Pastry cream is thought to have originated in France or Italy in the 17th century. The earliest mention of pastry cream was in a French book by François Massialot called The Royal and Bourgeois Cook (Le Cuisinier Roïal et Bourgeois).
Today, pastry cream is a staple filling for French bakery products like croissants, eclair, mille feuille, among others.
Pastry cream is the most commonly used type of filling in French patisseries due to its rich, creamy texture and the versatility of potential flavor combinations. It can also be used as a filling in pies, particularly in the boston cream pie.
Typical commercial pastry cream nutritional value:3
Pastry cream can be commercially manufactured through the following process:4
- Conditioning: water is heated up to 70oC (158 oF). Simultaneously fat is heated and melted at 70 oC (158 oF) in a separate vessel.
- Liquid mixing: the fat is carefully added to the water while vigorously stirred.
- Dry mixing: sugar, milk powder and stabilizer are mixed separately.
- Final mixing: dry mix is added to the liquid mix at 65 oC (149 oF) with continuous stirring until homogeneous.
- Pasteurization: mix is first preheated to 70oC (158 oF) then temperature is increased to 120oC (248 oF) for 4 seconds.
- Homogenization: pasteurized mix is cooled to 70oC (158 oF) and homogenized.
- Packaging: the cream is filled into polygal bags.
- Final cool down: the bags are cooled first to 15oC (59 oF) and subsequently to 2oC (36 oF).
Pastry cream is commonly made with the following ingredients:1
- Milk: whole milk or cream form the fluid phase of the oil-in-water emulsion.
- Egg yolk: acts as the gelling agent that thickens the mixture.
- Sugar: imparts sweetness and water holding capacity, and thus stabilization of the product.
- Vanilla or other flavors: flavoring agents
- Cornstarch or flour: help in retarding egg coagulation and providing a consistent, rich, and creamy texture.
Fillings like napoleons, eclairs, cream puffs, cakes, pies and tarts require the use of good quality pastry cream.1
Some considerations when making pastry cream:1
- Carefully temper the eggs via gradual incorporation of heated milk while continuously stirring to avoid lump formation.
- Once all ingredients are added, bring the mix to a boil for 2 minutes or slightly longer to ensure inactivation of alpha-amylase present in egg yolks that may cause starch breakdown.
- Strain after cooking to remove any potential lumps or cooked eggs bits.
Pastry cream doesn’t have a specific FDA regulation, however its core ingredients are considered GRAS.
Similarly in the EU, pastry cream doesn’t have a specific regulation and its ingredients are considered safe for consumption.
- Amendola, J, and Rees,N. Understanding baking: the art and science of baking 3rd edition. John Wiley & sons Inc., 2003.
- Massialot, F. Le cuisinier roïal et bourgeois: qui apprend à ordonner toute sorte de repas, & la meilleure maniere des ragoûts les plus à la mode & les plus exquis: ouvrage tres-utile dans les familles & singulierement necessaire à tous maîtres d’hôtels & ecuïers de cuisine. R. Dessagne, 1980.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central, 30 October 2020. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1097977/nutrients Accessed 31 January 2021.
- Schutte, E.J and Heuvelman, L. Method for the preparation of pastry cream. EP 1080646B1. Google Patents, https://patents.google.com/patent/EP1080646B1/en . Accessed 31 January 2021.