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Vanilla Pastry Cream

Photo: Eva Kolenko; Styling: Kelly Allen

Hands-on time 1 hr
Chill time 3 hrs

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Lighter and more delicate than the filling often used in commercial bakeries, this pastry cream lets summer fruit be the star.


  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped out and reserved
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt

How to Make It

  1. Heat milk and cream in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat until it begins to simmer. Add vanilla bean pod and seeds; let sit off the heat, covered, 30 minutes.

  2. Rewarm milk mixture over medium-high heat until almost simmering. Meanwhile, mix yolks and sugar in a medium bowl. Blend in cornstarch and salt. Slowly whisk hot milk mixture into yolk mixture, 1/2 cup at a time. Pour mixture back into pan and cook, whisking constantly, until as thick as pudding, about 4 minutes. Pour custard through a strainer into a clean bowl (discard vanilla pod).

  3. Lay plastic wrap against surface of custard to keep a skin from forming. Chill at least 3 hours and up to 4 days.

  4. Whisk cold custard to smoothen it, then spread or pipe into tart shell(s) and top with fruit.