I love lemonade. I could drink it all day, all year round. Not the powdered kind but the real lemony, pulpy kind that you splash over ice or serve in a frosted glass with mint and more lemon (one reason I love Cracker Barrel™ is because they serve this kind of lemonade–they also use real maple syrup when you order their breakfasts). In fact, I'm craving some lemonade right now. Sometimes I drink our tap water (one day we will tap into our own abundant springs on the farm here...one day) with a twist of lemon or just a bit of fruit juice. It helps me to consume more water.
So, OK, this is about eggs but the point is that I've always liked that "when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade" sentiment. Sort of like "the glass is always half full" credo that I try to live by, because otherwise, what's the point? [And yeah, I've been known to play the Pollyanna "Glad Game," too. Call me sentimental.]
This afternoon when my husband brought up the basket of 18 or so eggs from our 26 hens (this seems to be their daily average) he bemoaned that he had cracked one, but just slightly so maybe I could use it in something "right away." I rolled my eyes, an art form I've perfected (just ask my husband), not really wanting to bake today. "Why don't you make baked custard?" he said, longingly, for that good old-fashioned mother-infused comfort food.
"Why not?" I thought. [You have to make what they want sometimes!]
My mother always made it in small Pyrex custard cups and when you think about it, a dessert portion back in my childhood (1962-1980, more or less, for those who are wondering)–and something we didn't have every night–was only about 1/2 cup of pudding or ice cream, maybe topped with a bit of whipped cream, if you were lucky.
I remembered a recipe in a fun little cookbook I have called The Little Big Book of Comfort Food published by Welcome Books, a division of Stewart, Tabori and Chang, as part of their series of well-crafted gift-sized books illustrated with vintage images. It's called "Baked Vanilla Pudding" and it's actually a baked custard that is creamy and doesn't separate (I believe the trick to that is the addition of extra egg yolk, as well as using scalded half-and-half vs. regular milk). PHOTO: Eli holds some of the larger eggs–two and three yolkers–that we've found since the hens began to lay in early August. One nice thing about cooking with your own eggs, from free-range hens, is that apart from their freshness, you will find the yolks to be especially large and quite yellow.
Custard is often associated with comfort food because it is basically egg, milk and a bit of sugar and was baked up as food for invalids or young children. If you like it a bit sweeter, add a bit more sugar to the recipe. Also, it is well worth using real–not imitation–vanilla, and grating a bit of nutmeg on top before baking, and serving with a dollop or squirt of whipped cream. [I use fresh grated nutmeg on and in so many things.] PHOTO: The little tiny egg is the smallest we've found in our hen house. A definite dud, more like a songbird's egg in size, so we're keeping it as is. The blue egg is from one of our Araucana hens and the brown egg could be from any of the other four varieties.
Baked Vanilla Pudding
• 3 eggs, slightly beaten
• 1 egg yolk
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 2 cups half-and-half, whole milk or skim milk, scalded
• freshly ground nutmeg to garnish
1. Put a teakettle of water on the stove to boil and preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolk, sugar, salt and vanilla.
3. Gradually add the scalded (eg. just under boiling–do not boil) half-and-half or milk. Pour into six (6-ounce) custard cups (Pyrex or stoneware will do). Sprinkle with freshly grated nutmeg.
4. Place the custard cups in a large baking pan; pour boiling water into the pan to a depth of 1 inch.
5. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a knife inserted halfway between the center and the edge of a cup comes out clean. Remove the cups from the water and cool. May be eaten warm or chilled.
Enjoy some easy baked comfort-in-a-cup!