Friday, February 17, 2012

Crema Pasticciera (Pastry Cream)

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Pastry Cream is a delicious base for fruit tarts or as a filling for pastry shells, cakes and the likes. It is also wonderful paired with fresh fruits but especially with summer berries in combination with pound cakes or a simple sponge cake. The cream is similar to a custard since it is made with milk and eggs but it is thickened by the addition of corn starch and cooked over a stove top until thickened. Vanilla bean is typically used to flavor the cream but I like mine silky white without the distractions of the dark specks of the vanilla bean seed so I prefer to make mine with vanilla extract. 

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
The recipe I ended up with is a result of combining two recipes chosen in terms of the ingredients as well as the ease of preparation. Sophia Loren's version is a richer version with a higher egg to milk ratio as well as a higher amount of sugar. The Joy of Baking version on the other hand has less sugar with the added bonus of the addition of liquor. I do prefer to use half and half instead of milk as it ups the creaminess factor quite a bit and that is how I like my pastry cream. Making it gluten-free by using corn starch as a thickener instead of flour or a combination of the two also seemed like a good idea and so that is what I did. 

Pastry Cream

3 cup half and half
6 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup corn starch
2 tbsp rum

1. Bring the half and half almost to a boil in a thick pot over medium heat.

2. Combine the egg yolks, sugar, and corn starch in a bowl and whisk until 
    smooth. Set aside. 

3. When the half and half is simmering, take about 1/2 cup of the warm 
    half and half and gradually pour into the egg yolk mixture while whisking 
    at the same time. Keep whisking until smooth. 

4. Pour the tempered egg yolk mixture back into the pot with the half and 
    half and continue to whisk until thickened. Once thickened, take off the 
    heat and whisk for another minute. 

5. Add the vanilla extract and the liquor and mix well. Cover with a 
    clingfilm and make sure that it covers the surface of the pastry cream. 
    This will prevent a skin from forming at the top. Let cool until you can 
    handle with your bare hands and transfer to the fridge and cool 

6. Serve with your choice of berries or fresh fruits and a slice of pound 
    cake or sponge cake. 

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