Italian pastry cream is made with milk, egg, and flour that are cooked together to create a rich and thick custard-like cream, flavoured with vanilla or lemon zest. Italian Pastry Cream (it: “Crema Pasticcera”, fr: “Creme Patissiere”) is one of the basic ingredients used in many Italian desserts and cakes. It’s the creamy filling of many desserts or the base of tarts and layer cakes. This cream is also the filling you find in Italian pastry like the “cornetti” (Italian croissants) or “bomboloni” (Italian doughnuts).
The ingredients for Italian Pastry Cream are few and recipe directions are quite simple, but you must follow some precautions for the best result. First of all, the milk must be whole and fresh; furthermore in this recipe we only use the egg yolks since the egg white makes the cream less creamy and interferes with the flavor. The result must be a smooth, shiny cream, with a balanced firmness and the flavor must not recall the cooked egg.
Italian Pastry Cream is flavored with vanilla, often with lemon or orange zest, depending on your taste or the dessert recipe you want to make. Pastry Cream is not only the ingredient of many desserts, but it’s also enjoyed alone, as an exquisite spoon dessert, similar to mascarpone cream, served with fresh seasonal fruit or with crunchy biscuits.
Now let’s see how to make the authentic Italian Pastry Cream Recipe!
Italian Pastry Cream Recipe
- 4 medium egg yolks
- 80 g (2,8 oz) of caster sugar
- 40 g (2,5 oz) of all purpose flour
- 1/2 liter of whole fresh milk
- 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla bean or zest of half lemon
How to Make Italian Pastry Cream – Crema Pasticcera
Now we are going to show you how to make Italian Pastry Cream – Crema Pasticcera step by step.
Step 1) – To make a perfect Italian Pastry Cream, first in a saucepan mix the egg yolks with the sugar, using a wooden spoon. Then add the sifted flour a little bit at a time.
Step 2) – Keep stirring for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is blended. Then set aside.
Step 3) – Now pour the milk into a saucepan and flavor it with vanilla or grated lemon zest, depending on your taste. Then put it on the stove and bring it to a boil. When the milk is boiling, remove it from the heat and start pouring slowly, a little at a time into the mixture of sugar, eggs and flour. It’s very important to stir constantly.
Step 4) – Put the saucepan back on very low heat and continue stirring. Simmer for about 3-4 minutes until the cream begins to thicken. It’s very important that the cream NEVER BOILS. In this way you have a smooth cream without lumps and without unpleasant hints of cooked egg. If you have a cooking thermometer you can check that the temperature never exceeds 85°C (185 F). Otherwise, as soon as you see that bubbles begin to form in the cream, lower the heat. You can even remove it from the heat for a few seconds and then put it back. This step is the only difficulty in the preparation of Pastry Cream recipe.
Step 5) – When the cream is well thickened, immediately pour it into a cold container. It’s very important to remove immediately the cream from the hot saucepan to prevent it from cooking longer. While cooling, cover the cream with cling film food wrap. Keep it in contact with the cream. This precaution is to avoid forming a skin on the cream surface.
Italian Pastry Cream is ready! Enjoy it with alone as a dessert spoon or fill fabulous cream puffs, “Tortelli di Carnevale” or use it to make wonderful layered cakes!
You can store Italian pastry cream in the refrigerator, covered with a cling film for up to 3 days. Alternatively, it can be frozen and kept for up to 1 month.
Pastry Cream vs Custard: What’s the Difference?
Italian Pastry Cream is very similar to Custard Cream. But what are the differences? These two creams are very similar and often they are synonyms in recipes. But THERE ARE some differences. Pastry cream is thicker than Custard because there’s more starch inside and is better for tart and fillings. You must eat pastry cream cold: both when enjoyed alone, as a spoon dessert or when used to make other desserts. Custard cream, which in Italy called “Crema Inglese”, is often served hot and it’s more runny than Pastry Cream.
Pastry Cream Tips and Variations
Here are some tips and variations of Pastry cream recipe:
For those who love dark chocolate, try the Dark Chocolate Pastry Cream Recipe! Add two tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder at the end of the preparation and mix well. Then pour it into a cold container and cover with the cling film in contact of the cream surface. Let the cream cool and enjoy!
For people intolerant to flour try Gluten-free Pastry Cream recipe. You can make it with rice starch or corn starch in the same doses. Rice starch is better for a softer cream, otherwise, if you prefer a more consistent cream, use corn starch.
White Chocolate Pastry Cream: this is a truly greedy version of the Pastry Cream and is made with corn starch and the addition of melted white chocolate. Perfect for making this delicious White Chocolate Fruit Tart!
Whipping cream and butter: these ingredients don’t appear in the ingredient list because they are absolutely optional and not included in the traditional recipe of Italian pastry cream. Some, however, replace a part of milk with whipping cream (about 100 ml) or add a small piece of butter at the end of cooking (about 25 g- 0,90 oz). You can add whipping cream and butter to increase the shelf life of the your pastry cream, since the lipids slow down oxidation and give the cream a more shiny appearance. However thepastry cream doesn’t keep in the refrigerator for more than 5 days .