Tuesday, August 24, 2010

There is no excuse for pastry cream

Because well, duh, you should enjoy it without needing an excuse. I revisited my recipe from last July, and found it worth a second shot. Here is version 2, with a few alterations in procedure. If anything, this is even simpler than my last attempt.

1 recipe of pastry crust, your choice. I like a slightly sweet crust. You need to pre-bake the crust and have it cooled and ready to fill with the cream and whatever decorations you want.

1 1/2 cups half and half
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 plus 1/3 cups white sugar
4 egg yolks
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon orange extract
2 tablespoons cold butter

Put the cream, half and half, and 1/3 cup of sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Thoroughly mix everything else except the butter in a bowl. When the milk mix is steaming, slowly dribble about half of it into the bowl with the eggs while stirring to prevent the eggs from curdling by accident. Return the milk to the heat, mix up the warmed eggs pretty well, then dump them in with the milk on the stove. Whisk constantly until the mixture boils very gently. It will get quite thick, so it'll really just spit a few bubbles of steam rather than actually boiling. Take it off the stove, whisk in the butter and then put it in the fridge with a sheet of plastic wrap or waxed paper right on the surface of the pastry cream. When the cream is mostly cool, you can fill your crust with it. I put figs on mine, because that's just what I had.

Something worth noting is that the starch really does have a function in this recipe. It gives the cream its texture and glossy appearance. Because it is a starch, it does have to be brought to a boil in order to do that. Also, because you are relying on starch, not egg protein, for the custardy effect, it is almost impossible to cause the cream to "break". If you've ever overheated a cream sauce, you've seen this happen- you get a grainy textured mass of curds in a thin liquid. Starch actually likes to be boiled. I think what happens is that the starch forms a gel in which the protein and fat molecules are evenly suspended, but I'd have to look it up to make sure.

I bet this would taste really good if you sweetened it with molasses.

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