Today is damp and heavy rain and high winds predicted for later this afternoon. time for another comfort food that just makes me feel warm inside. Custard is one of those old fashioned desserts that people seldom seem make anymore. I mean, when was the last time you saw custard on a restaurant menu (other than a flan)?
Baked custard was something my mom always made on the farm. Remember – dairy farm, lots of milk – so using a quart for custard was a no brainer. With 5 or 6 of us at the table, this was a single serving dessert – None left at the end of the meal. Mom always made it in one big dish, served family style, which is how I still make it. With some small changes.
Fox Pines Baked Custard
- Start by putting a quart of milk in a sauce pan and heat over low-medium heat until it is scaled. This means hot and bubbles around the edge of the pan, but not boiling.
Of course on the farm, the milk was raw and unpasteurized. But scalding even store bought milk has a purpose. Scalding will help keep bread rising high, because proteins in the milk would interfere with gluten production. It helps prevent weeping in custard and puddings because some of the liquid evaporates in the steam that is produced as the milks heats. And lastly, warm milk gives a jump on the cooking process, instead of starting with something totally cold.
While the milk warms, put in a large bowl:
- 6 whole eggs
- 2/3 c sugar (I use half Stevia for those limiting sugar in their diet)
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 tsp almond extract
- 1/4-1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg – I prefer grating from a whole nutmeg rather than already powdered nutmeg, but that works fine too
Mix together well. My mom always let us girls use an old-fashioned egg beater. Today I use my immersion blender – blends it all really well and is quick.
Once the milk is bubbling, pull it off the heat and let it cool down for a bit.
Then add a small amount at a time to “temper” the egg mix. Add too fast and too hot and you will have scrambled eggs. I suggest using a 1/4 cup measuring cup to take a little bit of the hot milk and drizzle into the eggs mixing at the same time. Once you get about a cup of the milk in the eggs will be tempered enough and warm enough to gradually pour in the rest of the milk from the saucepan.
- more freshly grated nutmeg on top (or use a mix of mace and nutmeg)
Pour into 2 quart oven proof dish, and put the dish into a water bath. (a larger baking pan filled with hot water about half way up the side of the bowl). A water bath helps the custard cook evenly, and prevents hard edges or overcooked edges and bottom of the dish. Don’t skip doing this.
Bake about an hour until a knife inserted into the custard comes out clean. If the knife has gooey custard on it, the custard needs to cook longer. It may wiggle a bit in the middle even when done, but will stiffen up as it cools.
Remove the dish from the hot water and allow to cool.
Custard can be eaten warm, or refrigerated and eaten cold.
- stick a vanilla bean into the milk as it scalds to infuse vanilla flavor into the milk as well as the extract
- use skim milk to reduce calories
- use brown sugar to make it caramel flavored
- milk a couple ounces of chocolate into the milk
- play with other extracts for different flavors: maple, lemon or orange might all work
- add coconut extract and whir in shredded coconut
A couple other tricks –
if your bowl will be really full with all the custard, and you can’t carry it to the oven in the water bath, put the water bath and empty bowl onto an oven rack that is pulled out, and then pour in the custard. Then you only have to shove the oven shelf back into the oven cavity (carefully!)
If necessary, pour hot water into the pan holding the dish in the same manner.
If the milk develops a skin on the top as it cools, use a fork or spoon to pull it out of the saucepan before pouring milk into the eggs.
Easy clean up – whir the immersion blender in the mixing bowl and/or saucepan with a couple drops of soap to clean up
No need to use an immersion blender – go back to a hand cranked egg beater or use an electric hand mixer, or even a blender itself. Or go really old school with just a whisk, and work those arm muscles. Its just harder to get a truly homogeneous mix by hand compared to using a mixer or blender.
When was the last time you made a good old fashioned custard?