How to make a crème pâtissière

How to make a crème pâtissière

Crème pâtissière, also known as pastry cream or ‘crème pât’, is a rich, creamy custard thickened with flour. It is a key ingredient of many French desserts such as soufflés, fruit tarts and mille-feuille. It is traditionally flavoured with vanilla, but it is a versatile base for almost any flavour; chocolate, coffee, fruit zest, or even a splash of brandy.

Ingredients

  • 250ml of whole milk
  • 1 vanilla pod, or 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 50g of caster sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 10g of plain flour
  • 10g of cornflour
1
Bring the milk and vanilla to the boil in a saucepan then remove from the heat as soon as it comes to the boil. Keep an eye on the pan as the milk can boil over very quickly!
2
Mix the sugar, egg yolks and flours together until thoroughly incorporated.
3
Pour a third of the warmed milk over the egg mixture and whisk vigorously until smooth and thoroughly combined
4
Pour the egg mixture into the saucepan with the milk and continue to whisk over a medium heat
5
Cook until the mixture thickens, being careful not to let it burn on the bottom of the pan. The mixture will go very lumpy – don't worry, this is supposed to happen! Just keep whisking and the mixture will go smooth, thickened and glossy. Cook out for another two minutes, then remove from the heat
6
Empty your crème pâtissière into a bowl and close cover with cling film to prevent a skin forming. Allow to cool, then place in the fridge until needed

Tip

For a silky smooth finish, whisk the crème patissière before using. You can also fold whipped cream/crème Chantilly through your crème pâtissière to make a crème Diplomat – perfect if you want a lighter pastry cream for fillings and cakes.

Uses

Crème pâtissière is the vital component of a host of desserts and sweet snacks. To make a sweet soufflé, for example, you will first have to master the art of the pastry cream, then whisk the leftover egg whites until fluffy for a light, airy finish. Similarly, no trifle is complete without a thick, rich pastry cream applied liberally in layers with booze-drenched cake, jelly and fruit. It also makes a sublime doughnut filling.

Naturally, crème pâtissière is a must-have item when trying your hand at French pâtisserie. Try Pascal Aussignac’s classic strawberry tart recipe to start, which sees a pastry case filled with a loving layer of pastry cream and topped with fresh strawberries for a family-sized spin on tarte aux fraises. A classic clafoutis would also be incomplete without this decadent cream holding everything together.

Often when crème pâtissière is used as a filling for choux pastry items like profiteroles or eclairs, it is lightened with crème chantilly first – a combination that is known as crème diplomat, or crème légère. Pierre Koffmann has an excellent recipe for creme diplomat in his caramelised apple with arlettes dish, and Nancy Ann-Harbord’s host of éclair recipes demonstrate the level of flavour fun that you can achieve, once you have the knack. Raspberry and rose, gin and tonic and salted caramel-flavoured pastry creams are used to fill her choux creations for a lavish, creative take on a classic.