There’s something about a pastry cream that no mousse or ganache can ever replicate. It’s smooth and custardy—the perfect texture. You can eat it on its own by the spoonful almost like pudding, but it’s terrific in tarts and on cakes. It’s sturdy enough not to collapse under the weight of fresh berries, and subtle in flavor, so it highlights even the most delicate fruits.
535 grams / 2 1/4 cups whole milk
130 grams / 2/3 cup granulated sugar
50 grams / 1/3 cup cornstarch
185 grams / 9 large egg yolks
110 grams / 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into cubes, at room temperature
1. Make the warm milk mixture: Combine the milk and 65 grams (1/3 cup) of the sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking continuously. Remove from the heat.
2. Make the cornstarch mixture: Whisk together the remaining 65 grams (1/3 cup) sugar and the cornstarch in a large bowl. Slowly whisk in 1/2 cup of the warm milk mixture.
3. Temper the egg yolks: While whisking, add the egg yolks to the cornstarch mixture one at a time, whisking until each yolk is incorporated before adding the next.* Pour the tempered egg yolk mixture into the pan with the remaining milk mixture.
* This technique is called tempering, and is used to gradually raise the temperature of a cold or room-temperature ingredient (in this case, egg yolks) by adding small amounts of warm liquid, to prevent the cold ingredient from cooking too quickly. If you added all the warm liquid to the eggs without tempering them first, you would end up with scrambled eggs.
4. Finish the pastry cream: Cook the pastry cream over medium-low heat, whisking continuously, until it thickens to a pudding-like consistency, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the butter and whisk until the butter is evenly combined and the pastry cream is pale yellow with a smooth, glossy texture. Strain the pastry cream through a fine-mesh sieve to remove any lumps. Let cool and then chill before using.
The pastry cream can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container, with plastic wrap pressed against the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming, for up to 3 days. Before using, stir the pastry cream with a spatula until it softens and is spreadable. Top leftover pastry cream with fruit or streusel for an easy dessert or afternoon snack.
Excerpted from Everyone Can Bake: Simple Recipes to Master and Mix by Dominique Ansel. Copyright 2020 Simon & Schuster.
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