I was watching an episode of the of the Great British Bake Off recently and one of the challenges was to make a Fraisier Cake chock full of crème pâtissière, or pastry cream as it can be known as. Not long before I saw this episode, I came across a recipe for crème pâtissière on The Little French Bakery so all signs were pointing to me making some.
Crème pâtissière is obviously French and features in a number of pastries such as profiteroles, Napoleons, éclairs and tarts and although it is usually vanilla in flavour, you can mix it up with addition of liquors, infusing the milk whilst it is heating with ingredients such as cinnamon, dried (culinary) lavender or coffee beans. If you are interested in a chocolate version, you can add some chocolate near the end of the cooking whisking until it is all melted.
On this occasion, I decided to just stick with the vanilla so all I needed was milk, sugar, egg yolks, plain flour, corn flour and vanilla paste. Of course you can use a vanilla pod (scrape out the seeds then put the seeds and pod in with the milk), but I used vanilla paste which is a great substitute.
Before you get started, line a shallow baking tray (I used a 33cm x 23cm cake pan) with plastic wrap as this is what the finished crème pâtissière will be poured in to in order to cool (it is much safer to have it cool in a shallow dish rather than in a bowl).
Place the milk, half of the sugar and vanilla into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Whilst it is warming, whisk the egg yolks and remaining sugar in a heat proof bowl until the sugar has dissolved before adding the plain flour and cornflour.
Whisk the flours with the egg and sugar until you have a nice smooth paste.
Once the milk has started to boil, remove the vanilla pod (if you are using one) and pour about one third of the hot milk into the egg mixture and whisk immediately until thoroughly mixed through.
Pour the egg mixture into the pot of remaining milk and then return to the heat, whisking constantly, until the crème pâtissière thickens and starts to bubble (or burp) in the pan at which point it is transferred to the cake pan.
Fold over the excess plastic wrap to encase the crème pâtissière, making sure it is in contact so that a skin does not form. Place the pan in the fridge to cool completely.
When you are ready to use the crème pâtissière, transfer it to a bowl and whisk until smooth. You can then place it in a piping bag to pipe into éclairs as I did (stay tuned next week) or simply spoon into tart cases.