How to make a creme patisserie

Crème patissiere is a sweet vanilla pastry cream that's perfect for using for the base of a fruit tart, for filling choux buns or layering between sheets of puff pastry for mille feuille.

To make the crème patissiere, in a pan put 250ml of milk and one split vanilla pod with seeds. Using real vanilla is going to add a great flavour but you could also use orange or lemon zest. Gently heat your pan over a medium heat until just before it boils and then remove.

In a bowl add four large egg yolks, two tablespoons of caster sugar, one tablespoon of cornflour and one tablespoon of plain flour. Whisk together until pale. The cornflour just helps to stabilise the crème patissiere and stops it from splitting.

Once you've done this, carefully remove the vanilla pod from the pan with a spoon. Take your hot pan of milk and pour it over the egg mixture, whisking throughout. Strain the liquid back into the pan through a sieve then set it over a medium low heat and stir continuously until the mixture has turned to a thick custard consistency. Now, if you think it's starting to thicken too quickly, you can simply go in with a whisk. And you want to be careful not to heat it too quickly or you'll end up with scrambled eggs. As soon as it starts to thicken, take it off the heat.

It's a good idea to have an ice cube or two on standby because if it does go too far, simply adding an ice cube and mixing it through should stop it from splitting.

Put the mixture into a clean bowl, cover the surface in cling film to prevent a skin forming, cool slightly at room temperature and transfer to the fridge to cool completely for two to three hours.

Lightly whisk 100ml of double cream, add the cooled crème patissiere and gently fold together. The whipped cream will help give a lighter texture. At this stage the crème patissiere is ready to use and I'm going to fill a sweet flan case and simply top with fresh berries. If you have any left over, simply cover and you can keep it in the fridge for two to three days.

Rich, creamy and velvety and perfect for a whole host of desserts: crème patissiere.

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