This weekend we’re celebrating my husband’s birthday, and as always I’m baking a celebratory cake. Last year we embarked on a serious chocoholic indulgence with a Chocolate Mousse Torte with Candied Morello Cherries and Hazelnut Praline, this year it’s to be something lighter – a berry and cream filled Pavlova. Of course for my family one regular sized pavlova just won’t do so I doubled the recipe. What to do with eight left over eggs? Make Crème Pâtissière; an idea initially inspired some time ago by Ana over at her blog Delicious By Ana.
Crème Pâtissière is a ludicrously rich and luscious French pastry cream or custard that can be used to fill all manner of desserts, tarts and cakes. Think simple fruit tarts, choux pastry puffs, mille feuille, éclairs, Napoleons and layer cakes. In my family it is also enjoyed inelegantly and stealthily; by the spoonful, straight from the fridge. And they thought I hadn’t noticed.
The ingredients are simple pantry items that co-incidentally also happen to be gluten free. Milk, sugar, cornflour and vanilla. Perhaps a little butter for added richness and sheen. Of course you can also flavour it with a tablespoon or two of your favourite liqueur right at the very end. Speaking from experience Cointreau and Grand Marnier work particularly well.
Makes 3 cups
Recipe can be halved or doubled depending on quantity required.
2 cups (500 ml) milk
4 yolks from large eggs
125 g sugar
50 g cornflour
1 vanilla bean
50 g unsalted butter (optional)
1 tablespoon Cointreau or another favourite liqueur (optional)
USE the tip of a sharp knife to split the vanilla bean lengthwise. Scrape along the cut surface to collect the seeds. Combine the milk, vanilla seeds and pod in a large heavy based saucepan and bring to a simmer.
WHILE the milk is heating, whisk the egg yolks with sugar in a large mixing bowl until pale, thick and creamy. Then add the cornflour and whisk to combine.
REMOVE the vanilla bean pod from the milk. In a steady stream pour in half of the warm milk over the egg mixture and whisk until smooth. The heat will temper the eggs so that they are less likely to curdle when added to the remaining saucepan of hot milk and brought back to the boil.
POUR the egg mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining milk. Whisk quickly and constantly, over a medium low heat and bring the mixture mixture back to the boil. Remember to pay attention to the edges as you stir so the mixture doesn’t catch and stick to the bottom of the saucepan.
CONTINUE to whisk for another minute to cook the cornflour through. The mixture should be very thick and smooth and a little difficult to stir.
REMOVE the saucepan from the heat. If using the butter, allow the pastry cream to cool a little before gently stirring in a few cubes of butter at a time. The butter will give the pastry cream a richer taste and lovely sheen.
POUR the prepared pastry cream into a clean shallow baking dish and dust with icing sugar to prevent a skin from forming. Cover with cling wrap and cool completely, at least 2 hours. Refrigerate until needed, up to 3 days.
WHEN ready to use whisk the pastry cream to loosen a little. At this stage you can stir in a little liqueur if using. For a light pastry cream fold in a little softly whipped cream with a flat spatula, just before using.