Pastry cream is meant to be thick -- so thick you can almost stand a spoon up in it. The sweet dessert custard is made by whisking hot milk into a mixture of sugar, eggs and starch. The pastry cream is cooked on the stove top until it simmers and thickens, then cooled and refrigerated. Chances are, your pastry cream will thicken as it cools, especially after you chill it. If it's truly too thin, though, quickly fix it with a bit more starch. A slight recipe change can solve the problem next time.
To thicken pastry cream that's already been prepared and cooled, simply add a bit more starch. Combine cornstarch with cold milk or water to make a slurry. Heat the pastry cream to simmering and stir in the slurry. Bring the mixture almost to a boil, whisking constantly, until the pastry cream thickens.
Select a Starch
The basic technique for making pastry cream is always the same, but the ingredients may vary slightly. For a thicker pastry cream, use a combination of flour and cornstarch when you initially make the pastry cream, rather than just one of these ingredients. For every 1 1/2 cups of milk, add about 1/4 cup cornstarch and 1 tablespoon of flour. Adding another egg yolk also thickens a thin pastry cream.
The type of dairy product you use plays a role in how thick pastry cream becomes. Most recipes call for whole milk. If you use non-fat or low-fat milk, you'll end up with a thin pastry cream that lacks richness. Stick with whole milk, half and half, or even cream for a thick, luxurious pastry cream.
Stir and Simmer
Cornstarch and flour thickeners work efficiently when combined with egg yolks, but you must cook the mixture thoroughly. If you don't, the amylase enzymes found in egg yolks will break down the thickener as the pastry cream cools, resulting in a watery mess. Even if the pastry cream seems thick, continue to cook it for one to two minutes after it begins simmering. Whisk it constantly so it doesn't burn. This extra cooking time denatures the amylase enzymes, rendering them inactive.
- The Kitchn: How to Make Pastry Cream
- King Arthur Flour: Pastry Cream
- The Art & Soul of Baking; Cindy Mushet
- Fine Cooking: Custards
- The Kitchn: How to Make and Use a Slurry to Thicken Soup
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