Tag Archives: custard

My Must-Have Treat After Being Killed in the Park Multiple Times by Multiple Imaginary Creatures

20 Feb
mocha pudding

I meant to put some coffee beans artfully atop the creamy goodness. Please just pretend that they're there. Thank you.

First, I’m not really dead.  But I was killed yesterday–many, many times–by an 8-year-old with an Incredible Imagination.  His mother, lovely Neighbor Roberta, invited me to go to the park with them yesterday, and I, without realizing what this Outing would Entail, said yes.  It turns out that “going to the park” is a euphemism in their family for “getting killed by the creatures of Jackson’s imagination.”

First, he said he would protect us, and then he’d turn into any one of a number of Terrible Imaginary Creatures–Toofurs and Nodurs are the ones I remember–and Harm Us with pine cone hand grenades, stick swords, energy beams of various sorts and plain old ripping out of throats.  Every once in awhile, Jackson would emerge to say he really would keep us safe, and then he’d become some other Bloodthirsty Creature who wanted nothing more than to Eat Us.  It was kind of like going to the park with Sybil.

In a good way, mind you.  It was very cool to be around a kid with an incredible imagination.  It was also Rather Exhausting.  What with all the fresh air and killing and running and searching for Rings of Fate and The Book of Mysteries, not to mention the grenade throwing, Miss Jenni was surely in need of a nap before it was all over.  As soon as I got home, I grabbed myself a bowl of pudding and then curled up on the couch to nod off to Jurassic Park.  A lovely way to recover, indeed.

After the Park Mocha Pudding (based on Brenda’s Chocolate Pudding from Gooey Desserts)
This doubles nicely, so if you are in need of Lots of Pudding, go for it.

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 oz granulated sugar
  • 3 oz brown sugar
  • 1 oz flour
  • 3 rounded tablespoons cocoa powder (rounded as much as you like)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup very strong coffee
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 oz. unsalted butter

Now, the Actual Rules say that you should temper the boiling starch-thickened mixture into the eggs, but I wanted to make One Bowl Pudding.  Plus, I knew that the starch in the flour would Impede Curdling of the eggs, so I whisked everything together except the vanilla and butter over high-ish heat until it thickened and came to a boil.  Then, I poured it through a fine strainer into a bowl (that’s the One Bowl I was talking about) containing the vanilla and butter.

If you’re going to cheat like I did, make sure you whisk madly the entire time you’re heating your mixture.  Mine frothed up and was quite poufy and creamy.  Whisk and whisk.  When it’s thick enough and Ready to Pour, you’ll know because all the whisked up bubbles will magically go away.  Do make sure you let it boil for at least 10 seconds or so to cook out the raw starch taste of the flour.  As long as you are whisking madly and then immediately pour the Molten Pudding through a strainer, you shouldn’t have any Curdling Issues.

Once you get all of your ingredients (minus the butter and vanilla) mixed up, taste it for seasoning and add more salt if you need to.  If you don’t find it Coffee-ish enough, add in a bit of powdered espresso or some coffee extract, if you can find some.  Trablit is an excellent one that we used to use at the restaurant.  It’s pretty expensive, but it lasts a long time ’cause you get a whole liter.

Oh–that topping?  I made it Specially to top the last bit of pudding that I had Selflessly Saved for The Beloved.  It’s just some sour cream whisked together with some sugar and a pinch of salt.  Let it sit for a few minutes so all the sugar dissolves, whisk it again, and then top whatever with it.  Very easy and very tasty.  Plus, the tang of the sour cream cuts the richness of the pudding a bit.

sour cream topping for mocha pudding

Yes, it is Girl Scout Cookie Time. For those of you not In the Know, that's a Caramel D'Lite (formerly "Samoas") and Thin Mint Cookies which aren't as good as they used to be, but still aren't bad at all.

I would have shared with Jackson, but I don’t think he’d like it.  He pretty much only likes Chicken Nuggets.

The World Loves French Toast

26 Aug
French Toast--Way more versatile than you might think.

French Toast--Way more versatile than you might think.

See:  Oooooh–French Toast!  There’s a version or eight in tons of countries, whether they call it French toast or pain perdu or roti telur.  But why?  Why does everyone love this stuff?  What makes it so great?  Here are my thoughts.  I know, I know–you’ve been Dying to hear them, right?

As with many dishes, necessity is the mother of invention.  The necessity, in this case, is how to use up some Stale-Ass bread and make it palatable.  Enter eggs.  Hello eggs.  Why eggs?  ‘Cause back in The Day, tons o’ folks had chickens.  Chickens=free-ish eggs.  And enter eggs’ buddy, milk.  Hey, milk.  Why milk?  ‘Cause the chickens needed Company.  Eggs+milk=custard, so a quick dip (or a long soak) in some custard, a sizzle on a slick griddle, and otherwise wasted bread turns into a free-ish meal.  Waste not, want not.

When I sat down today to Write, I had not Clue One what I was going to write about.  It’s that Planning Aversion that I have.  So, I looked at my referrers so far, and I saw a post from Nate Cooks.  And here it is:  Yay for Leftover Bread–Making French Toast.  Like Nate says, leftover baguette makes fantastic French Toast.  Here are some other options for your Delectation (read stale before each Item):

  • English muffins
  • cinnamon rolls
  • croissants
  • Cuban bread
  • Italian bread
  • Hamburger or hot dog buns
  • Hawaiian bread (exceptional, I might add)
  • yeast-raised doughnuts
  • ciabatta
  • brioche
  • challah
  • panettone
  • Et Cetera

And don’t limit yourself to sweet custards.  Why not a savory French toast?  Any neutral-flavored bread (eg: not doughnuts or cinnamon rolls) would work great for that.  You could even use focaccia.  Go crazy.  Savory French toasts could make a Killer Appetizer.  Fry it up so it’s nice and crisp, cut into cute canape shapes or just squares and top with a crumble of goat cheese and a bit of roasted red pepper.  That’s just One idea.  I’m sure you can come up with others.

Here’s another thought about French Toast–Any strata recipe, any bread pudding recipe, any quiche recipe can be turned into French toast, or stuffed French toast.  For stuffed French toast, you could just put the fillings between two pieces of cooked bread, or you could cut your pieces twice as thick as you normally would, cut a slit in the side and stuff it, then brown it and finish it in the oven to make sure the filling is nice and hot.

One of the best French Toasts I have ever eaten is Deep Fried French Toast.  Yes, you heard me Correctly.  Susie Friou, a friend of my folks from church, brought the technique with her from New Orleans.  I haven’t seen or heard from those guys in decades, but I still remember her French Toast.  Susie, your legacy is assured.  To make it, for every cup of milk and 2 eggs (the standard French toast custard), use 1 cup of flour and 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder.  Make sure you add a healthy pinch of salt and whatever flavorings you like.  Just soak your Bread of Choice in the batter and then Deep Fry It.  You will not be Sorry, I promise.

And that’s pretty much all I have to say about French Toast.  And, if you don’t read Nate Cooks, you should.  His last post is from May, so he might be busy, but the archived stuff is great.

PS Make a sammich with ham, turkey and Swiss cheese, dunk it in the Deep Fry Batter, fry it up and serve it with raspberry jam, and you have one of the Best Sammiches Ever–the Monte Cristo.  Thank you, God, for the Monte Cristo Sammich.

Custard Cousins

11 Aug
Introducing, the richest of the cousins.  Hello, creme brule.  Lovely to make your acquaintance.

Introducing, the richest of the cousins. Hello, crème brûlée. Lovely to make your acquaintance.

Hello, friends.  so, here’s a question/topic I received via email a few days ago:

Hey,

I read your blog article about Puddings/Custards and found it very informative.  I was wondering if you could touch on the comparison between Pots de Creme, Creme Brulee, and Creme Caramel (Flan) and explain the differences.  What makes them more Creme Caramel more jello like?  How could you enhance that?  Add more eggs/starch?  Thanks.

-Eric

Good questions, all.

Most classic custards, both stirred and still/baked have the same general set of ingredients:  eggs, dairy and sugar being the three most prevalent.  The only differences among the custards are in a)using yolks versus whole eggs, b)the amount of fat in the dairy (whole milk, half and half, heavy cream), c)any additional components, such as caramel for crème caramel/flan or a crunchy layer of caramel for crème brûlée.

Let’s look at the similarities, first.  All custards that are to be baked must not have thickened (fully cooked) before baking.  If they are thick and pudding-like when they go into the oven, the best you can hope for is forming a skin on top of creme Anglaise.  Not so great.  Also, baked custards are generally served chilled.  Chilling mutes the sweetness as well as some of the egginess.  As well, butterfat in the dairy will firm up in the fridge, adding to a creamy mouthfeel.  All baked custards not containing an additional starch (as in New York cheesecake) or not in a crust (ditto, cheesecake) are baked at a very low temperature in a water bath.  The water ensures a moist cooking environment and can help minimize browning and Nasty Skin Formation.  The water also keeps the sides of the ramekins/baking pan at no more than 212F.  This, in turn, helps to keep the baking custard from boiling.  If boiling Happens, you’ll end up with a curdled custard.  Sweet scrambled eggs.  Gross.  Also, you’ll end up with wee bubbles all up the sides of your custard.  This is the first thing I look for in a flan when I order one for dessert.  If there are bubble holes up the sides, it is almost guaranteed to be overcooked and curdled.  Again, gross.

And now, on to the differences.  First, texturally.  Pots de crème are the most loosely set of the baked custards.  That’s why they’re baked in cool little lidded pots.  If you tried to turn it out of the baking tin, you’d just end up with a thick-but-flowing creme anglaise type deal all over your plate.  On the other end of the firmness spectrum, you’ve got crème caramel, which is sturdy enough to turn out so its lovely caramel sauce can run down and pool most alluringly on the plate.  The Turnoutability of a custard is directly related to the ratio of eggs to dairy as well as to the amount of sugar.  The more sugar in the custard, the less firm it will be and the longer it will take to bake.

Custard Formulae per 8oz of dairy
(these proportions are not set in stone–you’ll find all kinds of formulae out there.  Hopefully, it goes without saying that salt and vanilla (at least) go in each of these custards)

  • crème brûlée=8 oz heavy cream+1.5 oz sugar+3-4 yolks.  With its makeup of all yolks and heavy cream, crème brûlée is the richest of the baked custards.
  • pots de crème=8 oz half and half+3 oz sugar+3 yolks.  While the pots de crème contain the same number of egg yolks as the crème brûlée, the extra sugar makes them less set.  Pots de crème are slightly less rich than crème brûlée because of the use of half and half instead of heavy cream.
  • Crème caramel=6 oz milk+2 oz heavy cream+1.5 oz sugar+1 egg +2 yolks.  The use of whole egg helps the custard to set firmly while the extra two yolks lend to the richness.  There is less butterfat in crème caramel because 3/4 of the dairy is in the form of whole milk.

As to the question about the crème caramel being more Jello-like, I’m going to go with the wiggly factor.  It’s wiggly because it’s firmly set.  If it weren’t firmly set, it wouldn’t cut cleanly or wiggle when you hit it with a spoon.  It would just kind of slump.  You can enhance the firmness by adding using some sweetened condensed milk or coconut milk for part of the dairy.  This mainly has to do with mouthfeel, but I am a Fan, so I usually make mine with some SCM.  You can up the whole eggs to get a firmer set, but you do run the risk of getting a rubbery flan, so I say err on the side of caution.   Adding some starch to your mix can inhibit curdling, thus lending a smoother texture.  If you use a water bath and bake at 250-275-ishF, that shouldn’t be an issue, but if you want to take out some extra insurance, you can add just over 1/4 tsp cornstarch or tapioca starch for each cup of dairy.

If by Jello-like, Eric means the smoothness factor, then I’d increase the yolks a bit, by maybe just one per 8oz of dairy.  The emulsifiers in the yolks lend a wonderful smooth, creamy mouthfeel.

So, Eric, I hope that helps.

And that’s all I have to say about custard right now.  If you have anything to add, please have at it in the comments section.

Y’all have a lovely day.

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