This Caramel Pastry Cream is smooth, creamy and the perfect filling for tarts, puff pastry, danishes or even parfaits!
It should come as no surprise that I originally created this version of pastry cream as a donut filling!
Pastry cream is one of the hardest working recipes in a baker’s arsenal! Just like almond cream, it can be baked into danishes; used as a filling for tarts, éclairs, or profiteroles; lightened with whipped cream as a filling for trifles, donuts, parfaits or pies; or even used to make German Buttercream!
This is a variation of my Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream, but instead of adding additional flavoring at the end, which is so expected, we are making the caramel from the very start! It is slightly less sweet and has a delicate caramel flavor. You can add more caramel sauce at the end while it is warm, if you want a more intense caramel flavor.
Gahh! There are lumps in my caramel pastry cream!
Along with burning or undercooking it, lumps are a common downfall. There are a few stages where you need to be on high-lump-alert!
- In this recipe I do not split my sugar between the milk and eggs for a few reasons. One, the sugar keeps the milk from scorching and the more sugar, the less I have to pay attention to it. This frees me up to be doing something else in the kitchen – an industrious pastry chef doesn’t have time to stare at pots and wait for them to boil. Two, adding sugar to the eggs too early will denature the proteins in the yolks and create lumps. You basically have the same effect as cooking the eggs when they sit in salt or sugar. These lumps will never come out.
- When you temper your milk into the eggs: whisk your eggs with the cornstarch, then slowly, and in a controlled fashion, add the hot milk while whisking. This allows the eggs to come up to the temperature of the milk without cooking them. Look, ma! No lumps!
- While the pastry cream is cooking: Whisk constantly! Do not allow bits of pastry cream to coagulate and then burn.
- Overcooking: if you overcook your pastry cream or you cook it at too high of a heat, you will get lumps.
- Cool it quickly! I pour mine out on a plastic wrap lined baking sheet, spread it out, then cover it with plastic wrap so it doesn’t develop a skin. Poke some holes in the top plastic to let the steam escape and then pop it in the refrigerator!
Now that you have a lump-free pastry cream, one last note of advice! Before you use pastry cream, you need to “refresh it” or “condition” it. All this means is you need to beat it so that it becomes smooth and silky. This won’t get any lumps out but it will create a more pleasant product to eat and work with. Don’t try folding unconditioned pastry cream into whipped cream. It’s misery.
You can condition it with a stand mixer or by hand in a bowl with a rubber spatula.Print