I love to eat creme patissiere (aka pastry cream aka that stuff that sits between the sugar crust and the fruit in a tart) with berries or, if we're being honest, out of the mixing bowl with a spoon till half of it is gone. Usually I make it in its purest iteration - with vanilla bean - but sometimes a girl likes to shake it up.
I've tried many recipes for this treat but, for texture and overall fab, Joe Pastry's is the best. Joe's is my go to baking blog. His sciency interpretation of all things sweet really contextualizes why we bake the way we do. And he is always there to answer reader questions.
All pastry cream versions involve the yummy, and chemical, interaction of:
- egg yolks
- some sugar (or chocolate, in this case)
- a binding agent (either flour or cornstarch, in general)
- flavouring i.e. vanilla bean or chocolate or coffee or caramel or whatever you like
- dairy - sometimes it's only milk, sometimes a mixture of milk and cream
- milk and cream are superior to milk alone
- cornstarch is the better thickener
- Joe, and others, suggest about 4 oz of sugar (total) for 2 cups of liquid - I prefer half of that or even a little bit less. I don't like pastry cream to be notably sweet, just as I don't like ice cream to be notably sweet. In whipped cream, if there's even a hint of sugar I won't eat it.
- I love anything sweet with added fleur de sel. It makes the salt better and the sugar better.
OK, Joe talks about the basic recipe far better than I could duplicate it here (follow the link above), but below are a few gratuitous photos of my experience:
For this variation, note:
- When you make chocolate pastry cream, use bittersweet (about 3 oz for 2 cups of liquid), reduce the sugar content (if you use any at all), and melt the chocolate with the liquid. You can also add the salt to the liquid as it's heating.
- Really mix the cornstarch well with the egg yolks. Sometimes I get a little bit of lumping and it's likely that this happens when I don't whisk like my life depends on it.
- This is a beautiful, traditional recipe that dresses up or down, depending on how you serve it. Put it in a pate sucre crust and it's the basis of a very chic tart. In ramekins with berries and a dust of cocoa, it's homey - but elegant - like pots de creme, without the bain marie and all the fussing with setting the eggs.
- It's really, really easy, peeps. Anyone can have fun making this in 15 minutes (ish). It's kid- and grown up-friendly.