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 !
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)
– 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 !
1. 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. 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 :