It was always custard made using store-bought custard powder at home and my perception of custard was, that it is simple, and is super easy to accomplish. Since childhood that was the one and only custard introduced to us in a huge joint Indian family of non-egg eaters. Even Flan came into the picture much later. In fact, it wasn’t a pleasing encounter when I first tasted flan. I didn’t like it and for years didn’t make any attempt to try it again. Today, I keenly make it and love indulging in.
The vivid memories of childhood custard and jello bring joy and smile on my face even today. Mom would give us hot custard in winter and for summer she would chill it and add seasonal fruits. The equal distribution of wobbling pieces of ruby red jello on the top was quite a sight back then.
My intro to creme brûlée, creme caramel, creme Anglaise happened when I started watching Masterchef Australia. And Thanks to the laptop and the internet I started researching and learning about these recipes. I am happy to share the confusing journey of knowing types of custard and how they are similar yet different from one another. How the same ingredients work together to give different results.
Custard is not only a standalone dessert but it is a dominating part of many creamy sweet treats. Ice-creams, cheesecakes, trifles, Bavarian (like panna cotta, made with creme patisserie) and of course puddings.
Technically, the custard is milk, cream or both thickened by whole eggs (sometimes only with yolks). The egg yolk is the foundation of custard, responsible for the increased viscosity. It transforms cream/milk/liquid into thick sauces. The creaminess of the dairy is enhanced by the silky, emulsifying properties of egg yolks to create that texture.
To understand how an egg works in a custard recipe –
Inside each egg yolk are tiny bundled proteins, imagine it as little balls of tangled yarn. When heated, the proteins in the egg yolk begin to change. It begins to overlap with each other, and to whatever (milk or cream), they touch, they form a cross-link. When enough of the proteins are cross-linked, they increase the viscosity of the flow. This interruption is called coagulation, meaning to change from a liquid into a semi-solid or thick stage. When the custard is stirred as it cooks, these cross-links are partially broken as they are created, resulting in a custard that flows when poured.
Starch-thickened custards contain ingredients such as flour or cornstarch for added thickening power. These starches give custards more body, making them sturdy enough.
Always cook custards made using eggs in a water bath. A water bath shields the custard from harsh, direct oven heat and moderates the cooking. An oven any hotter than 325°F is asking for trouble; for custards, the more gentle the heat, the better.
Custards made using eggs should never be boiled, starch-thickened ones need to reach a low simmer to ensure that they’re fully cooked.
Custard made using eggs are more delicate, they require careful attention, even heating of water bath. Starch-thickened custards have more structure, making them sturdy enough to endure cooking on direct heat.
How to know that custard is ready
It is safe to check the custards little early before the baking time mentioned in the recipe. Also, custards continue to cook a little even after it is out of the external heating.
To test for doneness, wiggle a ramekin around. It should be wobbly like Jell-O, but not soupy. When the custard in the ramekin moves as one mass rather than as a cup of liquid cream, it’s ready. If a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean, then the custard is probably overcooked. If this happens, remove the ramekins immediately from the water bath and plunge them into ice water to bring the temperature down and stop the cooking.
Crème caramel will usually cook much faster than the other custards because of the egg whites in the base, which are full of proteins that coagulate at a lower temperature.
Types of custard –
Crème Anglaise is a classic slightly sweet sauce made with lightly sweetened milk and cream which is thickened with egg yolks. It is the thinnest of all basic custards. It’s neither too rich nor too milky, and it’s thickened enough to the right consistency without tasting too eggy. Perfect drizzle for fruits, cakes.
Crème Brûlée (pronounced krehm broo-lay) is a baked custard that’s topped with a sheer, crackly layer of caramelized sugar. Crème brûlée is the richest and yummiest of all the custard. Heavy cream and yolks are emulsified while cooking and the result is smooth, silken, rich and thick custard. A wonderful contrast to the glassy brittle layer of caramelized sugar over then top makes it mesmerising. zhart Toolsmart Portable Butane Gas Torch Flame Fire Maker Lighter
Crème Caramel(krehm kair-ah-mehl) is equally luxurious. Crème caramel is a baked custard that’s cooked in a caramel-lined ramekin. The caramel layer is poured in the bottom of the ramekin before custard. It is lighter when compared to brûlée. , Whole eggs, as well as yolks, milk as well as cream, are the ingredients used to make creme caramel. It’s meant to be inverted out of its baking ramekin and caramel sauce can pool around it; the egg whites make the custard firm enough to stand on its own. Mirakii Microwave Safe Ramekins, Bowl Set of 6 for Snacks, Kitchen Decoration,Sauce/Chutney
Flan is the Spanish version of French crème caramel. There are many regional variations of flan recipe: Spanish, Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Argentina, etc. Some flan recipes call for sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk.
There are many variations and flavours of the recipe, for example, chocolate, coffee or coconut. At the very classic, they are made of eggs, milk, sugar and vanilla extract.
Pot De Crème (poh duh krehm) a heavenly dessert. The name means “pot of custard” or “pot of cream” Equal parts cream and milk and lots of egg yolks, it is eggy and soft and smooth, pure custard that is served in a cup.
Creme Patissiere is basically a delicious, rich, creamy custard thickened with starch and eggs. It’s an important component of many desserts. It is used to fill creampuffs, eclairs, tarts, etc. Unlike other custards, pastry cream needs to be brought to a boil. When the cornstarch is cooked well, no starchy flavour is left in the end result. The heat allows the eggs to form strong protein bonds, and the starch in the cornstarch expands, forming starch bonds that really thicken and stabilize the pastry cream.
It’s not necessary to strain the creme patisserie unless it’s lumpy. BUT it’s still a good extra measure to make sure the creme patisserie is silky smooth.
For a dairy-free version, substitute the milk and butter with plant-based milk like almond milk, coconut milk, cashew milk or even soy milk and a plant-based butter.
I am sharing the recipe of Creme patisserie here. I had made custard buns the other day and filled the centre with Creme Patisserie. It was absolutely yum.
1 cup of milk
3 tbsp sugar
A Pinch of salt
1 and 1/4th tbsp cornstarch (2 tbsp for stiffer pastry cream)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 egg yolks
2 tbsp unsalted butter softened
Heat the milk over medium-high heat and bring it to a simmer, almost to a boil.
Place the sugar, whole egg and yolks, vanilla, cornstarch and salt in a bowl. Whisk until you have a thick, smooth mix.
As soon as the milk starts to bubble, remove it from the heat. Slowly pour about half of the hot milk in a thin stream, into the egg mix. It is very important to continue whisk while pouring. This way you will temper the egg mix, making it ready for further heat. When the eggs have been tempered, add the egg mix back into the hot milk in the saucepan.
Heat the custard base, over medium heat, while whisking vigorously until it starts to thicken for 1 – 2 minutes.
While whisking, let the custard come to a boil. Lower the heat and cook for a further 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the butter. Whisk in the butter, until it’s completely mixed in.
Pour the custard into a bowl and immediately cover the surface with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic wrap is touching the whole surface. This is to prevent custard skin from forming on top.
Let the custard cool down to room temperature and then let it chill in the fridge for a few hours until it’s completely chilled. Use as needed after the pastry cream has been chilled.
The best way to store pastry cream is in the fridge, in an air-tight container, with a piece of plastic wrap covering the entire surface of the pastry cream. Pastry cream will last about 3 – 4 days in the fridge.