The other day, my husband (by way of gloating) mentioned an amazing treat he’d had at a lunch out that he had– so sad– failed to save any of for me. It was apparently a fresh croissant, split and filled with Nutella and chocolate pastry cream. He gleefully described how he’d tried to save half, but then couldn’t resist eating just one more bite, and then another, and then another… until it was gone. I think he enjoys torturing me like this.
Not one to admit defeat, I promptly decided that I would make my own– so there! Croissants, of course, are easy to come by, and our pantry always has Nutella in it, but pastry cream isn’t something I generally just whip up. It’s so fussy, what with using only egg yolks, whisking constantly, etc., that I rarely make it.
Then it occurred to me that I had already solved this problem with regard to lemon curd– and my whole-egg microwaved lemon curd recipe is one of my favorites. Why not try the same thing with pastry cream? I found a basic whole-egg recipe online and used the same technique I’d applied to the lemon curd (though going to a higher heat due to ingredients), stirring in melted semisweet chocolate at the end. And what do you know? It was reasonably good. The texture was just a bit grainy– I think I overcooked the eggs just a tiny bit– and it wasn’t quite as rich as I’d hoped. Next time I might add an extra yolk to the eggs, or use half-and-half instead of milk. Or I guess I could just cook it on the stovetop where I’d have more control over the heat distribution.
But in any case, it’s a perfectly serviceable chocolate pastry cream if you’re short on time and want to make a point about sharing desserts. 😉
Microwaved Chocolate Pastry Cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
4 tbs. cornstarch
4 tbs. butter, melted but not hot
2 cups milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 oz. semisweet chocolate, melted (chips work fine, but chopped chocolate would likely be better)
1. Process sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a food processor until thoroughly combined.
2. Add eggs to the food processor and process until smooth.
3. Slowly add the butter to the mixture and continue to process until smooth.
4. Add milk and process until combined.
5. Pour mixture into a large microwave-safe bowl. To avoid bubble-overs, the contents should fill no more than 1/4 of the bowl, it should have at least an 8 cup capacity.
6. Microwave the ingredients at 100% power in 1-minute increments, stirring well to combine after each minute. You’ll notice after about 3 minutes that the edges of your custard bubble up and thicken while the center stays liquid. When this starts happening, cook in 30-second increments instead to avoid overcooking.
7. When custard is nice and thick, it’s done. It needs to be pudding-like, or it won’t set properly later. This will take anywhere from 4 to 10 minutes, depending on the strength/power of your microwave.
8. Remove from microwave and stir in vanilla and melted chocolate. Transfer to another bowl so it doesn’t overheat. It may look a bit curdled, but you can just strain it into the bowl to take the lumps out.
9. Refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap, until set.
Once my pastry cream was completely chilled, I split a croissant in half, toasted it, spread the insides with Nutella, and added a generous dollop of chocolate cream to the center. It was delicious.
And I didn’t share any.
- I increased the amount of chocolate in the recipe above from 3 oz. to 4 oz. because I didn’t think the cream that I actually made had enough chocolate flavor. Alternatively, you could add a few tablespoons of cocoa to your dry ingredients at the beginning and see if that works.
- The more I think about it, the less I think this recipe is really much of an improvement over regular stovetop pastry cream– the texture isn’t quite as good and it’s not all that much faster. That being said, I would still try to stick with the whole-egg recipe rather than yolks-only, because I hate having extra yolks or whites to use up.
- One thing I read was that when you use cornstarch and eggs, something in the egg yolks will break down the starch over time unless it’s actually brought to a boil before cooling to deactivate the enzyme, and the breaking down starch molecules will make the pastry cream “weep” over time. I did experience a little of this on the third day after making it, though it wasn’t too bad. Just something to keep in mind (and perhaps another reason to do this on the stovetop where you have more control over the heat).