Whisk together first 4 ingredients in a 3-quart saucepan. Gradually whisk in half-and-half. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Cook 1 minute or until mixture is thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat; whisk in butter and vanilla. Cover and chill 4 hours.
Peanut Butter Pastry Cream: Omit 2 tablespoons butter, and stir in 1/3 cup creamy peanut Butter.
Coffee Pastry Cream: Stir 1 tablespoon instant coffee granules in with half-and-half.
Grand Marnier Pastry Cream: Omit vanilla extract, and stir in 2 tablespoons orange liqueur.
Filling is not too rich if you follow the recipe to the letter. Could be fine for most but I think next time I'll up the sugar just a tad and lower the corn starch so it's not quite as thick. That was my own personal opinion, which I kept to myself as my guests were complimenting how tasty they were!
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