An expert's guide to making crème pâtissière

Nicolas Poelaert of Choux Patisserie is a master of éclairs. Here, he talks us through an essential component.

By Nicolas Poelaert
Crème pâtissière
A classic pastry cream is the perfect filling for pastries, traditionally used in millefeuille or choux pastry, and as the base for fruit tarts. It can also fill cakes and doughnuts. The pastry cream can be flavoured at different stages, too.

Variations on crème pâtissière

Add 200gm chopped dark chocolate per 5-litre batch while it's still warm. To make a nut-based pastry cream, such as hazelnut, add nut paste to your cream once it's cooked but still warm.
This apple version makes the perfect base for a crisp, sweet pastry shell in fruit tarts.
Peel and core 4 Granny Smith apples. Wrap apples in foil on an oven tray, sealing tightly, and bake at 150°C until very soft (about 30 minutes). Remove from the oven and leave in the foil to cool briefly until warm. Gently drain any excess water and blend in a food processor with 2gm xanthan gum until a smooth purée (2 minutes). Transfer to the refrigerator and chill. Serve as the base for fruit tarts.
Crème chiboust
For a crème chiboust, as seen in Gâteau Saint-Honoré, add meringue, or fold through whipped cream for a lighter version called crème Diplomat.

Your toolkit

  • A balloon whisk will help whip up a smooth mixture for the base.
  • A wide saucepan is useful for making creams and custards as it heats the mixture evenly, which helps stop curdling.

Step 1

Add 100gm egg yolks (from about 5 eggs), 250gm sugar and 125ml milk to a bowl and whisk to combine. Gradually add 125gm cornflour, whisking to combine. Alternatively, process ingredients in a food processor until combined and smooth.
Step 1 Photo: Rob Shaw

Step 2

Bring 1.25 litres milk to the boil in a saucepan over medium heat. Carefully and gradually pour over egg yolk mixture, whisking quickly to combine.
Step 2 Photo: Rob Shaw

Step 3

Transfer mixture to a wide saucepan, bring to a high heat, and whisk continuously until mixture comes to the boil and is thick and bubbling (3 minutes).
Step 3 Photo: Rob Shaw

Step 4

Pour into a wide baking dish, cover directly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cool and firm (6 hours or overnight).

Step 5

Transfer pastry cream to an electric mixer and whisk, or whisk by hand, until mixture is smooth, then serve. If adding extra flavour, such as the Granny Smith apple purèe, fold as much or as little as you like through with a spatula and refrigerate for 2 hours to set. You can lighten the pastry cream by folding through whipped cream, or add sifted icing sugar for extra sweetness.
Step 5 Photo: Rob Shaw