6 ounces sugar

¼ cup water

2 cups milk

1 ¼ ounces cornstarch

1 large egg

2 large egg yolks

½ ounce unsalted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Combine 5 ounces of the sugar and the water in a small, heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil, brush down the sides of the pan with water, and boil for 8 to 10 minutes, or until caramelized. The sugar will be fragrant and a deep amber color when it is caramelized. Remove the pan from the heat and dip the bottom into an ice water bath for a second or two. Slowly stir in the milk. Return the pan to low heat and stir until smooth. Increase the heat to medium and heat to a simmer.

 

Meanwhile, whisk together the cornstarch and remaining 1 ounce of sugar in a medium bowl. Whisk in the egg and yolks. Continue whisking while adding the hot caramel mixture in a thin stream. Transfer the mixture back to the saucepan and cook, whisking constantly, over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, or until it thickens and just comes to a boil. Immediately strain through a fine mesh sieve into a clean bowl and stir in the butter and vanilla. Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface and refrigerate.

 

Makes about 2 ½ cups. A delicious alternative to the usual vanilla pastry cream—try it in cream puffs, éclairs, Napoleons, tarts, or between cake layers. For a light-as-air filling, fold in some whipped cream. Keeps for several days in the refrigerator. The plastic wrap pressed directly onto the surface of the pastry cream will prevent a skin from forming.