Italian Pastry Cream, Custard Cream Recipe
Try this definitive recipe for Italian pastry cream and give your desserts a decadent touch of divine vanilla-infused custard. This week our Foodie Sisters in Italy try their hand at the classic crema pasticcera, a surprisingly simple yet incredibly versatile filling for pastries and tarts.
Frequently used in Italian and French cooking, crema pasticcera is an egg custard, thickened with flour and cooled. Although not usually served by itself, it is used to fill pastries such as croissants, doughnuts, and bignè or can be layered with fresh fruit in a pastry case for a delicious tart.
The preparation is similar to that of a classic custard but the cream is cooked until thick and then left to cool and become firm before using. This recipe, from celebrated Italian pastry chef Maurizio Santin, infuses the custard with a heady aroma of vanilla and requires extra whisking of the egg yolks to produce a luscious, silky texture without being heavy. The procedure is easy, requiring just a little elbow grease to avoid any lumps, but, as with all dessert recipes, it is crucial to be exact with the quantities to ensure the perfect result. It is also important to leave the cream to cool with a layer of plastic wrap touching the surface; this will prevent a ‘skin’ forming across the top which will ruin the consistency.
½ liter milk
130g white sugar
40g all-purpose flour
100g egg yolks (approx. 5 eggs)
1 vanilla pod
Beat the vanilla pod with the side of a knife to soften it, cut it lengthways and scrape out the seeds into a bowl.
Pour the milk into a saucepan and add the empty vanilla pod. Heat until the milk begins to boil.
In the meantime, put the egg yolks into the bowl with the vanilla seeds and lightly beat with a whisk to break them. Add the sugar then continue to whisk more energetically until they are pale and airy. Add the sifted flour and combine, being careful not to over mix as this will cause the mixture to harden.
Once the milk starts to boil take it off the heat and strain through a sieve into the egg mixture, removing the vanilla pod and any residue. Lightly stir until the sugar has dissolved then pour it back into the pan over the heat while whisking continuously. (Don’t throw away the discarded vanilla pod: wash and leave to dry then place it in a jar of sugar to make a wonderful vanilla-infused sugar).
As it heats the custard will gradually thicken, carry on whisking until you see the first bubbles break the surface then pour the cream into a heat-proof bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, allowing it to touch the surface of the cream as this will prevent a skin forming as it cools. When it is cool, place it in the fridge until you need it; make sure to stir it well before using it for the recipe of your choice.