This creamy filling create the perfect complement for a cake, pie, or pastry.
Serving: 3 cups
3 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 vanilla bean, slit lengthwise or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
4 large egg yolks
4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) butter
1 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks; optional, for a softer filling
1. In a medium saucepan, stir together 2 1/2 cups of the milk, the sugar, salt, and the vanilla bean (if you're using vanilla extract, add it at the end.). Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
2. Meanwhile, whisk the cornstarch, flour, and egg yolks with the remaining 1/2 cup milk.
3. Whisk some of the hot milk mixture with the egg yolks to temper them. This keeps the yolks from turning to scrambled eggs when you add them to the simmering milk.
4. Using a strainer (will help prevent lumps late), pour the egg/milk mixture back into the remaining simmering milk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly with a whisk, until the mixture thickens.
5. Remove from the heat and strain through a fine strainer into a bowl set in an ice bath. Stir in the butter and vanilla extract (if you are using it).
6. Top with a piece of plastic wrap (make sure it touches the top of the pastry cream so it doesn't develop a skin), then refrigerate until cool.
7. Use chilled pastry cream as is for a cream pie, or a filling for éclairs.
8. For a softer filling, fold in the optional whipped cream, just before using.