Crème pâtissière (pastry cream)
Pastry cream is one of the fundamental preparations of the classic French culinary repertoire. It is simple to make and is used as a filling for baked goods such as éclairs, profiteroles and fruit tarts. The most common fault is lumpiness — to prevent this it is important to constantly stir, or whisk, the thickening custard over the heat. Unlike other types of custard, pastry cream must boil or it will not thicken properly and the flour will not cook. Place a cartouche on the surface once it is cooked to avoid a thick skin forming. Vanilla is the most common flavouring for this custard and you will get the best results by using seeds scraped from a split vanilla bean. Although it is more expensive than vanilla extracts and other vanilla products, the flavour of real vanilla is incomparable.
Creme patissiere (pastry cream)
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1. Put the vanilla seeds, milk and cream in a medium heavy-based saucepan over medium heat and bring just to a simmer. Remove from the heat.
2. Use an electric mixer to whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a mixing bowl until thick and pale (pic 1). Sift together the flour and cornflour, then use a balloon whisk to whisk into the yolk mixture until smooth and well combined. Pour about half the hot milk mixture onto the yolk mixture and whisk until smooth, then whisk in the remaining milk. Clean the pan. Return the mixture to the cleaned pan.
3. Stirring constantly with the balloon whisk to prevent lumps, bring the mixture slowly to the boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, whisking often, for 2 minutes, until thick and smooth (pic 2).
4. Remove from the heat. Transfer to a glass or metal bowl and place a cartouche (a round of non-stick baking paper) on the surface to prevent a skin forming (pic 3). Cool to room temperature. Whisk with a balloon whisk until smooth before using. ème pâtissière can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days.