July 01, 2010

Pastry cream to restore happiness

It's funny how sometimes it happens to read another blogger's post and you think "the right post, at the right moment"! That what happened to me yesterday, when I came across Juls' Kitchen post about the Recipe's for Happiness event. Giulia, the hostess, asked fellow bloggers to post the recipe of the food that help us during those bad days or moments when everything seems to go wrong in life, and help us restore calm and happiness. The event even entails a prize, kindly offered by Macchine Alimentari.

The event was launched more than a month ago but I saw it only yesterday....yes, correct, yesterday (I told you the one-month trip to Italy was way toooo long for me). And, yes, yesterday was one of those days when everything seems to go wrong, one of those days when I think "Ok, transitions are hard...but I need a break! When is fate/destiny/world/whoever-else-in-charge think I deserve a break?". When I saw the post I thought "This is not just a perfect time to think about my Recipe for Happiness. I'm going to make it, right away!".

That's when I thought "ok, but which one is my Recipe for Happiness?". I knew for sure that the answer was going to be a dessert (yeah, I a sweet tooth...I guess you have already figured that out!) but which dessert?! I could think of thousands of desserts I could have eaten in that moment and in any other moment: layered cakes, pies, cookies, tarts, scones, chocolate....all very good and very comforting but still none was sounding quite right. 

So for a bit I stopped thinking about it and suddenly it came to my mind: pastry cream! Pastry cream is really what I need to have when I'm down, upset, sad or gloomy. For so many reasons! First of all, when I am really down I need something that gives me immediate satisfaction and pastry cream is really quick to make (if you are really upset, you are not going to wait for it to cool down before eating it). Second, it is very likely to always have all the ingredients needed at home (if you are really upset you don't want to take a special trip to the store). Also, pastry cream can be eaten in sooooo many different ways: by itself, with a cookie, in a pie or a cake....

My favorite way to have pastry cream is probably by itself! Yes, just like this. In a bowl, with a cookie (or without), with some grated chocolate, with tiny bits of nuts...you can give it as many embellishments as you want but the truth is: pastry cream is amazing by itself.

So here is my family recipe for the pastry cream for happiness.
Pastry Cream
Ingredients for 4 people or an average-size cake
500 ml whole milk
4 egg yolks
80 gr sugar
40 gr flour
2 tsp vanilla extract
cream or butter

On the stove, warm up all the milk (but one glass) together with the vanilla.

In the meantime, in a small bowl whisk the egg yolks and the sugar with an electric mixer. Add the flour and the cold milk set aside, alternating the two.

Slowly add the mixture to the warm milk stirring well to avoid the formation of lumps. Bring the mixture to boil, stirring continuously. It is very important to keep stirring to obtain a smooth cream. (If lumps start to form you can still get rid of them by mixing for a minute with an electric mixer but only until before it starts to become dense)

Let the mixture boil on low flame for a few minutes until it starts to get denser, then turn off the stove and let the cream cool down completely, stirring from time to time.

Before using the cream add a spoon or two of butter or cream. (both sour and whipping are fine. I personally prefer the whipping cream but just because in the US I cannot find the  cooking cream we use in Italy and whipping cream is the closest substitute)

Note: before ending this post, I also want to add something that I have learnt about custard cream and pastry cream today on Wikipedia, thanks to this post and thanks to Giulia who gave me the right reason to write this post and investigate about pastry cream.

From Wikipedia:
"While 'custard' may refer to a wide variety of thickened dishes, technically (and in French cookery) the word custard (crème or more precisely crème moulée) refers only to an egg-thickened custard.

When starch is added, the result is called pastry cream (crème pâtissière), which is made with a combination of milk or cream, egg yolks, fine sugar, flour or some other starch, and usually a flavoring such as vanilla, chocolate, or lemon. Crème pâtissière is a key ingredient in many French desserts including millefeuille (or Napoleons) and filled tarts. It also used in Italian pastry and sometimes in Boston cream pie.
It is known as crème anglaise collée with gelatin added.
When starch is used alone as a thickener (without eggs), the result is a blancmange. In the United Kingdom 'custard' often refers to a dessert thickened from cornflour rather than eggs (custard powder).
After the custard has thickened, it may be mixed with other ingredients: mixed with meringue and gelatin, it is chiboust cream; mixed with whipped cream, it is "creme mousseline".

See? This is one of the reason why I crave for going to baking school. If Wikipedia was able to teach me so many new things in just one paragraph, I can just imagine all the curious details I would learn in a proper class.

Pastry Cream on Foodista


  1. I love pastry cream!! So delicious!! Especially when you use real vanilla beans!! Taste like ice cream!
    Would you mind checking out my blog? :D http://ajscookingsecrets.blogspot.com/

  2. Thank you for sharing! I'll write my comment in English 'cause I really love it! :D
    I share your same point of view: you need something easy to make and immediate, not a never ending layer cake with a trip to local shop included! :D

  3. Yeah, sometimes I don't even wait for the cream to cool down before eating it :)

  4. I don't speak very well English, but I have just a word: MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMHH!!

  5. Slurp! Potrei averne una cucchiaita?

  6. HAHAHA siete divertentissime!

  7. Hello! I found this blog in Foodista and followed it here. This is a lovely blog and awesome Pastry Cream recipe. Reminds me of mom's recipe and it was superb, I bet yours is excellent too! By the way you can place more Foodista widget in your past and future blogs so that other Foodista readers can follow and see your blog too. Just search for a related recipe or food in Foodista and use its widget. I hope to read more from you. Cheers!

  8. Hi Christine, you are right....I need to become more diligent in putting the Foodista widgets...I always seem to have soo many things to do for each post! Thanks for stopping by. I will definitely follow your advice!


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