Custard: the 8 tricks to make it perfect – Italian Cuisine

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It is one of the bases of pastry, versatile and greedy, it would be easy to make, but… despite everything, something can go wrong. How to prevent the cream from "going crazy", the causes and the (few) remedies




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The custard, often alone pastry chef for friends (it has many) it is fantastic: very good, it is ideal for stuffing cream puffs and éclairs, cannoli, cakes and pastries; also excellent in cups, to be enjoyed in spoonfuls or with biscuits and waffles. This delight has an interesting history that perhaps not everyone knows.

French or Italian?
Its creation is an eternal dispute between French and Italians, the two most advanced cultures in the field of European pastry from the Middle Ages onwards. In 1691, the first documented recipe of a crème pâtissière appears in the culinary work of François Massialot, cook of illustrious personalities of his time, cardinals, marquises and even the brother of the Sun King, the Duke of Orleans: still today his "Le Cuisinier Royal et Bourgeois”Is considered among the first culinary dictionaries in the world. In addition to the crème pâtissière, also the meringues and the crème brûlée, in which the sugar coating was melted and burned with a red-hot iron scoop. However, some scholars have found traces of a cream very similar to pastry in the recipes cited in the volume Banquets, food compositions and general apparatus (printed more than a century earlier, in 1549), by Christopher of Messisbugo, Cook of the Este house and consultant of the Gonzagas. Be that as it may, this splendid cream conquered French and Italian pastry making, becoming one of the basic preparations of both schools.

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How to avoid problems
The best way to do this is… to prevent them. Here are the precautions to put in place to have a velvety and soft cream, like true pastry chefs.


1 Always use the freshest ingredients
2 Follow the recipe sequence
3 The flour (or starches) goes always sifted through a very fine mesh strainer: this will prevent the formation of lumps, sworn enemies of this sweet preparation. It is not a step that can be left out!
4 Initially, to beat the eggs and mix the flour, use a whisk (electric ones are fine too but there is the risk of overdoing the whipping and incorporating air into the cream, be careful). When you start cooking, use a wooden or silicone spoon to mix it.
5 Check the cooking temperature, perhaps with the help of a cooking thermometer: the cream should never boil. Always keep it at a temperature of just over 80 ° C, but without exceeding 85 ° C. At higher temperatures, the custard will go crazy and you'll end up with… sweet scrambled eggs!
6 Never leave your custard alone: ​​once on the stove, in fact, you don't have to never stop mixing it slowly and constantly, to prevent it from sticking to the bottom and / or forming lumps.
7 The cream should always be mixed in the same verse: once you have set the direction of travel, so to speak, never change it. Mixing it constantly and always in the same direction is a crucial step!
8 Do not abandon it even after cooking: once removed from the heat, cover the custard with cling film in contact, and finally …

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The pastry chef's trick
When preparing a custard or other derived cream, it is important cool the product as quickly as possibleto slow down the proliferation of the bacterial load. As soon as it is cooked, you have to bring it to a temperature below the cooking temperature (it must drop to about 50 ° C) and cool it down to 4 ° C. Prepare a basin with water and ice and immerse the pan with the cream just removed from the heat for two thirds (if you do not have a home blast chiller). The cream does keep at 3 ° C in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Possible remedies
We seem to have followed the recipe for our cream well, the ingredients were fresh but unfortunately the result is not what we wanted. Don't be discouraged: in some cases you can try to recover your custard.
If it's too liquid, you can add a small amount of animal gelatin (isinglass) in sheets while hot, without stopping mixing.
Self has lumps, try to pass it through a sieve, spoon after spoon, without breaking its stability and creaminess; be careful to always make slow movements.
Yup is "tearing up" just? Some suggest taking it off the heat and whipping it with an immersion blender: it improves the texture but the cream will have a slightly more pronounced egg taste. Furthermore, it could disassemble a bit and therefore become too liquid.

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Quick change pastry chef
In its most basic form – which uses only egg yolks, milk, sugar, flour (or corn or rice starch) and vanilla – custard is often considered the mother of all creams. As a pastry base, it counts among its many advantages the fact that it can be revisited with a few simple touches, so as to transform before your eyes into another, different but very good, cream: here are some of the most famous derived creams from custard

Custard + Italian meringue + gelatin = Chiboust cream

Custard + whipped cream + gelatin = Diplomatic cream

Custard + whipped cream = cream Italian chantilly

Custard + butter = Mousseline cream

A lighter, flourless version that remains velvety and less dense than classic custard is known as English cream.
You can simply perfume it with a little Cognac or Marsala or, in the non-alcoholic version, with orange juice. If you want to transform the custard into a chocolate cream, add cocoa powder when you beat the egg yolks or, when it is still hot, pour in and mix in the melted dark in a bain-marie.
Now is the time to test yourself and prepare a fantastic custard, to be enjoyed in a cup with torcetti, cat's tongues or ladyfingers, or to make irresistible cannoncini, crispy rolls of stuffed phyllo dough, a scenographic cup of cream puffs with orange caramel, or St. Joseph's zeppole for Father's Day!

Francesca Tagliabue
February 2022

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Posted 08/02/2022

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