Pastry cream is normally made with wheat flour, cornstarch, or a combination of the two. I used to swear by the latter combination until the day I tried rice flour and produced the best crème pâtissière of all! Think thick and silky-smooth with clear flavors of fresh eggs and milk and not a hint of flour or starch. Divine.
Even the method here is streamlined—no need to temper the egg yolks so long as you have a pot with a heavy bottom.
Just one thing: To get the silky texture promised, you will need superfine rice flour. Use Authentic Foods superfine white rice flour or use the Erawan brand of Thai white rice flour (which is even finer). The latter comes in plastic bag with red lettering—the bag with green lettering is sweet or glutinous rice, which is not what you want here.
Note: Authentic superfine rice flour weighs a bit more per cup than the finer Thai flour. In some situations (and this is one of them), it’s better to use a consistent weight measure rather than a consistent volume measure. This is why the volume measures differ, though the weight is the same.
Pour the vanilla into a medium bowl. Set a medium-fine-mesh strainer over the bowl and keep it near the stove for the finished custard.
Whisk the sugar and rice flour in a small heavy-bottomed, non-reactive saucepan. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of the milk until blended. Whisk in the egg yolks and the remaining milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, sweeping the bottom, sides, and corners of the pan to prevent scorching.
When the first bubbles appear, set a timer for 5 minutes and continue to cook and stir, adjusting the heat to maintain a gentle simmer.
Immediately scrape the custard into the strainer. Stir the custard to pass it through the strainer, but don’t press on any bits of cooked egg if any are left behind. Scrape the custard clinging to the underside of the strainer into the bowl as well. Stir to incorporate the vanilla. Let cool for about 30 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap pressed directly against the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until needed, up to 3 days.
My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on Craftsy.com, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).