus, recipes with the word “crème” encompass both eggy English-type custards and creamier fillings. Here are a few; see our Custard Glossary for many more.

    Creme anglaise (CHREM on-GLEZ, translated as English cream) is a thin pouring custard, used as a sauce. The idea evolved in ancient Rome, where cooks used eggs as thickeners to create sweet custards and creams. Both the English and the French have a long history with both, either consumed alone or used to compose a wide range of desserts. Here’s a recipe.

    Crème brûlée (CREHM broo-LAY, meaning burnt custard), is the richest and thickest of the three classic, silky, baked French custards (crème caramel and pot de crème are the others). All three are made of eggs, sugar, milk and/or cream in different proportions, along with a flavoring such as vanilla. The “brûlée” is a brittle layer of caramelized sugar, burned under a salamander or other intense heat source. Here’s a recipe.

    Crème caramel, the lightest of the classic French custards, crème caramel is made with whole eggs as well as yolks, milk as well as cream. Caramel syrup is poured into the mold or ramekin before adding the custard base. After the custard has set, it is unmolded, leaving the caramel sauce on top and pooling around it. Here’s a recipe.

     

    A napoleon with one layer of crème pâtissière and one layer of custard.

     
    Crème chiboust (CREHM shi-BOOST) is a crème pâtissière that has been lightened with stiffly beaten egg whites (Italian meringue). Some people use whipped cream to lighten, but this variation is actually called millefeuille cream. Crème chiboust is flavored with vanilla, orange zest or liqueurs. Mixed with fruit, it becomes crème plombières. The original recipe was purportedly created by a pastry chef, M. Chiboust, proprietor of a pastry shop on the rue Saint-Honoré in Paris, to fill the gâteau St. Honoré he created. The filling is also called crème Saint-Honoré or simply Chiboust. The filling is also used for the Paris-Brest pastry.

    Crème pâtissière is the equivalent of confectioner’s custard, although the English confectioner’s custard is less rich kind than French crème pâtissière. Made from egg yolks, milk, sugar and a little flour, with vanilla or other flavoring, crème pâtissière is used to fill cream puffs, eclairs and gateau St. Honoré,* and is a base for fruit tarts. Here’s a recipe.
     
     
    LOVE THIS STUFF? CHECK OUT OUR CUSTARD GLOSSARY.

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    *Gateau St. Honoré, or St. Honoré cake, is named for the French patron saint of bakers and pastry chefs, Saint Honoré (Honoratus, bishop of Amiens, d. 600 C.E.). It is a base of puff pastry with a ring of pâte à choux (cream puff pastry) piped on the outer edge. Small cream puffs are dipped into caramelized sugar and attached side by side on top of the circle of the pâte à choux. This base is traditionally filled with crème chiboust and finished with whipped cream, using a special St. Honoré piping tip.

      




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