Thursday, February 5, 2009

Improv Recipe: Tangy, creamy, quickie custards

I’ve been having some bad luck with egg-based desserts lately. Well, not bad luck so much as laziness backfiring on me. I haven’t been measuring ingredients.

Yeah, cooking catastrophe waiting to happen, I know. Two pumpkin custards in a row never set on me, and when I tried to wing it and estimate the amounts of a chocolate mousse, which didn’t go well.

But I had some leftover eggs from a souffle I'd made, half a carton of heavy cream, and I wanted custard, and I didn't want to have to find a recipe for it or be bothered with "measuring."

So I knew I was tempting fate here. However, I had learned from my previous mistakes and discovered a few rules:

1. Use a water bath, and use hot water. Doesn’t have to be boiling, but microwaving a cup of water until it’s good and steamy will work.
2. The ratio of eggs to other stuff is important. More eggs is better if you want a custard to thicken properly. When unsure, err on the side of more eggs. You might get something closer to sweet quiche, but at least it will be solid.
3. Baking the custard in smaller containers will help even cooking and setting. One large container will take forever to come to temperature and will cook unevenly. Several smaller containers will prevent this from happening
4. Add less liuqidy ingredients when you can. I added a half a cup of strained greek yogurt (essentially sour cream) to the custard mix to help thicken it up before I put it in the oven.
5. Use a trusted recipe. Even if you’re not measuring your ingredients, it will give you a proper ratio of eggs to liquid.

With these precautions, I successfully made an improve custard, which was quite good. The greek yogurt gave it a denser body and a nice tang, a little like a cheesecake.

Improv custard for two

3-4eggs (at least 3 egg yolks and 3 egg whites)
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons maple syrup
pinch of salt
½ cup of greek strained yogurt (or sour cream is fine)
¼ t cinnamon

Beat eggs until uniform and lighter yellow. Add other ingredients and mix until combined. Pour into ramekins or custard cups. Put cups in a high-sided baking pan or baking dish that will fit both of them without touching.

Microwave 4 cups of water on high for 2 minutes or until steamy. Be careful not to boil. Pour water around cups, but don’t get any into the custard.

Bake at 300 degrees until just set in the center. Check after 40 minutes for doneness. You want the edges to be set but the center to be a little wobbly. Turn off oven, leave custards in oven for at least 30 minutes, up to an hour. Serve warm, or cover and refrigerate.

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