Last updated on October 5th, 2023.
If you’ve ever indulged in Italian desserts and pastries like Cornetti (Italian croissants), Torta Della nonna, or cream-filled doughnuts, you’ve likely encountered the velvety delight of Crema Pasticcera, also known as Italian pastry cream. This classic recipe of luscious creamy custard is a staple in Italian dessert recipes, and its exquisite taste and versatility have made it a favorite not just in Italy but worldwide.
The Difference between Italian Pastry Cream and French Pastry Cream
Italian pastry cream and French pastry cream, also known as Crème Pâtissière, are both luxurious custard fillings used in various pastries, tarts, and desserts. While they share many similarities, some key differences set them apart:
Italian Pastry Cream (Crema Pasticcera):
- Italian pastry cream is thicker and more stable, making it ideal for filling cannoli, Bignè di San Giuseppe cream puffs, and cakes.
- Depending on the recipe, it is typically flavored with vanilla, lemon zest, or other extracts.
- The Italian version is often whole milk.
- The liquid to eggs/egg yolk ratio is 4:1 (1 cup of milk for every 3-4 egg yolks or two whole eggs).
French Pastry Cream (Crème Pâtissière):
- French pastry cream is slightly lighter and more delicate, perfect for filling éclairs, tarts, and cream-filled croissants.
- It is typically flavored with vanilla beans, giving it a rich vanilla aroma and flavor.
- Creme Patissiere often uses a combination of whole milk and cream.
- The liquid to eggs/egg yolk ratio is 6:1 (1 cup of milk for every two egg yolks or one whole egg).
Here are the basic ingredients you’ll need to create a batch of heavenly Crema Pasticcera:
- Full-fat milk
- Granulated sugar
- Egg yolks
- Corn starch
- Vanilla extract or vanilla paste
How to Make Crema Pasticcera – Italian Pastry Cream
Follow these steps to whip up your own batch of Crema Pasticcera: The full recipe you can find below at the recipe card.
Time needed: 20 minutes
- Prepare the ingredients
Mix the egg yolks and cornstarch in a medium bowl until smooth, then drizzle in 1/4 cup of the milk. Pour the rest of the milk into a medium saucepan and add the sugar and vanilla extract.
- Cook The Milk
Over medium heat and boil, slowly drizzle 6-8 tablespoons of the hot milk into the egg mixture while stirring.
- Run the egg mixture
Through a sieve, then pour it into the saucepan with the rest of the warm milk and sugar mixture.
- Return the mixture to the stove
Cook over medium-low heat while constantly stirring until thick.
Remove from the heat, pour into a large bowl, and place a plastic wrap (cling film) over the surface of the cream. Chill.
To master the art of making perfect Crema Pasticcera, here are some expert tips:
- Use fresh and high-quality ingredients for the best flavor and texture. Bring the ingredients to room temperature for best results.
- Whisk continuously to avoid lumps in the custard, and strain the pastry cream through a fine-mesh sieve if you notice any lumps.
- Only use a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula; other materials, such as aluminum, might discolor the pan and creme.
Flavoring Italian pastry cream recipe
- Creamy vanilla pastry cream. Cut a real vanilla bean pod length-wise, scoop the beans, and add them to the milk. Place the pod in the milk before warming it, and remove it before adding the egg mixture.
- Citrusy pastry cream. Add the zest of orange or lemon rind to the milk before cooking.
- Chocolate creme Pasticcera. Fold 2 oz of melted dark chocolate once you reach thick cream.
- Almond pastry cream. Add one teaspoon of almond extract or amaretto to the milk.
- Coffee. Add two teaspoons of instant coffee to the warm milk of one shot of espresso.
Crema Pasticcera can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Be sure to give it a good stir before using it if it has separated or thickened during storage.
How to Use Crema Pasticcera
Now that you’ve made this delectable Italian pastry cream, you can enjoy by topping it with some fresh fruit, but here are some more delightful ways to use it:
- Fill cannoli shells with Crema Pasticcera and dust with powdered sugar.
- It is the perfect filling for layer cakes, sponge cakes (jelly rolls), cupcakes and pastries.
- Use it as a filling for doughnuts or Italian pastries like sfogliatelle, and Maratizzo.
- Lighten it with whipped cream to make Creme Legere, or with Italian Meringue to make Creme Chiboust.
- Thicken it with butter to make Creme Mousseline.
- Use it to fill different desserts like Tart Aux Fraiser, Fruit tarts, Choux A La Creme, Italian Cream Puffs, and Zeppole.
- Fill some Cruffins, Croissant Muffins.
FAQ and Troubleshooting
Lumps can occur if you don’t thoroughly whisk the mixture or heat is too high. Strain the cream to remove lumps, and whisk more carefully next time.
Creme Anglaise is a thin custard with the consistency of a sauce. Creme Pasticcera is thickened with the addition of egg yolks and cornstarch.
While it’s possible to freeze it, the texture may change slightly upon thawing. It’s best used fresh or refrigerated.
While it’s primarily used in desserts, some chefs incorporate it into savory recipes for a unique twist. Experiment and see what culinary delights you can create!
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Creamy and indulging Italian Pastry Cream
- 7 Large Egg yolks 126g
- 1/4 Cup Cornstarch 32g
- 2 Cups Whole milk 480ml
- 1/2 Cup Sugar 100g
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
Mix the egg yolk with the cornstarch in a medium bowl until smooth. Mix in 1/4 cup of the milk.
Pour the rest of the milk into a medium saucepan and add the sugar and vanilla extract.
Bring the milk mixture to a boil, then drizzle 6-8 tablespoons of the hot milk into the egg mixture while constantly stirring.
Run the egg mixture over a sieve, then add it to the rest of the milk.
Return the milk to the stove and cook over low or medium-low heat while stirring until thick.
Pour the cream into a container, cover the surface with plastic wrap, and chill.
- The crema should be stored in the refrigerator for up to three days.
- Use room temperature ingredients for the best results.
- Use a rubber spatula or a wooden spoon to stir the cream to prevent discoloration.
- Make sure to constantly stir the cream as you cook it from the bottom towards the surface to prevent it from lumping. If you notice any lumps, run the cream through a sieve.