Sunday, July 30, 2006

Crema Pasticcera – Italian Pastry Chef’s Cream

Early in the morning, on the way to work, a cappuccino and cornetti are the norm. There are simple ones, ones with jam, cream, or chocolate. Some areas even prepare cornetti with salami and sliced cheese. In the afternoon or on special occasions as a dessert a tray of pasticcini, or little pastries, is often available with a sweet white wine. When visiting friends for dinner flowers or pasticcini are an appropriate gift to not arrive with empty hands. My favorites of all of these specialty desserts are the ones with cream. It may be simple, with chocolate, with hazelnut, with coffee, or with liquor, for me it does not matter. I like that simple sweetness and velvety texture.

Think about a bigne’, a small puff pastry, filled with chocolate cream. You bite into it and the cream gushes into your mouth, and usually onto your shirt, engulfing your taste buds with a soft and delicate flavor of chocolate. It coats all the way down to the throat and the flavor remains persistent, not overbearing, but ever present. This cream is Crema Pasticcera or Italian Pastry Chef’s Cream. It is simple to make, light on the stomach and will wow your friends. The difference between a home-made cream and a store bought one is significant. It can be used like a soft pudding, in a pie, bigne’, or cornetto. Pastry Cream is also one of the basic ingredients for a fruit crostata from northern Italy.

Prepare the ingredients by weight, the proportions are very important.

4 egg yolks
3 ½ oz. (100 gr.) sugar
1 oz. (30 gr.) flour
¼ tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp. Grated Lemon peel
2 ¼ cups (500 dl.) Milk
1 tbsp butter


I have found that using a double boiler makes the process much easier.

Turn the heat to medium, once the water boils in the double boiler reduce to medium low. Do not put the top pan on the boiler yet.

In the top pan whisk together the egg yolks, vanilla extract and sugar until the mixture become white and fluffy. This will take about 5 minutes by hand. Add the flour all at once and the lemon peel and whisk quickly.

Place the pan on the boiler and while whisking continuously, slowly pour in the milk.

Continue stirring with the whisk. The milk will come to a boil and the mixture creating a foam on the top. The mixture will start to become dense.

Turn the heat off and continue stirring. Add the butter and continue stirring until the butter is completely melted. Allow to cool completely, stirring every 5-10 minutes.

If serving in cups place in cups, otherwise place in a glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until served. Before serving as a dessert allow to sit at room temperature at least 15 minutes before serving.


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Blogger bozette said...


7:01 PM

Blogger ChickyBabe said...

And it has no substitute! So many places(outside of Italy) use custard instead and it's just not the same.

I have an equivalent French recipe but will try yours next time.

9:44 PM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

Bozette It is truly nice.

ChickyBabe I am always more impressed. You really know your stuff. Obviously I should say that in Italy we would use vanilla bean and add a touch of fresh ground cinnamon.

I agree about the difference, while crema pasticcera can substitute for custard the contrary is not true.

6:03 AM

Anonymous suanne said...

I love pastry but have not try making any. Those pictures look sinfully delicious.

7:23 AM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

Suanne I agree, desserts are such a temptation and can easily lead down the road of exageration, that is why we often do desserts for breakfast. It also puts us in a great mood for the rest of the day.

7:48 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi. I've been looking for a recipe for chocolate italian pastry cream and I see from your photo that you've obviously made it. can you tell me how much chocolate (and what kind) you added to the pastry cream? (and also at what point you added it--at the end while it was still on the stove? or did you melt the chocolate first and then mix it in off the heat?) any insights you can provide would be hugely appreciated!

6:46 PM


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