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Crema Pasticcera Classica

the perfect custard

Custard is undoubtedly the base of pastry creams and many desserts. Today, we will learn how to prepare an excellent custard, from the ingredients to its correct storage.

Let’s start!

table of contents

traditional custard recipe

Custard is undoubtedly the master of creams in pastry. We all know the essential ingredients: Yolks, sugar, milk, starches, but few know that the recipe can be adapted according to individual needs. The recipe I am proposing on this page is the Classic Custard, perfect for filling cakes and pies, whether natural or flavored with chocolate or dried fruit pastes. As I explain in detail in the Pastry School dedicated to the Custard, I recommend using corn starch and rice starch to thicken your cream.
Preparation: 15 minutes
Cooking: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
RECIPE FOR: 1800 gr of Custard

EQUIPMENTS

  • Steel Pan

Ingredients

  • 1 l Whole Milk
  • 300 gr Egg Yolks (about 15 Yolks)
  • 320 gr Granulated Sugar
  • 50 gr Rice Starch
  • 50 gr Corn Starch
  • 1 pod Vanilla
  • 3 gr Salt

For Sanitize the pan

  • 20 gr Food-grade Alcohol

DIRECTIONS

  • Bring the milk and the salt to a boil.
  • Mix the egg yolks with the sugar, the pulp of vanilla, and the starches.
  • Dilute the mixture with the boiling milk, pouring it into many times
  • Bring the mixture back to the stove over low heat, and continuously stir until the cream begins to firm up.
  • Sanitize a steel pan with food-grade alcohol
  • When the custard is ready, pour it into the container sanitized with the alcohol, cover with plastic wrap and cool quickly to+4°C (39°F) before using.
  • Before using the custard, I recommend you stir it vigorously with a whisk to make it glossy and smooth again.

Video

NOTES

You can flavor custard with dried fruit paste, dosing 100gr for 1kg of custard.

NUTRITION LABEL

Serving: 100g | Calories: 2kcal | Carbohydrates: 0.3g | Protein: 0.04g | Fat: 0.1g | Saturated Fat: 0.03g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.01g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.02g | Cholesterol: 2mg | Sodium: 1mg | Potassium: 1mg | Sugar: 0.2g

FLAVORING OF CUSTARD

Once ready, we can flavor the cream using:

  • Dry Fruit Pastes (e.g., Hazelnut or Pistachio paste): 100gr of paste for 1kg of cooled custard
  • Chocolate: as indicated below (see Ingredients > Chocolate).
  • Liqueurs: 50gr of liqueur for 1kg of chilled Custard. The dosage is indicative and varies depending on the liqueur and personal taste.

CHILLING PROCESS & STORAGE

Whichever method is chosen, once cooked, Custard must be cooled very quickly to stop the eggs’ cooking and limit the proliferation of bacteria.

To do this, it is good practice to pour the Custard into a well-cleaned metal pan sanitized with 95° grain alcohol (or non-potato vodka). After covering it with plastic film,  rapidly chill it at +4°C (39°F). A blast chiller is the best tool to obtain quality results for those with one.

Before using the Custard, stir vigorously with a whisk to recover its structure and shine.

If well prepared and cooled, we can store the Custard in the fridge at +4°C (39°F), covering it with plastic wrap for about 2 days. However, if we add some whipped cream (for an Italian-style Chantilly cream), the cream’s storage is limited to 24 hours.

If you wish to freeze the custard, add 10gr of gelatine for every liter of milk to the recipe. However, I do not recommend it because freezing (especially with domestic systems) will lump the Custard once thawed.

Baking Custard
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Custard Pie
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I REPLAY YOUR QUESTIONS ABOUT CUSTARD

Can I replace the Starch with Flour?

This is not a good idea because, with Flour, you would get a stickier and thicker Custard.

Flour is suggested if you use up to 8 eggs per liter of milk. 

Can I use Potato-starch?

Not a good idea because potato-starch produces a very sticky and gummy texture. Also, once in the fridge, the cream will tend to divide and lose liquid.

Can I use whole eggs to prepare Custard?

Yes, if you want to prepare a Baking Custard. On the other hand, adding the egg whites will make the Custard very stiff and not very pleasant in the mouth if you want to use it “pure” to fill pastries and cakes.

The Custard is too runny. How can I thicken it?

If you notice it just after cooking, you can extend the cooking time by a few minutes.

Otherwise, if the cream is too liquid once chilled, the easiest solution (just for emergency) is to heat about 1/3 of it, add 20gr for each liter of milk of soaked gelatin. Then mix it into the remaining cream and chill again for a couple of hours.

The Custard has become runny in the fridge. What does it depend on?

This phenomenon is called “syneresis” and can depend on incorrect cooking (too long or too short) or a too-high percentage of fat.

By replacing 10% of the sugar in the recipe with glucose syrup, you will limit the problem…

Can I replace Milk with Heavy Cream?

Yes, you can replace between 20% and 50% of the milk’s weight with heavy cream. In this way, you will obtain a Custard with a smoother texture and a rounder taste on the palate.

Can I use Low-Fat Milk?

Yes. You will have a slightly less fatty custard, but the result will not vary perceptibly.

How long does the Custard keep in the fridge?

If well stored and covered, you can keep the Custard in the refrigerator at +4°C (39°F) for up to 2 days. However, if you add whipped cream to it, the storage time is reduced to 24 hours.

Can I freeze Custard?

Generally speaking, this is not a good idea because it will be quite lumpy and runny once thawed.

If you want to give it a try, add 10gr of gelatin for every liter of milk. The gelatin will help keep the texture of the cream firmer.

I am lactose intolerant. What can I replace milk with?

No problem! Soy or rice milk are excellent substitutes for cow’s milk, and you can replace them with equal weight.

Can I make a gluten-free Custard?

Sure, using only rice starch and corn starch (Maizena), you will obtain a completely gluten-free product.

Can I add butter to my Custard?

Yes, the Custard with added butter is called Mousseline Cream and is widely used in French pastry to fill cakes and mignon pastries. The proportion is about 420gr of soft butter per 1kg of well-cold Custard.

Can I make Custard without eggs?

Yes, you can increase the quantity of starch to compensate for the thickening action of the yolk. For example, you can use 55gr of rice starch and 80gr of corn starch for 1 liter of milk.

To satisfy the eye, you can add a small amount of yellow food coloring gel or a bit of turmeric.

How much pistachio or hazelnut paste should I add to the Custard to flavor it?

In general, you can use 100gr of dry fruit paste (pistachio or hazelnut) to flavor 1kg of well-cold Custard.

I recommend not exaggerating with paste quantity because it weighs down the cream and makes it more liquid.

I need less cream. Can I divide the amount in the recipe?

Generally, the unit of measure for the Custard recipe is the quantity of milk.

If you need less cream, you can divide the recipe as you prefer. However, I recommend that you do not go below 250ml of milk to ensure better cooking.

Can I use colorants to color the Custard?

Sure, I recommend using coloring gels and adding them to the Custard once it is well chilled. Consider that the starting base is yellow, so the colors will turn accordingly!

Can I use vanilla flavoring instead of vanilla?

If you have no alternative, yes. I personally recommend a good vanilla bean or a high-quality pure vanilla extract.

Can I use only Corn or Rice Starch?

In case you miss one of the 2 starches, you can easily substitute the missing one.

Keep in mind that if you use only rice starch, you will obtain a more fluffy (and less-structured) Custard, while if you use only corn starch, you will have a more compact and stiff texture.

I need to make a tart. Can I use traditional Custard?

If you need to make a Tarte with a custard that will bake in the oven, I recommend making a specific Baking Custard.

The color of the Custard is too light. How can I make it more yellow?

The easiest solution is definitely to choose yellow paste eggs (the ones to make homemade pasta). Otherwise, you can use a tiny amount of yellow/red gel colorant.

What can I do with the leftover egg whites?

Maybe some Meringues or delicious Macarons!

HOW TO MAKE CUSTARD AT HOME

TRADITIONAL METHOD

We work the egg yolks with sugar, aroma, and starch without whipping. When the milk comes to a boil, we pour it into the egg mixture several times until it is dissolved. Then, we cook over moderate heat without stopping to stir with a whisk.

When the cream is cooked, let it cool very quickly, as explained below, and flavor it as desired (for example, with grated lemon zest for a fresher taste).

EGGS-WHIPPED METHOD

We whip the egg yolks, sugar, flavorings, and starches in a stand mixer until the mixture is fluffy. Once ready, we gently pour the mixture into the boiling milk without stirring.

As soon as the boil rises on the pan’s sides, we whisk vigorously and remove it from the heat. In this method, the air incorporated during the whipping will slightly delay heat diffusion, prolonging the cooking.

MICROWAVE METHOD

This method is particularly suitable if we need to prepare small quantities.

First, we mix all the ingredients, starting with the eggs, sugars, starches, and aroma.

Once ready, we add the milk, mixing to amalgamate the mixture. We place it in a suitable container (pyrex or plastic for microwave) and cook it at maximum power for 2 minutes.

When the Custard is ready, we remove it from the oven and vigorously stir to distribute the heat. This step should be repeated several times, giving 1 – 1 1/2 minutes of cooking time each until the cream is done.

PREPARATION  WITH THERMOMIXER

The thermomixer is very useful for preparing Custard and can be done in a single step (I recommend not exceeding 1l of milk).

You can pour all the ingredients into the bowl and mix it at medium speed for 30 seconds. Once ready, set the cooking temperature at 90°C (194°F), and let it cook for 7/8 minutes.

When the cream is ready, it is essential to let it chill quickly, as I will tell you in a moment.

Similarly, suppose you want to prepare a chocolate custard with a Thermomix. In that case, you can add the chopped chocolate during the last minute of cooking, making it mix at the highest speed for 10 seconds once the cooking is finished.

BASIC INGREDIENTS IN DEEP

Traditional Custard counts mainly four ingredients:

EGGS

Eggs define the real cream’s value, distinguishing a Baking Custard (e.g., for a traditional Custard Pie) from an excellent cream for filling desserts and cakes. I believe a good quality cream is prepared with 20/25 yolks per liter of milk. Generally, fresh or pasteurized yolks are used to have a safer product.

The principal function of eggs is to provide lecithin. This substance combines the yolk’s fats with the liquid part of milk (called “emulsifiers”). Simultaneously, lecithin gives the cream shine and protects it during storage, avoiding the watery part’s separation.

Moreover, as they thicken around 70°C (158°F), eggs and starches are the primary thickener elements.

To fully understand how to dose eggs, it is necessary to consider two crucial aspects:

The egg’s coagulation temperature increases if we add sugar to the recipe. Indeed, a simple yolk coagulates at 70°C (158°F), whereas the temperature rises to 80°C (176°F) for sweetened yolks.

The higher the egg quantity, the lower the Custard temperature. But also, there will be less starch in the recipe. (See Pastry Cream Balancing) 

STARCHES & FLOUR

Flour is one of the most common thickeners used at home for the Custard. However, it gels at around 92°C (197°F), so it is only suitable for Custard made with few eggs (up to 10 yolks per liter of milk).

On the contrary, today, rice and corn starch use is widespread. These ingredients are much more appropriate to Custard’s recipe because of their different gelification points. Let’s see them better:

  • Rice Starch: it gels at 78°C (172°F) and gives the Custard a creamy texture and a glossy aspect.
  • Corn starch (Maizena): It gels at 82°C (179°F) and gives a stiffer and “pudding-like” texture

On the contrary, I do not recommend using potato starch because it makes the Custard too sticky and stringy.

SUGAR(s)

Sugar is fundamental for the taste and increases the eggs’ coagulation point.

The average quantity of sugar for a sweet custard is about 250-350gr of sugar per liter of milk. Honey can also be used as a substitute for granulated sugar, considering a lower dosage of 30% of granulated sugar weight. However, in this case, don’t forget to consider the characteristic aromatic note that honey will bring to the Custard, making it not always suitable for additional aromatizations.

MILK & HEAVY CREAM

Sometimes, we can add some heavy cream to the milk to obtain an incredibly round cream in the mouth. In my experience, a good compromise is substituting up to 30% of the milk’s weight with fresh heavy cream!

CHOCOLATE

Although chocolate is not an essential ingredient, it is widely used to prepare a base cream for mousses and Italian semifreddo.

For a good result and an excellent taste, chocolate has to be around 400gr per liter of milk if we consider average chocolate with 50% fat content.

As cocoa butter content in chocolate increases, I suggest you progressively decrease its quantity in the Custard to avoid a structure that is too rigid and stiff once chilled.

As an indication:

  • With 60% cocoa chocolate: 350gr of chocolate per liter of milk
  • If you use 70% cocoa chocolate: 250gr of chocolate per liter of milk.
  • For an 80% cocoa Chocolate: 200gr of chocolate per liter of milk

To make an excellent chocolate custard, cut the milk in the recipe with 40% water or substitute it with soy or rice vegetable milk.

Moreover, use at most 10 yolks per liter of milk, as lactose and eggs cover the original aromatic note of chocolate.

HOW TO BALANCE THE CUSTARD RECIPE

We can start by building a recipe for Traditional Custard. We will gradually increase the egg content to see how the other ingredients rebalance.

The rules we will follow are:

Starches: Once the yolk exceeds 200gr per liter of milk, we remove 10gr of starch every 100gr of eggs (over 200gr)

Sugar: For every 100gr over 200gr of the base balance, we will add 20gr of sugar.

Let’s see it in practice!

CUSTARD WITH 10 YOLKS

Ideal to be enriched with chocolate (see above for chocolate dosage)

  • Fresh whole milk 1000gr
  • Yolks 200gr (about 10)
  • Granulated sugar 300gr
  • Rice starch 55gr
  • Cornstarch 55gr
  • Salt 3gr
  • Vanilla

CUSTARD WITH 20 YOLKS

We increase the yolks by 200gr and compensate with -20gr of starch and +40gr of sugar.

  • Fresh whole milk 1000gr
  • Yolks 400gr (+200gr compared to the previous recipe)
  • Sugar: 300gr+40gr= 340gr
  • Total Starch: 110gr-20gr= 90gr
  • Salt 3gr
  • Vanilla

CUSTARD WITH 40 YOLKS PER LITER

We increase yolks by 600gr; therefore, we will compensate with -60gr of starch and +120gr of sugar.

  • Fresh whole milk 1000gr
  • Yolks 800gr (+ 600gr compared to the basic recipe)
  • Sugar: 300gr + 120gr =420gr
  • Total Starch 110 – 60gr =50gr
  • Salt 3gr Vanilla
Rich Custard
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Chocolate Custard
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14 comments about “La Crema Pasticcera Professionale”

  1. Ciao,
    Anche se facessi una crema pasticcera al pistacchio dovrei utilizzare pochi tuorli oppure ciò vale solo per quella al cioccolato? Siccome dovrei fare un Pan di Spagna a due strati, uno con la crema classica, e l’altro al pistacchio, mi chiedevo se potevo prepararle in un’unica preparazione, oppure se è meglio farle separate qualora le dosi di tuorlo devono essere diverse. Grazie

    1. Ciao Andrea,
      puoi preparare tranquillamente la stessa crema. Il gusto delle uova varia soprattutto il gusto del cioccolato, ma per le creme di frutta secca non hai problemi!

      A presto!

  2. Ben trovati: Grazie della bellissima spiegazione.
    Ho riportato in un foglio di calcolo di Google il bilanciamento della crema pasticciera adesso vorrei sapere come poter diminuire (seppur di un poco ) la quantita di zucchero, essendo questo direttamente proporzionale alle uova, tenedo conto del tuo consiglio che riporta dalle 20 alle 25 uova per litro di latte.

    Grazie e saluti dal Venezuela

  3. Ciao Fred! Un bel ritorno qui su bianco lievito. Ho trovato molto interessante la spiegazione sulla crema pasticcera. Circa l’amido di riso, è possibile sostituirlo con della farina di riso?

    1. Ciao Luca,
      potresti, ma la crema non avrà lo stesso aspetto. Per la crema ti consiglio di usare gli amidi, invece delle farine, perché gelificiano prima e ti permettono di non cuocere troppo la crema!

      A presto!

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