Chocolate pastry cream is one of those must-haves recipes. I mean sure, you can use the traditional vanilla pastry cream and still get excellent desserts. But when your chocolate craving hits, you are going to be so glad to have this recipe in hand!
It will add a deep chocolate flavor and richness to your choux pastries or your tarts, among many other things. And if you already know how to make pastry cream, then making the chocolate version will be a breeze.
Chocolate Or Cocoa Powder?
Chocolate pastry cream is simply pastry cream flavored with chocolate. How to give chocolate flavor to your cream really depends on your personal preferences and what you actually have in your cupboards. If you can’t be bothered chopping chocolate, then you can go the cocoa powder route. For a richer cream, dark chocolate is what you are looking for.
How Much Chocolate To Add?
Again this will ultimately be a matter of taste but according to Suas1 in his book “Advanced Bread and Pastry”, you could add 20% of the total weight of the pastry cream. So if you make 100 g of pastry cream, you could add 0.20*100= 20 g of chocolate.
How To Add The Chocolate?
I’ve seen recipes that suggest adding the chocolate straight to the milk when boiling it. I like the convenience of this method but I haven’t tried it yet as I prefer adding the chocolate at the end and heating it as little as possible.
You can chop the chocolate in small pieces and add it to the pastry cream when it is ready. The chocolate should melt since the pastry cream is hot.
What Chocolate To Add?
For a rich chocolate flavor, it’s best to use dark chocolate with a high cocoa percentage. You should keep in mind that chocolate will thicken your pastry cream. The darker the chocolate, the more it will thicken it. If you wish to use your original pastry cream recipe but it is already quite thick, then you could either add more milk to the recipe or use less thickener (flour or cornstarch).
Adding Cocoa Powder
If using cocoa powder, make sure it is unsweetened or else you will have to adjust the sugar amount in the recipe.
Cocoa powder contains starch and will act as a thickener so if you decide to use it, decrease the amount of flour (or cornstarch) a little and sift them together into your egg-sugar mixture.
If you have no idea how much to adjust the weight of flour, Gisslen2 suggests reducing it by 37.5% of the amount of added cocoa. So if you are using 20 g of flour for example and you decide to add 8 g of cocoa powder, then you should decrease the amount of flour by 8*0.375=3. So you would need about 17 g of flour instead of 20 g.
I personally wasn’t too crazy about pastry cream made only with cocoa powder. It tasted more like a hot cocoa milk. Enjoyable, but not overly exciting.
Combining Strengths: Chocolate & Cocoa
To get the comforting taste of hot cocoa and the sophisticated richness of dark chocolate, you can use both! I found my first trial (using only chocolate) slightly thicker than I would like so I decreased the amount of chocolate. And I replaced half of the amount of flour with cocoa powder.
You can see from the picture below that this trial (chocolate + cocoa) is creamy and smooth, coats the spoon nicely without leaking (unlike the cocoa only trial) and isn’t as thick as the trial with just chocolate. Don’t get me wrong, the cream flavored only with chocolate was really good, but it tasted a bit more like truffles than pastry cream. Of course, this all depends on how much of each ingredient you add.
Preparing Chocolate Pastry Cream
Well, now that we have decided how to flavor our pastry cream, it’s time to make it! You’ll find lots of tips in the post on how to make pastry cream. But just to refresh your memory and add that tasty chocolate profile, here are some step-by-step pictures.
Making chocolate pastry cream
- Chop the chocolate into small pieces so that it melts easily when you add it to the pastry cream.
- Sift the flour and cocoa powder together into a small bowl and set aside.
- In a small pot, boil the milk, heavy cream and part of the sugar (about 1/3).
- In the meantime, whisk the egg yolks and the remaining sugar in a small bowl, until slightly lightened and thickened. It will feel creamier.
- Add the flour and cocoa powder and whisk until combined.
- Very slowly add part of the boiled milk/cream into the egg mixture and whisk constantly.
- Return the mixture to the pot and keep whisking on medium-low heat (heat 5 out of 9 for example when making a small quantity).
- Once the foam subsides and the cream starts to thicken, keep an eye out for bubbles forming. When this happens, keep boiling for another 2 minutes to get rid of the starchy taste and remove from the heat.
- Add the chopped chocolate and whisk until the cream is completely smooth.
- Add the butter and whisk again until fully combined.
Storing chocolate pastry cream
- Pour the pastry cream into a wide container to obtain a thin layer. This will ensure the cream will cool down quickly.
- Place a piece of parchment paper or cling film straight onto the surface of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Slightly cool at room temperature then refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 2-3 days.
- Whisk the cold pastry cream before using it.
This chocolate pastry cream is stiff enough to be piped, but smooth enough that it just melts in your mouth. If you are doing the choux pastry calendar, we’re going to use this cream to fill our chocolate religieuses. But you can use it for anything you want really! And if you just want to eat it with a spoon, just go ahead! You can easily whip up another batch later to fill the choux pastry!
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1Suas, M. (2008). Advanced Bread and Pastry: A Professional Approach (1st ed.). Delmar Cengage Learning.
2Gisslen, W. (2005). Professional Baking (4th ed.). Wiley.