Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream
The key to a great pastry cream is using the minimum of starch. You need enough so the cream holds a shape, but not so much it interferes with the flavor. This version uses cornstarch; just be careful not to keep cooking it once it has thickened. This is perfect in Napoleons, pies, tarts, or cakes.
Tip: Save the scraped pods, and stick them in your sugar container for lovely, vanilla-scented sugar!
To use this cream as Napoleon filling, here's Chef John's recipe for Mille Feuille, or Napoleon Pastry Sheets.
To use it in cream puffs, you can lighten it by folding in whipped cream. Whip about 3/4 cup of heavy cream until medium peaks form. Fold it into cooled pastry cream. Get the recipe for Cream Puff "Crack Buns" (Choux au Craquelin).