Though pastry cream is usually made with a whisk and a lot of elbow grease, I am a fan of employing my stand mixer when I am going to be using the cream to fill eclairs or anything that would benefit from a lightly flowing, silky pastry cream. This recipe calls for fewer egg yolks than most, contributing to lightness and leaving plenty of room for the vanilla bean flavor to shine clearly, but feel free to play around and add another couple of yolks to thicken it a bit if you’d like.
Because this cream does flow a bit, I wouldn’t use it in pastries like Napoleans or anything else that needs a more structured cream.
1 cup whole milk
1 cup cream
Seeds scraped from one vanilla bean (if it’s a particularly plump bean, you can use just half of it)
Pinch of kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1. In a medium saucepan, bring the milk, cream, vanilla bean scrapings, and salt to a boil (but be careful- dairy boils over quickly). Just as it starts to boil, remove it from heat and set aside.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, whip the eggs and sugar on medium high until the eggs are lighter in color. Stop the mixer and lift the whisk attachment out of the eggs. If the egg runs off in a thick ribbon, it’s ready; if not, continue whipping them until they do. This should take 3-5 minutes.
3. Turn the mixer to medium low and sprinkle the cornstarch into the bowl. Mix until fully incorporated, then stop the mixer, scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula, and mix again to ensure no remnants of cornstarch were left behind.
4. With the mixer running on low, pour the hot milk into the bowl in a slow stream and mix until it’s fully blended. Now, pour it all back into the saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, and bring it to a simmer. Continue to whisk and simmer for about 2 minutes, then pour it into a bowl and let cool for about 15 minutes. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for several hours before use.