Crème patissière (pastry cream)
- Put 450ml of the milk in a small saucepan and put on the stove on a low heat.
- Score along the vanilla bean with a small sharp knife – then strip the vanilla seeds out with the back of the knife. Add the vanilla seeds (and bean) to the milk in the pan.
- Separate the 4 eggs, putting the yolks in a large heat-resistant mixing bowl (the whites are not needed).
- Add the caster sugar to the egg yolks and whisk together until the colour goes paler.
- Mix the cornflour with the remaining 50ml of milk in a small dish, ensuring no lumps.
- When the milk is hot, remove and discard the vanilla pod. Then pour the hot vanilla milk through a fine sieve into a heatproof jug.
- Slowly pour the hot vanilla milk into the mixing bowl with the egg yolks and sugar, stirring all the time.
- Immediately add the milk and cornflour mixture to the mixing bowl, and then pour the whole lot back into the saucepan which goes back on the heat on the stove.
- Bring the pastry cream mixture close to a boil, stirring continuously, and it will suddenly start to thicken. Don’t worry if the pastry cream suddenly goes lumpy – just remove from the heat for a moment and whisk quickly until the lumps disperse. Then return it to the heat.
- Continue to heat and stir for a minute or two until it is looking fairly thick. Then remove from the heat and stir in the butter pieces.
- Immediately pour the pastry cream in to a shallow bowl or tray and cover with clingfilm to prevent a skin forming.
- Allow to cool (you could sit the tray/bowl in a sink with a little cold water and ice under it) for 20-30 minutes before putting in the fridge to chill until you need to use it.
- This amount of crème patissière should fill either a 22cm pre-baked tart case, or four 10cm pre-baked tart cases.
- Use leftover egg whites to make meringues, pavlova or macarons.