Pastry Cream and Breakfast, Italian style.


If you can’t find it, make it.

Some time ago I posted asking for help with my search, my seemingly fruitless search…. for Cornetto alla Crema. Knowing now that the search would involve a serious trek north of the city, I decided to make… or should I say, put together my own. I’ll save the trek for another time. 

This delicious Italian pastry eaten only at breakfast, la prima colazione, is the only breakfast I eat when I’m lucky enough to be anywhere in Italy. Unless of course I get to the coffee bar too late…. “c’è solo il cioccolato” – there is only chocolate left… are not ever the words I want to hear. In fact, I believe I’ve heard those words just once.

Not your usual breakfast. But hey, when in Rome…..!! 

 Love it or hate it, this monument to Vittorio Emmanuele II, the first king of a unified Italy, is one of Rome’s distinctive landmarks.

 

La prima colazione/breakfast, Italian style!
 

The anticipation of biting through the flaky, buttery croissant stuffed with thick and luscious vanilla pastry cream and topped with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar… ahhhhh.

“Buongiorno. Un cappuccino e un cornetto alla crema. Per favore.” 

Until I get to say these words again, there’s the promise of the trek to the Italian hood north of Toronto. And closer at hand, the fun in my own kitchen.

Pastry Cream

Not something I often make, I went to one of my fave baking sites, joyofbaking.com, and found a recipe that used both flour and cornstarch. I wanted to ensure a nice and thick cream, so it would not just ooze out of the pastry. Having to settle for store bought croissant, I picked some up that smelled of butter and had a flaky, crisp feel to them. The end result…? Decent enough croissant, with perfectly creamy, not too sweet pastry cream, to morph into my home-fashioned Cornetto alla Crema. So tasty, so familiar. If I closed my eyes, I could hear the clatter of cups, the hiss of an espresso machine and the chatter of an Italian coffee bar.

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups milk, whole or 2%
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch  

Method: 
In a medium-sized heatproof bowl, mix the sugar and egg yolks together; don’t let the mixture sit too long or it will start to clump. Sift the flour and cornstarch together and then add to the egg mixture, mixing until you get a smooth paste.Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan bring the milk and vanilla bean just to boiling (just until milk starts to foam up.)
Remove from heat and add slowly to egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent curdling. (If you get a few pieces of egg (curdling) in the mixture, pour through a strainer.)
Remove vanilla bean, scrape out seeds, and add the seeds to the egg mixture; the vanilla bean can be washed and dried and placed in your sugar bowl to give the sugar a vanilla flavour.
 
Then pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat until boiling, whisking constantly. When it comes to a boil, whisk mixture constantly for another minute until it becomes thick, and to ensure no raw cornstarch taste. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract if using instead of a vanilla bean.
 
Pour into a clean bowl and immediately cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming and cool to room temperature. If not using right away refrigerate until needed, up to 3 days.