Custard or Pastry Cream
(“Crema Pasticciera" - "Crema ri latti”)
made with grain fed the Etruscan and the italic population for
centuries. The grain was sometimes replaced with chestnuts that were abundantly harvested and in the XV century,
when the corn arrived from America, the mush evolved into polenta.
The mush was made in a salty version to pair with vegetables, game or fish and in a sweet version, mixed with
honey, and spices. The sweet version made in the Mediterranean Basin since archaic eras, with the addition of milk
and eggs at the end of the medieval period it changed into what today is called custard
This cream is employed to fill pastries, cakes or pies.
In English and Norwegian languages and in the northern part of Europe this cream has been mostly used to fill pie
crusts hence the term custard, from crust. In Swedish and Danish it is called creamfyld
meaning filling cream, in the rest of the world it is known
as what can be translated “bakers’ cream”, crema
pasticciera in Italian.
In Sicily we call “milk cream”, crema ri latti,
because the main ingredient is milk.
The use of this cream is widespread all over the island, and each baker and each housewife makes its own version;
in fact this recipe does not have strict parameters, but allows personal touches which most of the time improve the
This cream is needed in the preparation of “Zuppa
Inglese”, profiteroles, budino al
Marsala, crema fritta, torte di crema alla frutta, to name a few desserts where it cannot be
wine and whipped cream makes a delicious zabaglione
cream, or utilizes a rosolio to enhance its flavor to the taste of
the liquor used.
Many times we served this cream as a dessert, after dinner in a goblet glass sprinkled with Marsalawine and
toasted pistachio nuts with biscuits on the side.
SERVES 4 TO 8
cups of milk
¼ cups of sugar
piece of orange peel
cake flour or 1/3 corn starch
drop of vanilla essence
Heat the milk, salt and the orange peel in a 4 quart heavy saucepan, at a low heat.
At the same time in a large bowl mix the sugar and the flour or corn starch and add the egg yolks one at a time,
stirring with a wire whisk until well homogenized.
When the milk is warm add 1 cup to the bowl a little at a time, stirring continuously to avoid
Increasing the heat a little bit and transfer egg mixture into the pot with milk. Continue cooking, stirring
constantly until it thickens and bubbles for 1 minute.
Remove from fire, discard orange peels, mix in the vanilla and place in a bowl. Cover surface with wax paper and
store in the refrigerator for a few hours or until ready to use.