It was a day at the end of September. A couple of years ago. I put on my pied-de-poule trousers for the first time since the internship I had done the summer before at Pierre Hermé.
I walked up the stairs, to the biggest, most beautiful kitchen I had ever seen, with the aim to make my biggest, most beautiful dream come true.
A dream that apparently involved cooking 12L of crème pâtissière. And when I say 12L, I really mean 12L of milk. So if you had up the other ingredients, it makes around 16kg of silky smooth vanilla goodness.
As a matter of fact, by seven am, the hair, that took me an hour to tame at three in the morning, was wild again. And my cheeks were the colour of bike rides in the wind.
I don’t want anyone to get hurt by making crème pâtissière, so I’ll just give you the half-a-litre recipe. Which happens to be just enough to fill a tart or a handful of choux, plus a couple of tablespoons for personal consumption.
This recipe is a basic crème pâtissière. A very simple cream made of milk, vanilla, egg yolks, cornflour, and caster sugar.
As usual, I can only advise you have all of the ingredients ready and measured before you start. Along with the equipment.
one vanilla pod
3 egg yolks
60g caster sugar
one medium saucepan
two small whisks
a fine chinois or sieve
a small bowl
a shallow plastic container
1. Place the milk and split vanilla pod into a medium saucepan and bring to the boil, whisking every now and then.
2. In a small bowl, mix the egg yolks and sugar with a whisk, until fully combined. This prevents the caster sugar from reacting with the thin skin of the yolks, which would create some small lumps.
Add the cornflour and incorporate.
3. Temper the egg yolk mixture with the strained milk (to get rid of the vanilla pod). Whisking as you do so.
4. Pour back into the pan – off the heat – whisking continuously. Then over soft heat, bring to the boil, whisking at all time.
5. As soon as the mixture reaches the boiling point and starts to thicken, keep on cooking and whisking for a minute or two.
6. Pour and scrape into a plastic container.
And clingfilm to the touch to avoid the formation of a skin. Chill for an hour.