Thursday, November 5, 2009

When Your Eggs Crack, Make Baked Custard!

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 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!


Cornflower said...

You've brought back a taste of my childhood, too!

Sarah said...

I think I need to make custard today. Wish I had chickens!

Catherine said...

I think another reason we call them "comfort foods" is they remind us of childhood.

Sarah, chickens are fun and easy to raise and you could start with a small cage or pen for just a few--esp. if you live in a city or suburb (and many allow back yard flocks now).


Mrs. P. said...

Great post, Catherine! I'll have to track down that book...looks right up my alley!

BTW, I LOVE your book!


Catherine said...

Hi Gail, I'm so glad you like THE PANTRY. You'd like this book too: great vintage images and recipes, too!

All best,


jodi french said...


Suze said...

I love custards and right now I wish my egg yolk allergy had never been identified. I think I will make some of these for my father as he so enjoys custards and you do forget the old favourites.

I hope you enjoyed your dessert.

Marcia said...

Love your blog; great pictures and collectables!

Anonymous said...

Custard is one of my favorite foods. Comfort for sure. I'm going to make it tomorrow, thanks for the nudge.

Great post and pictures, as usual. Thanks Catherine.


Nan said...

Hey Catherine, I posted my mother's recipe a while back:

I love custard!

Catherine said...

Thanks for all of your comments. I forgot to add that I really LOVE vanilla custard cooked on top of the stove with egg, milk, vanilla and cornstarch. I used to work at a bakery, on and off for 10 years (and it's still open--The KERNEL BAKERY on route 202 in Peterborough, NH). Robert Koerber made the best croissants, danish and bread from scratch and by himself...but Fridays in the cooler winter months are always ├ęclair and cream puff days...he used to make Napoleans, too.

But always with the best custard filling, homemade on the stove top. I use a recipe from Richard Sax from his CLASSIC DESSERTS cookbook (I believe that is the name) but, alas, it is still in a box somewhere.

I'll have to make ├ęclairs this winter--I make gougere on occasion and it's basically the same choux paste deal. Just never made them when I had Robert 10 miles he is 1100 miles away.

Best, Catherine

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