Once you have experienced fresh, homemade pastry cream, there is simply no going back to the box. The smooth, clean flavor immediately conveys that it is something extra special.
We enjoy taking this to dinner groups and have discovered that it is an excellent choice for large gatherings. For catering-sized servings, I use inexpensive glass votif holders because they look fantastic, are just the right size, and are super sturdy. A pastry bag works wonders for quickly filling each glass, and the presentation is outstanding once topped with a variety of fruit.
|WHAT YOU NEED||WHAT TO DO||WHY|
||In a 3-quart mixing bowl, vigorously whisk together to eliminate all corn starch lumps (15-20 seconds).||Cornstarch lumps now are difficult to eliminate later.|
||Add to sugar mixture; vigorously whisk until yolks are lump free, smooth, and frothy. Set aside.
Tip: To separate the yolks and whites, start with cold eggs (they separate easily). Crack each shell in half, moving yolk back and forth between halves, allowing the yolk to fall into one bowl and white to fall into another. Cover and refrigerate whites for another use.
|Egg yolks are essential for a smooth custard. Sugar and corn starch inhibit heat-induced yolk curdling.|
||Add to a 3-quart tri-ply saucepan; cover with a glass lid. Over medium heat, bring to a simmer, where bubbles appear around pan edges (4-6 minutes); remove from heat. To temper yolks, add hot milk to the egg mixture in a slow stream while continually stirring with a bamboo spoon.||Preheating milk minimizes the time it takes to heat the yolks, reducing any “eggy” flavor. Tempering heats eggs quickly but gently with little risk of curdling.|
|Pour the egg mixture back into saucepan; return to medium heat, stirring gently but continuously with the bamboo spoon. As custard thickens, reduce heat to low. Continue stirring until the custard coats the spoon and an instant-read thermometer registers 175°F (4-5 minutes). Promptly remove from heat.||Holding eggs at 160°F for 1 minute sterilizes them, but overheating risks curdling and extended cooking brings out an unpleasant “eggy” flavor.|
||Push through a mesh strainer into a 1-quart storage container; stir in cream and vanilla. Promptly seal the surface with a square of plastic wrap; refrigerate 4-8 hours to age. Serve within 48 hours.||Straining ensures a perfectly smooth custard. Sealing surface with plastic prevents a skin from forming. Aging promotes smoothness in custards.|
||Top or layer with fruit, such as pomegranate seeds, blackberries, peaches, or strawberries.|
Additional Testing Notes: For an extra rich version, use 5 yolks and 3/4 cup sugar, then add 1 tablespoon softened unsalted butter before whisking in the cream.