Few items are as omnipresent in Italian pastry as crema pasticcera, the egg custard that fills morning cornetti, layers pan di spagna, and makes the basis for fruit tarts and zuppa inglese. It is simple, delicious, versatile and tasty! I made a batch at home and have made tarts, crostate, brioches and vol-au-vent desserts for a whole week, and then some.
The recipe for crema changes for each region, for each town, and even for each family! I have been following my friend Laura’s recipe- since I have tested it multiple times in her delicious profiteroles, pastries and desserts- and since Mom still guards our family recipe…
180gr of flour –> roughly 0.4lb of flour, or about 1.5 cups of flour
400 gr of sugar –> about 2 cups of sugar, or about 14oz
3 egg yolks and three whole eggs
1 l of milk –> 1 quart of milk, roughly
Optional: a bit of lemon rind, grated, and a hint of vanilla
What to do
Warm up the milk, and meanwhile use a mixer to mix flour, sugar and eggs. When the milk is near boiling, pour it in with the egg and flour and sugar mixture and transfer to a thick-bottomed pot back to heat. Lower the heat to medium and stir till you find the texture thickens- you can choose how think you’d like it to come out, but make sure it doesn’t taste like flour once you take it off the heat! It is crucial to keep on stirring to prevent lumps from forming and the bottom from sticking- it should take about 5-10 minutes from the time you transfer it to the heat to the time the crema is completely done.
Resist the temptation to eat the crema while it is warm- it gives you a stomachache and it makes you noxious! (That’s what Mom used to say when I was a kid, I thought it was a scam to make me wait… but no, she was right)
I finished the crema with a hand mixer before taking it off the heat, to work out any lump.
Fill anything you’d like with the cooled off crema- use a pastry bag with a medium tip, or a syringe, to fill in anything you can think of with crema: eclairs, profiteroles, brioches and croissants. For cakes, you can just use it as a filling, and for fruit tarts, your fruit will taste delicious on top of a layer of crema on your pie crust!
You can also serve crema pasticcera as a stand-alone dessert in a small cup, with a ladyfinger cookie or a slice of ciambella… delicious!
The recipe for the brioche pictured at the top is coming…