Italian Pastry Cream (Crema Pasticcera)

Profiteroles with pastry cream
Lilechka75/Getty Images
  • Total: 25 mins
  • Prep: 5 mins
  • Cook: 20 mins
  • Servings: 8 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
192 Calories
6g Fat
26g Carbs
8g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8
Amount per serving
Calories 192
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 6g 8%
Saturated Fat 3g 13%
Cholesterol 169mg 56%
Sodium 97mg 4%
Total Carbohydrate 26g 10%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Total Sugars 22g
Protein 8g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 94mg 7%
Iron 1mg 6%
Potassium 141mg 3%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Crema pasticcera, pastry cream, is one of the basic ingredients used in many Italian pastries and cakes. It's the creamy, custardy filling in tarts, layer cakes, or pastries such as millefoglie; it's also the cream filling you find in morning pastries such as cornetti (Italian-style croissants). In short, Italian desserts wouldn't be quite the same without it.

Crema pasticcera is not difficult to make, though it does require care and attention so that it doesn't curdle. Fernanda Gosetti, the author of Il Dolcissimo, suggests that you use a copper pot because it conducts heat better, and adds that if you make crema pasticcera frequently, you should invest in a round-bottomed pot because it's easier to whisk the cream inside of it. She also notes that the crema should be transferred to a bowl as soon as it's ready because it will continue to cook in the hot pot.

The quantities here can easily be increased or reduced. This recipe makes about 3 cups of pastry cream, which will be enough to fill a layer cake or make a small zuppa Inglese (similar to an English trifle).

Ingredients

  • 2 cups/500 mL whole milk (divided)

  • 1 vanilla bean, or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 6 very fresh egg yolks

  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar

  • Pinch of fine sea salt

Steps to Make It

  1. In a saucepan, place 1 1/2 cups of the milk and the vanilla bean to warm over low heat. (If using extract, add it later).

  2. Meanwhile, lightly whisk the yolks in a medium mixing bowl to break them.

  3. Sift the flour into the bowl, whisking gently, making sure that no lumps form.

  4. Whisk in the sugar.

  5. Whisk in the remaining 1/2 cup of milk, being careful to eliminate any lumps.

  6. By this time, the milk on the stove will be about ready to boil. Remove and discard the vanilla bean (or add the extract).

  7. Slowly whisk the warmed milk into the egg mixture.

  8. Pour the egg and milk mixture into the pot and continue cooking over low heat, stirring gently, until it barely reaches a simmer, about 2 minutes. It should be similar to the consistency of plain yogurt.

  9. Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl to cool; place some plastic wrap directly on the surface of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. 

  10. Use the pastry cream in your favorite Italian dessert recipe and enjoy.

Tips

  • Covering the milk after heating it and letting it sit for 10 minutes will allow it to absorb more flavor from the vanilla bean.
  • Depending on what you are going to use the cream for, you can flavor it with other things, such as 2 coffee beans or the zest of 1/2 lemon.