THE SIMPLEST of ingredients are needed to make a custard and there is no particular trick in combining them. Yet so many culinary crimes are committed in the name of “custard” that I am afraid it isn’t as popular as it should be.
It seems to be a pretty well-known fact nowadays that proper cooking temperature and time are the important factors in determining the success of the product, so naturally these are the points of greatest interest in a discussion of good custards. There are other things to consider, of course - those little details which, if neglected, will make the product fall just short of perfection. For, after all, a perfectly prepared custard, delicately flavored and attractively served has few superiors, as you will find if you carefully list its virtues. But we shall do that later.
Every larder can furnish the few everyday ingredients that a plain custard requires—eggs, milk, sweetening and flavoring. 'Changing the proportion of eggs and milk produces custards of different consistencies, and the method of cooking decides whether it shall be a soft custard or the firmer molded type. Generally speaking, the proportion is one egg to one cupful of milk for individual dishes. Add to this one tablespoonful of sugar and flavoring to taste and you have a simple and complete list of ingredients for a plain custard. When baking the mixture in one large dish, three eggs to two cupfuls of milk are advised.
Following are the details of preparation which, up to date, have been found to give the best results. High quality, medium-sized eggs are advised and the most satisfactory treatment is to beat them just enough to blend the yolks and whites, as they have better stiffening power than when beaten until light. Good custards can be made with either hot or cold milk, but they will cook more quickly and more evenly if the milk is first scalded. The hot milk should be added gradually to the beaten eggs—not the eggs to the milk, or there will be little particles of cooked egg formed and lost when the mixture is strained. As a result the finished product will not be as thick or firm as it should be.
These are some details of mixing which it pays to remember and which are just about as simple as any directions could be.
And then comes the cooking -for which almost complete instructions could be given in three little words, “Cook it
slowly.” If it is a soft custard or custard sauce, it is best cooked in a double boiler, keeping the water in the lower part just below boiling and constantly stirring the mixture in the upper part. But even if the temperature is just right, the cooking must not be carried on too long or all efforts will be in vain. For too high temperatures or too long cooking will cause a custard to curdle. In the case of a soft custard, this can sometimes be remedied by removing the top part of the double boiler from the heat at the first sign of curdling, placing it in a pan of cold water and beating it vigorously with a rotary egg beater. But it requires quick action.
Best for Baked Custards
A BAKED custard is best when it is baked in a pan of hot water. In our tests at the Chatelaine Institute we found that even when we used the lowest temperature possible in a heat-controlled oven, the custards were not as good as when they were “oven poached”—that is, the dishes set in a pan of water and placed in the oven. And so we continue to use this method, just as the cooks of the eighteenth century did. With the oven temperature at 325 degrees Fahrenheit, the custard cups in their hot water bath are allowed to cook for thirty to forty minutes and tested carefully to be sure they are done. An additional precaution, if you have difficulty keeping the oven temperature down, is to place several thicknesses of paper in the bottom of the baking pan, set the custard cups on them and surround with hot water.
The tests for “doneness” in the two types of custards -the soft custard and the baked varietyare contradictory. In the former, the mixture will coat a spoon as a
sign that it is cooked enough, whereas a knife inserted in the centre of a baked custard will come out clean when it has been sufficiently baked. As as they are cooked, remove the top part of the double boiler and take the custard cups out of the water to prevent further cooking.
Both varieties permit of wide variation. The soft custard may be served alone with a garnish of whipped cream, lightly browned meringue or a bit of bright jelly, or it may be poured over prepared fruit, or over stale cake that has been soaked in fruit juice. It may be used as the basis for a frozen dessert or for a jellied one or served as a sauce with fruit jellies and similar dishes. Baked custards may be flavored with any desired materials; chocolate, caramel, maple are some of the favorites and the addition of cocoanut is a variation popular with many people. Bread puddings are custards in which bread crumbs are used to replace some of the egg, in the proportion of one cupful of crumbs for each egg omitted. Here, too, various flavorings and tasty additions make a long list of varieties from which to choose. Cereal puddings, using rice, tapioca, or other such products are frequently made with a custard basis and even the souffles might be called a variation of the original theme. No list of variations is complete without mentioning custard pie. Smooth, rich and delicious, it deserves a page to
j itself. The recipes given at the end of the article will start your imagination working, and you are sure to think of many interesting possibilities when you realize how easy j it is to make a good custard.
J As you read, did you notice that most of the points about which we have been talking might come under the heading of virtues which we promised to list later? After we have called attention to the simplicity of the recipe and the directions, the lack j of unusual materials, the ease of mixing i and the many possibilities for variation, i there is really only the food value to men; tion. And you can rest assured that the \ food value is the very best, since the two main ingredients of custard are about the j most valuable food stuffs on our menus.
! The importance of milk in the diet of peojile j of all ages and classes is well known, and i eggs are a close second. A combination of the two supplies the body with excellent proteins, vitamins and minerals in a most agreeable and easily digested form.
It seems to me that a campaign for more and better custards should meet with welldeserved success.
Baked Caramel Custard 1 Cupful of granulated sugar 1 Cupful of boiling water 4 Cupfuls of rich milk 34 Teaspoonful of salt 2 Tablespoonfuls of sugar 34 Teaspoonful of vanilla 5 Eggs
Put the sugar in a heavy pan and place over low heat. Stir constantly until the sugar melts and becomes a rich brown color. Add the boiling water very carefully and continue to stir, cooking the mixture until it is thick and syrupy. Scald the milk, add the salt, sugar, vanilla and one-half cupful of the caramel syrup. Pour gradually over the slightly beaten eggs and stir until thoroughly combined. Strain. (It is convenient to strain the mixture into a pitcher.) Butter custard cups well and in each place about a teaspoonful of the caramel syrup. Carefully fill the cups with the custard mixture. Set in a pan of hot water and bake in a moderately slow oven—325 degrees Fahrenheit—until set. Remove at once from the water and allow to cool. When cold, turn out of the molds on to serving plates. The caramel syrup in the bottom runs down the sides of the custard mold and forms a sauce. Maple syrup may be used in place of the caramel syrup if desired.
1 Cupful of cocoanut 15 or 16 Marshmallows 3 Eggs 3 Tablespoon fuis of sugar 1 Pint of milk % Teaspoon ful of salt 34 Teaspoonful of flavoring
Place one half of the cocoanut in a lightly greased baking dish; cover with the marshmallows cut in halves and sprinkle with the rest of the cocoanut. Beat the eggs slightly, add the sugar, salt and the scalded milk. Mix. add the flavoring and pour over the mixture in the baking dish. Set in a pan of hot water and bake in an oven at 325 degrees Fahrenheit, until the custard is ‘‘set." Serve cold. Six servings.
Banana Layer Pudding 4 Cupfuls of milk > •„» Cupful of sugar J4 Teaspoonfui of salt 4 Eggs 1 Teaspoon ful of vanilla Plain sweet wafers Bananas
Put the milk, sugar and salt in the top of i a double boiler and place over hot water ! until heated. Beat two eggs and two yolks i together slightly and gradually add the heated milk, stirring during the addition. Return to the double boiler and cook slowly. stirring constantly until the mixture coats a spoon. Remove from the heat and cool quickly, stirring occasionally. Add the vanilla. Put a layer of plain sweet wafers
in the bottom of a lightly greased baking dish and cover them with uniformly sliced bananas. Add some of the custard and continue to arrange layers of the wafers, bananas and custard until the dish is threequarters filled. Make a meringue by beating until stiff two egg whites which have been reserved and adding one tablespoon ful of sugar to each egg white. Spread roughly over the mixture in the dish and bake for twenty minutes in a slow oven—300 to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Chill thoroughly before serving. Six to eight servings. If the eggs are small, use five instead of four.
Stale cake Fruit, fresh or cooked Fruit juice Soft custard
Cut stale cake into uniform pieces and arrange in the bottom of a serving dish. Sprinkle with fruit juice, using from onethird to one-half cupful of the juice to approximately two cupfuls of cake pieces. Add the fruit which has been drained and cut in pieces if necessary. Cover with soft custard which has been cooled, using about two cupfuls for the amounts mentioned. Garnish with whipped cream, whole pieces of fruit and blanched almonds.
Baked Chocolate Custard 1 Square of chocolate 1 Inch of stick cinnamon 2 Cupfuls of milk 3 Eggs 34 Cupful of sugar 34 Teaspoonful of salt
Cut the chocolate into small pieces and place in the top part of a double boiler. Melt over gently boiling water. Add the milk and the stick cinnamon and leave over the hot water until the milk is scalded. Beat the eggs slightly, add the sugar and salt and gradually pour on the hot mixture which has been vigorously beaten to blend properly. Strain the mixture into a slightly buttered baking dish, set in a pan of hot water and bake in a slow oven—325 degrees Fahrenheit—for forty to sixty minutes or until firm. Cool quickly and chill thoroughly before serving. Four servings.
Date and Nut Bread Custard 4 Eggs 3i Cupful of sugar 34 Teaspoon ful of salt 4 Cupfuls of milk 1J4 Cupfuls of bread crumbs 34 Teaspoonful of vanilla 34 Cupful of stoned chopped dates
34 to 34 Cupful of chopped walnuts
Beat the eggs slightly, add the sugar and mix thoroughly. Scald the milk and combine with the bread crumbs. Add gradually to the egg mixture and mix with the prepared dates and nuts. Flavor with the vanilla and tum into a slightly greased baking dish. Set in a pan of hot water and bake in a slow oven—325 degrees Fahrenheit—for forty to sixty minutes or until the custard is firm.
Baked Apple Custard 6 Medium Apples 2 Cupfuls of boiling water 34 Cupful of sugar 5 Eggs 34 Cupful of sugar 12 Teaspoon ful of salt 4 Cupfuls of milk 34 Teaspoonful of vanilla 34 Teaspoonful of ground nutmeg
Pare the apples and remove the cores. Boil the water and one-half cupful of sugar together for ten minutes, add the prepared apples and simmer until tender. Drain, arrange in a slightly greased baking dish and sprinkle with the other one-quarter cupful of sugar. Beat the eggs slightly and combine with the sugar and salt. Gradually pour on the milk, which has been scalded
over hot water; add the vanilla and the nutmeg and pour over the apples in the baking dish. Set in a pan of hot water and bake in a slow oven—325 degrees Fahrenheit— until the custard is firm—about forty-five j to sixty minutes.
v 2 Cupful of sugar H Teaspoonful of salt 214 Cupfuls of milk 1Y> Tablespoon fuis of gelatine Yx Cupful of cold water 1 Tea spoon ful of vanilla
Separate the egg yolks and whites and beat the yolks slightly. Add the sugar and salt and mix. Scald the milk and gradually add to the egg mixture. Cook over hot water, stirring constantly until the mixture coats the spoon. Remove from the heat and add to the gelatine which has been softened in the cold water. Fold in the stiffiy-
beaten egg whites and turn into a cold | wet mold. Set aside to chill and serve unmolded. This dessert shows three distinct layers when made this way. If a dessert of uniform consistency is desired, do not j fold in the egg whites until the gelatine mixture has cooled and begun to set. Six servings.
Cocoanut Orange Custard
4 or 5 Sweet oranges Fruit sugar Toasted cocoanut 2 Cupfuls of soft custard
Peel the oranges, removing all of the white membrane. Separate carefully into sections, having each section entirely free from skin. Sprinkle with the powdered j sugar and roll each section in the toasted ; cocoanut. Arrange in a serving dish and carefully pour over them, the soft custard which has been previously cooled. Serve plain, with whipped cream or meringue.
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