Starting with the Basics of Dessert


By Catherine Hill

Oo là là!.  My Mother’s Cream is a rich thick pastry cream with a mellow flavor that can be easily jazzed up. If you like a little something decadent, fancy, French and sweet but don’t want to pay nearly $4 or more per treat, I suggest making your own pastries and cakes.

Butter, cream, eggs, flours, milk, salt, sugars, and water are the main ingredients for most of the delights you’d find in a French pastry or bread shop. Extracts, flavorings, and jams can mark up the cost quite a bit, but for the most part, you will be paying a quarter of the price, THAT’S $1!

When you make it yourself you can make healthier choices by crafting smaller pastries than the bakery offers and saving your hips and heart some undue strain. Sadly, dessert food is not nutritional. They are high in fat, sugar and sometimes cholesterol. I stay clear of using shortening and corn syrup as much as I can. Restaurants want you to come back, so they give you layer after layer of sugar and fat, usually in heaping quantities. At the store, the boxed or frozen desserts come crammed full of that stuff and more making the trans fats and sugar content way higher than those produced by you at home. That is why I suggest if you’re going to indulge why not make those indulgences in your own kitchen from scratch instead of out of a box.

I must caution our first-time bakers that are thinking of jumping full-fledged with no experience to a full-on multi-component homemade recipe, slow your roll.

If you, for instance, don’t know how to make:

Pastry cream
Whipping cream
Glaze (fruit nor sugar)

I would not try and make every component of say a cupcake and then on top of it all attempt assembling it.

I swore off baking for 8 years because I found it overwhelming. I thought, since I was an artist somehow I would be good at the decorating part. That, my friend, was hubris. I do not want this for you. Bad baking doth not make a happy castle Repeat this: “hubris and baking do not go together, and I promise to always enter into a new recipe as if I know nothing”. I think you’ll be okay if you stick to that mantra. Baking, and making fillings, both have new skill sets to learn. It takes planning, practice, and stamina. You’ll have to get used to the process before you get going.

I try to make the easiest thing first when learning something new. It helps me build my confidence. So if you are really new to making sweets I think you should start similarly with something like a frosting or the pastry cream.

Back to our recipe, my Mother’s Cream which is rather closely related to Boston Cream and is a version of pastry cream for use in cakes and pastry like éclairs. It is a little fiddly and fussy. You will have to learn how to separate egg whites from egg yokes and to temper (meaning to slowly increase in temperature). It will definitely challenge you to get your whisking skills up to snuff too. It is versatile and will teach you skills that you will need in other, more complicated recipes. It took me 4 tries to do it right, but all of my mistakes were tasty.  Please read my recipe for Mother’s Cream on our recipe page.