Monday, February 18, 2013

My Grandma's Old-Fashioned Custard

Let me tell you some things about my fantastic Grandma Byrd (aka the Ole Biddy).

(Audrey Mae James Byrd in 1916)

#1: She was born 5 months after the Titanic sank.
#2: She was hilarious and had a great laugh.
#3: She was an independent woman who knew how to spend money.
#4: She could COOK.  Like you cannot believe!
#5: She could do all sorts of handiwork--embroidery, knitting, crochet, you name it.
#6: She taught me how to whistle.  She was the BEST whistler!

We really want to focus today on #2 and #4.  My favorite memories of my Grandma are her getting so tickled at stuff and just cackling away.  This was usually done when she was in the kitchen, and everyone usually migrated toward that area if she was there.  She was a great conversationalist and had a story for almost everything she ever cooked or baked.

Which leads me to one of the Hubby's favorite desserts: her blissfully simple custard.

One other man springs to mind that loved her custard--my Dad.

Grandma's custard recipe is old but it is very simple.  Custard, or to purists, crème moulée, is any type of sweetened custard thickened with eggs only.  There are variations of custards, from pastry cream used to fill éclairs, all the way to savory custards found in quiche.  We are sticking with the basics.

For this custard, you will need the following:

5 eggs (I use organic, grade AA, large or extra-large)
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 c sugar
1/4 tsp salt
4 cups of whole milk

(If you have almond extract, I highly recommend adding about 1/8 tsp.  If you don't have it, don't sweat it.  It just makes the vanilla a bit more pronounced.)

You do need a little (or big, whatever!) strainer like the one in the pic, or a piece of cheesecloth.

Preheat your oven to 325*F.

In a mixing bowl, whisk eggs, sugar, salt, and extract(s).  Set aside.

In a medium sized saucepan over low-med heat, scald 4 c. of milk, stirring often.  Scalding means to bring it to just under a boil.  If it is steaming, you know it is ready.  Do not bring it to a boil!   You can use a thermometer if you want--let it get to 180*F.

Whisk milk into egg/sugar/salt mixture, quickly.  Stir all together.

Pour over strainer into individual custard cups, corningware ramekins, or similar ovenproof bakeware that have been placed in a bain marie (water bath--hot water about half-way up the outside of the cups or dish).  You can also go the easy route, and just put it in a 2 quart casserole.  Keep in mind the individual cups will cool faster.

I sprinkled cinnamon on some and fresh grated nutmeg on others. You can then place the entire dish, uncovered, in a preheated 325*F oven for 40-45 minutes.

How do I know when it's ready?

You will take a sharp knife and just stick it right down in the middle of the custard, as if you were testing a cake.  It should come out clean, like this:

This may not look clean to you, but it is.  If the custard was not set, the knife would be covered in pudding.

Take them out of the water bath immediately to cool on a rack. Let cool completely.

You can serve them at room temperature, or you can chill them.  If you go the fridge route, be sure to take saran wrap to the top of them, be sure to press the saran down directly on top of the custard to prevent the top from being too thick.

mmmmm....eggy creamy goodness. 

See?  I told you it was simple!  And, there's so many ways you can go with this basic custard.  You can turn it into a brulée by firing up a little sugar on top with your kitchen welding equipment; if you don't have a torch you can put them on a cookie sheet and stick 'em under a broiler (be sure to watch them carefully).  You can also drizzle caramel over the top and call it a flan.  Something else that is really outstanding is Smuckers Boysenberry Syrup with just a couple of fresh blackberries. 

I hope you enjoyed this step-by-step; but I really hope you enjoy the custard.  I am happy to share it with you!

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