Tuesday, February 21, 2012

French Goo. Crème Pâtissière or Pastry Cream (in American)

You ever have something that is so good that you just want to put your face in it?  Like no matter how much of it is available – it’s never quite enough?  The kind of thing where if you were in polite you would leave a bit on your plate but if you were home alone, you’d actually lick the plate until your nose is sticky.  This is my relationship with pastry cream.  I’ve mentioned it a few times already and you will definitely hear more about it in the future but I thought I’d outline my relationship with Crème Pâtissière – that’s French because I’m fancy like that.  Actually, it’s French because I learned the magic of pastry cream in Paris.  Yep – be jealous there for a minute. 
When a friend says – hey – come meet me in Paris for the weekend – you go.  Those are words to live by people.  And when that friend is someone you’ve been bffs with for over 20 years, you know that you’re in for a good time.  And sometimes that bff goes above and beyond in planning and finds you a baking class that teaches some traditional French baking techniques in English. Cookn With Class is where I learned the deliciousness that is pastry cream.   Below is not the recipe they gave us but this is darn close and not in the metric system which is handy for us Americans. 
In the class, we also got hands on experience with croissants and pain au chocolate as well as brioche, boules, and a yummy sweet raisin bread.  This was seriously and adventure in flour and butter that would not soon be forgotten.  Our teacher, Pino was extremely fun and engaging and offered lots of opportunities to try the techniques.  As a bonus, we got to take the many treats with us and we had them for breakfast every day during our trip. 

Here are some pics of our sweet treats:

Now onto the Pastry Cream – this seriously is a versatile deliciousness that I would squarely put in the category of “goo”.   Technically, I think it might be a custard.   A little more sturdy than a pudding, it works great as a filling for cakes, cupcakes, cream puffs and other sweet treats you might fill.   Or just fill a bowl and eat it with a spoon. Don’t judge me. 

Pastry Cream you'll want to swim in...

1 ¼ cups whole milk
1  vanilla bean
4 egg yolks
¼ cup white sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp flour – all purpose

Mix together the egg yolks and sugar.  Add in the flour and cornstarch until smooth – a whisk works well here.
Heat milk and vanilla bean to just about a boil.  Take off heat and add a splash to your egg mixture and whisk.  Then add the rest of the milk slowing – whisking the whole time.    Note – if you get some cooked egg pieces, you should pour mixture through a strainer.  Take out the vanilla bean – CAREFULLY! Split bean down the center lengthwise and scrape out the seeds.  Add the seeds to your mix and put the whole thing back into your saucepan and put over medium heat until boiling – WHISKING the entire time!  Seriously – be ready to whisk!  Once it boils, keep whisking until it thickens.  It will get to a pudding-like consistency and it hardens up a bit more in the fridge.  Once you get the pudding-like consistency, remove from heat and pour into a clean bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap with the wrap pressed onto the surface of the cream to prevent a skin.  Cool to room temperature or refrigerate up to 3 or 4 days.  Whisk again before using. 

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