A rich and thick lightly scented lemon infused pastry cream recipe made with eggs, milk, sugar, cornstarch, butter and a pinch of salt. This gluten free pastry cream is referred to as crema pasticcera in Italian and is an essential component in so many Italian desserts. Follow the tips included to make the best ever pastry cream!
What do éclairs, Napoléons, cream puffs, Boston Cream Pie, tarts, Italian pastries and so many other desserts have in common?
If you guessed pastry cream, you would be right!
Pastry cream, also referred to as crème pâtissière in French and crema pasticcera in Italian is (according to wikipedia) a thick custard made from a mixture of cooked ingredients.
These cooked ingredients usually consist of:
- sugar and
… and you won’t believe how easy they all come together to make the most luxurious pastry cream.
How to make Pastry Cream:
The whole process of making lemon pastry cream begins by infusing milk with lemon peel.
So, in a heavy, medium saucepan, over medium heat, combine the lemon peel and milk. When the milk starts to steam, remove from heat and allow to stand for about 10 minutes. During this time, the milk will get infused with the lemon.
Please note that lemon pastry cream is just one flavor variation. Here are some others:
FLAVOR VARIATIONS FOR PASTRY CREAM:
- chocolate or cocoa
- fruit purees
While the milk is being infused with the lemon, whisk the room temperature eggs with the sugar, the sifted cornstarch and a pinch of salt.
Notice how the mixture becomes lighter and paler in color after just five minutes of whisking. Whisking the dry ingredients with the eggs is key if we want a smooth and thick pastry cream. So don’t be shy… whisk away!
Please note that the proportions and type of the ingredients used to make pastry cream can vary greatly. The type and amount of starch used to thicken the custard is just one example.
I prefer using cornstarch, not only does this create a gluten free pastry cream, but there is no “floury” aftertaste.
I have tried so many combinations and ratios of flour to cornstarch over the years… once again, I am only sharing my personal preference.
The next step is to combine the two mixtures.
Remove the lemon peel from the warm milk. While whisking continuously, add a ladle of milk to the egg mixture. Gradually add all the milk while whisking continuously.
If you find that your bowl is spinning away from you, just place a humid tea towel under your mixing bowl… it’s all about the little details 😉
It’s now time to transfer the newly formed egg and milk mixture back to the saucepan, over medium/medium low heat.
Whisk continuously for about 5 minutes. You will notice that the mixture will thicken. Do not allow mixture to come to a boil as this can potentially cause the mixture to separate.
Once the mixture has thickened, remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.
The whisking of butter into the finished product is optional, but it guarantees to add flavor and a nice gleam to the pastry cream.
The final step is to transfer the pastry cream to a glass or ceramic bowl and place a piece of plastic film directly on the custard. This will prevent the creation of a film or skin on the cream.
Allow the mixture to cool for 20 minutes and then refrigerate.
The only thing left to do is to wait a couple of hours for your pudding to get cold.
Congratulations! You have just made best pastry cream!!!
Tips, Tricks and Recipe Notes:
- Allow ingredients to come to room temperature.
- Use a saucepan with a heavy bottom (do not use aluminum as this will create a grayish-looking pastry cream.
- Try to whisk continuously.
- Use medium-low to medium heat to prevent the eggs from curdling.
- Strain warm pastry cream through a strainer if ever the mixture forms any lumps.
- Constant stirring! Yes, I said this already but it really is important -no distractions so put away that cell phone.
Origins of Pastry Cream Recipe:
I was fortunate to live with two amazing women who just loved to cook and bake. It goes without saying that my mom and grandmother provided me with so much support and guidance as I began to show an interest, especially in baking.
The initial inspiration for this pastry cream came from my mom. Through the years, I switched things around to suit my personal preferences.
The end result is a rich, smooth and decadent pastry cream that is just perfect for so many wonderful treats including these Zeppole di San Giuseppe.
Italian Lemon Pastry Cream Recipe
- 2 cups milk whole or 2%
- 1 lemon (organic) peel
- 1 egg room temperature
- 2 egg yolks room temperature
- 1/2 cup sugar, granulated scant
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch sifted
- pinch salt
- 2 tablespoons butter
- In a medium, heavy saucepan, over medium heat, combine the milk and lemon peel.
- When milk starts to steam, remove from heat (do not allow milk to boil). Let stand for at least 10 minutes allowing the lemon peel to infuse the milk.
- Meanwhile, whisk eggs with sugar for one minute.
- Sift cornstarch and salt together.
- Add dry mixture to egg mixture.
- Whisk continuously for about 5 minutes or until the mixture becomes light colored.
- Remove lemon peel from the milk.
- While whisking continuously, add a ladle of hot milk to the egg mixture.
- Gradually add all the hot milk while whisking.
- Transfer mixture to saucepan and over medium heat, whisk continuously for about 5 minutes. Mixture will thicken. Do not allow mixture to come to a boil.
- Once the mixture has thickened, remove from heat.
- Allow the mixture to cool down for a few minutes.
- Add about two tablespoons of cut up butter and whisk into the mixture until fully incorporated,
- Transfer mixture to a ceramic or glass dish.
- Place a piece of plastic wrap in direct contact with the pastry cream.
- Allow to cool for 15-20 minutes.
- Refrigerate until ready to use (should be used within 3 days).
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