Few ingredients to give life to one of the most beloved creams: Pastry Cream.

Eggs, milk, sugar and vanilla, what a lovely combination! 

This pastry cream is among the most used in Italian and French patisseries, such as chantilly or zabaglione, to fill many sweets. In puff pastry cakes (such as cannoncini, vol-au-vent, millefoglie).

And of course, the best filling for Italian brioches, here the recipe.

Loved by children and adults alike. Pastry cream is always welcome! 

In this article I will tell you stories about:

My journey in Brescia and the best pastry chef in Italy

The origins of the pastry cream

Or you can go directly to the Italian pastry cream recipe


Brescia, Iginio Massari and his cakes

In 2019 I lived in Brescia, Italy working in a sensory analysis company.

After some time, someone told me that I was living only two blocks from Iginio Massari’s bar called ‘Pasticceria Veneto’. That’s where I met one of the most famous characters in Italian cuisine.

If you ever go to the north of Italy, in the Lago di Garda area I highly recommend visiting this bar.

Iginio Massari is not the typical diva chef, he really is a passionate and perfectionist artist. His cakes are so perfect that more than just being eaten they make you want to use them as decorations, they are works of art. And when you taste them, they are exquisite!

In spite of being in the principal culinary guides of the world as one of the best cake bars, Pasticceria Veneto is a neighbourhood bar. Colourful, small, with the cakes displayed in the window, people go in the morning to read the newspaper and say hello the waiters as in any bar. 

One day when Iginio was at the bar, I greeted him and told him about my passion for gastronomy. I don’t know if he remembered me but it was a moment to remember in my life.

For that reason and because there are as many versions of pastry cream as there are cooks, today I am going to leave you with the Italian recipe for Iginio Massari’s pastry cream.

But first of all, let’s discover together what is behind this indispensable cream: its origins!

How was the pastry cream born

It would seem that the pastry cream was invented by François Massialot, a French chef born in Limoges in 1660 and died in Paris in 1733.

François Massialot was the chef of many personalities such as Philippe I, Duke of Orleans (brother of Louis XIV), the Duke of Aumont and the Cardinal of Estrées.

But he is most famous for being the author of a fundamental book of cuisine, one of the first culinary dictionaries, “Le cuisinier roïal et bourgeois” (The Royal and Bourgeois Cook).

The Royal and Bourgeois Cook book by François Massialot
The Royal and Bourgeois Cook book by François Massialot

Here is the first appearance of pastry cream in this 1691 book.

Pastry cream old recipe

As you can see in the photo, the first recipe for pastry cream on record was much more basic than the one we know today.

Do you want to cook the first recipe of pastry cream?

Here’s the recipe

Pastry cream first recipe

Creme patissiere:

If you want to do it for several times, you have to beat twelve eggs, the white and the yolk. Once beaten, you need to put in a good half-pound of flour (450g), rather more than less and beat the whole thing together. Then you add another dozen eggs, which you continue to mix with the rest. 

Have at the same time about two and a half pints of milk (1.420 litres), and put it in a large saucepan at proportion, to boil it. 

When it boils, pour it into the pot and stir. It needs a little salt, about half a pound of butter (227g), a little white pepper and cook it well, taking care that it does not stick to the bottom. Your cream being thick and cooked, you will pour it into another saucepan and let it cool.

François Massialot, The Royal and Bourgeois Cook

As you can see in this recipe, no sugar was added to the cream, because it could then be used for salty and sweet things. Adding sugar for sweet cakes, or making a millefeuille and adding meat for a salty recipe.

Now let’s go to the Pastry cream recipe.

Pastry cream recipe

INGREDIENTS FOR ABOUT 750 G OF CREAM
  • Whole milk 500 g 
  • Sugar 130 g
  • Egg yolks (about 7) 125 g
  • Rice starch 40 g
  • Vanilla pod 2
  • Lemon peel ½

How to prepare the pastry cream

Follow the step-by-step procedure with Master Confectioner Iginio Massari and discover all the tricks to prepare the perfect pastry cream!

Here is a video and then the written recipe.

  1. To prepare the pastry cream first put a glass bowl in the freezer. Then cut the vanilla seeds out of vanilla and cut the pods into pieces.
  2. Pour the milk into a casserole and add both the seeds and the vanilla pods. 
  3. Cut only the yellow part of the lemon peel, and add it to the casserole. 
  4. Light the heat and bring the milk to the boiling point, occasionally stirring. In another saucepan pour the yolks, sugar and the starch. 
  5. Using a soft whisk, stir to obtain a smooth, creamy consistency. 
  6. As soon as the milk starts to boil, transfer it into the egg yolks in times by filtering it with a strainer and stirring constantly with a whisk. 
  7. Transfer it back over the heat and stir continuously until it thickens.
  8. To cool it quickly, take the bowl out of the freezer and pour the cream inside. 
  9. Stir with a whisk very quickly, until the cream is at 50°C, below the cooking point. You will obtain a smooth and very shiny cream. 
  10. At this point the custard is ready, you can use right away it or keep it in the fridge by covering it with plastic wrap.

For it to be perfect, its texture must be perfectly smooth and lump-free.

Its consistency is also very important; it must be fairly firm.

STORAGE
  • The custard can be stored in the refrigerator covered with film for 5 days.
  • Alternatively, you can freeze it for 1 month.  
TIPs
  • It’s a very versatile preparation: you just need to change the doses or some ingredients to obtain different consistencies appropriate to your use.  Use rice starch to obtain a softer cream, otherwise if you prefer a more consistent cream use the same amount of corn starch.
  • If you don’t have a plastic wrap and you don’t want the cream to crust over, you can sprinkle it with a layer of sugar to avoid it. 
  • Never leave the yolks in contact with the sugar without stirring, otherwise, they will cook and the cream will be lumpy. 
  • By heating the milk previously the yolk will be less affected by the high temperature, giving the aromatic taste a particular freshness. 
  • With these doses you will be able to stuff a cake of 22 cm in diameter, making two layers of cream.