vanilla or lemon French pastry cream (“crème pâtissière”), gluten-free, dairy-free, with the help of a potato masher!!!

Hi neighbors ! Yes, Jack, I have finally decided on a better name than « you guys »… This is a global world, getting smaller every day and sometimes it feels like I am just chit-chatting with you over the fence. Of course, you are all welcome to climb over and share a cup of tea / coffee / whatever (but no wine and no « funny » stuff, right!) with me.

Today when you arrive there will be no warm smell wafting from my kitchen door : you will be invited to taste this classic pastry cream, my very own dairy-free and gluten-free version of the French « crème pâtissière », which you will need in order to make my upcoming four layer cake. In the meantime, you can have it as a filling in a sweet pie crust (recipe in French) topped with fresh fruit, or pipe it inside gluten-free choux. No matter what you decide on, I guarantee great success. I spent ten months improving on the original recipe, so you can trust me ! At first it was too runny ; then I tried adding different ingredients : flour, starch, even guar gum, oh my, what a mistake that was, and finally I was able to achieve the right consistency. It is absolutely dairy-free yet really creamy. I hope you will try it ; and if you have to make any changes due to your own preferences or diet restrictions, please be kind enough, dear neighbors, to let me know how it panned out ! After all, this is about sharing recipes for people who can’t use the usual ingredients. So your comments might be helpful for other valued neighbors !

14 May 2017 update:  Adding finely grated lemon rind adds a subtle flavor to the cream, perfect in a strawberry tart.

strawberry tart

Ingredients (enough to fill about 6 to 9 choux or 3 individual pies)


– 250 ml dairy-free milk ; here I use almond milk (or rice almond milk)

– 1 vanilla bean (if the bean is big I use only half) OR the rind of 1 organic lemon, finely grated

– 1 egg yolk ; don’t throw away the white, dear neighbor ! It can be used in a frozen mango mousse, or put in your freezer until you decide what to do with it : meringue, or gluten-free phyllo leaves

– 1 TBSP cashew butter (all natural, no sugar added, no oil either) ; this will give it a smoother taste than if you only use dairy-free milk

– 30 g all natural cane sugar, no caramel color added

– 15 g tapioca starch (this is where I hope someone will successfully replace the starch with flour) ; this helps the cream thicken; my Significant Other has had no issues with this starch

– 1/2 tsp agar-agar ; this ingredient is key in the firmness of the cream

NOTE : You will also need a potato masher !

How to:

1. For a vanilla flavored cream, warm up non-dairy milk with sliced vanilla bean (so as to release the seeds inside the pod) to boiling point. Remove from heat and let the vanilla infuse.

2. While milk cools down, mix together the yolk,  TBSP cashew butter, and 30 g sugar. For a lemony flavor, add the lemon rind also.  The mixture at this point will feel stiff.

3. Pour a little of the cooled vanilla milk into yolk mixture and stir to loosen. Add 15g tapioca starch and 1/2 tsp agar-agar and combine well ; you don’t want lumps, dear neighbor !


Gradually add the rest of the milk, stirring well.

4. Transfer to a saucepan, preferably stainless steel. Do not use a non-stick pan, it would get damaged in the next step. Here is why : you are going to cook the cream over low heat, pressing and making a circular motion WITH YOUR POTATO MASHER. This is the best way I have found to avoid getting lumps !


The cream will thicken relatively fast ; as soon as you feel a change in the consistency, remove it from the heat for a few seconds, still stirring. After it has thickened, small bubbles will appear ; at this point the cream will should be left to gently boil, with you still stirring, and removing from heat if necessary (arm getting tired yet?) for about a minute, the time needed by the agar-agar to work its chemistry.

That’s it. Now all you have to do is to transfer the pastry cream to a bowl or a jar, cover it with plastic wrap or a lid to prevent a crust from forming on top. A lid works really well; this photo shows the cream after being refridgerated in a tightly closed jar:


Let it cool down to room temperature before refrigerating.  This yields about 270g of pastry cream.

Do you realize that with this recipe and the choux pastry recipe you are ready to make your very own éclairs too ?


I would like to end this post with a tribute to Mr Rogers who dedicated his life to teaching a whole generation of young children the virtue of patience through his TV show, « Mr Rogers’ neighborhood ». Sorry about the nostalgia ! Allow me to take you down memory lane for a few minutes with this video :



    1. Even though they mostly grew up in France, Mr Rogers was a big part of my children’s childhood. My sister-in-law used to record every single episode (as well as Sesame Street) and send us the video tapes. I can still here the trolley bell in my head!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Will have to give this recipe a try. I think my husband is ok with all the ingredients. Eclairs are one of my favourites. I bought a gluten free chocolate eclair from a bakery the other day but it definitely wasn’t dairy free, so making my own would be much better.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jillian, and thank you for commenting. I am glad the ingredients are fine with your husband. I have yet to try making éclairs, but fear that my piping skills need to be honed first… Let me know if you do!


  2. This dear neighbour is always impressed at the creativity I find in your recipes. Though I can’t make it myself, no agar-agar or tapioca for me sadly, I’m sure there are countless dear neighbours who will enjoy it immensely and I even enjoy just reading the recipes. There’s so much to learn. So thank you for the recipe, neighbour! (My spell check insists on the “u”)

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I have a mysterious problem with seaweeds and gelatins. I’ve never been able to tolerate gelatin in any form and I had a lot of very bad reactions to carrageenan and just stayed away from anything like it. It wasn’t worth testing out. No sushi either. I think I’d be okay with very fresh fish, bu that’d be my limit. I really struggle with a lot of foods, which is why I try so many different combinations of what I can eat and also why I appreciate the work you do. Your recipes inspire me even if I can’t always use them myself. I’m a very grateful neighbour!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Maybe this recipe would come out ok with a) rice flour b) 2 egg yolks instead of 1 and c) more cashew butter? I think we already had an exchange on this but I still haven’t tried this combination. It frustrates me to know that some of my neighbors can’t enjoy some of my desserts. I would so like to prove to the outside world (you know, those aliens beyond our fences who claim they can eat whatever they want!) that we can make our own version of most of the “classic” French recipes. I hate it when people say: Oh, you must feel so deprived!
        Were you able to plant your purple garlic?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I know with my custard experiment, the one with coconut milk, egg yolk and peanut butter, there was a fair bit of thickness and cashew butter is great at thickening. I may try it again, but as I only bake at most once a week, I always have to consider the weight gain aspect of eating too, I may be a while. This neighbour is just as happy eating with his eyes. I think you’ve more than proved that with your recipes already! I don’t feel deprived these days, annoyed at times, sure, but not that I’m missing out much, thankfully. All planted, just two cloves in two small pots as a test. Someone told me that I’d regret not trying things and it’s true, it just took me a while to realise even the smallest of regrets can matter too. Take care.

        Liked by 1 person

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