What is Crema Pasticcera?
Crema pasticcera (also referred to as pastry cream), is a staple ingredient when it comes to both Italian and French desserts. With its custard texture and versatile flavor-profile, it’s no wonder that this pastry cream is used in so many cakes, pies, tarts, and pastries. It can be made as a thinner consistency (like used in a crème anglaise) or it can also have more starch added to it to thicken up (think like a cream puff).
There are several different recipes you can use, but almost all incorporate eggs, sugar, a starch, a full-fat milk, and a flavoring (usually vanilla, lemon, or both). While the ingredients themselves are simple, the preparation can sometimes be tricky. It is very easy to overheat the custard which will cause it to curdle. And you also want it to cool quickly so that it has nice glossy finish to it.
Luckily for you, we’re sharing our favorite creme pasticcera recipe and techniques, along with our favorite recipes to use it in.
1. Easy Crema Pasticcera
As mentioned, perfecting this custard recipe is less about the ingredients and more about the process. This is exactly why we turn to Giallo Zafferano for so many baking tips because they’ve got most of them figured out. For their creme pasticcera recipe, they recommend the following:
- Using fresh vanilla bean
- Using only the lemon zest
- Filtering the boiling milk with a sieve before pouring it into the egg yolks
- Cooling the cream quickly by placing it in a bowl that’s been placed in the freezer
They also state that the cream can be frozen for up to a month, but it’s never lasted long in this house.
Get the full recipe and directions from Giallo Zafferano
2. Italian Fruit Tart (Crostata di Frutta)
If there’s one dessert that I can never say ‘no’ to, it’s a fruit tart. I don’t know what it is exactly, but the trio of pie crust, fresh fruit, and that custard filling, is pure bliss to me. I love it for its simplicity, its subtle sweetness, and hey, it’s also beautiful to look at. And I also love that even people on the strictest of diets will still go for a piece of fruit tart. (Hey, it’s kind of healthy, right? I mean, there is fruit in it!)The secret to any good crostata di frutta is making sure you perfect the crust. We love that this recipe gives all the tips and tricks in making sure your pie crust is perfect each and every time.
- You’ll want to blind bake the pie crust (meaning, to bake the crust by itself without any filling)
- Once the dough is in the pan, you’ll want to perforate it with a fork or toothpick, which will keep the crust from puffing up
- You’ll also want to place some beans into the pie mold (separated with parchment paper) to help keep the middle of the pie crust from rising up
From there its smooth sailing with the custard and fresh fruit. The beauty of fruit tarts is that you can use any fruit that happens to be in season. I love fresh berries, tangerines, and kiwi, but feel free to experiment with your favorite fruit combinations. You can even top with edible flowers for a super elegant look.
Get the full recipe and directions from For the Feast
3. Italian Cream-Filled Donuts (Bomboloni alla Crema)
You had me at cream, and you had me at donuts. This recipe is wow-oh-wow and perfect for what I like to call ‘lazy Sundays’. Imagine drinking a cup of coffee, pulling a baking sheet of fluffy, pillowy sugar-rolled donuts out of the oven, filling them with cream, and then taking a huge bite into them.
That’s exactly why I call it a lazy Sunday, cause these definitely need to be made fresh, and then I usually just want to sit around and do nothing for the rest of the day. As much work and detail that go into making these, they are totally worth the final outcome.
Get the full recipe and directions from Key Ingredient
4. Cannoncini Alla Crema Pasticcera (Puff Pastry Mini Cannoli Cones)
This recipe is perfect for anyone who wants to throw together a quick and easy party dessert. We love that this recipe, with its mini cannoli cones, looks so fancy yet is actually pretty easy. All you need is store-bought puff pastry and some cannoli cones to trick everyone into thinking you’re a master pastry chef. With a perfect flaky puff pastry and a luxurious cream filling, no one would believe how easy these were to make!
Get the full recipe and directions from Sugar Love Spices
5. Rhubarb and Custard Bars
If you like lemon bars, you’ll swoon over these rhubarb and custard bars. With beautiful rhubarb curls on top and a sweet / tart / tangy flavor combination on the inside, it’s no wonder these are always a fave in my household.
I actually lower the amount of sugar in this recipe since I prefer a more tangy flavor profile. I also love that I can make them in advance and that they store well for about a week. And I actually eat these more for breakfast than I do for dessert. Who said you can’t have dessert for breakfast?
Get the full recipe and directions from NY Times
With the crema pasticcera custard being so versatile you can see why its such a key ingredient in many dessert recipes. We love putting it in eclairs, tarts, donuts, cakes, and pies. Of all of these recipes, which one looks the most appealing to try first?
If you liked this recipe list, you should also check out our favorite Torta Paradiso recipes post.