On to Sugar High Friday. When I read that Debbie from Words To Eat By has chosen the theme Caramel, I was saved the trouble of thinking of what to make. In my mind, CARAMEL=CARAMEL CUSTARD.
I am not really a dessert person. Some days I like mango ice-cream and chocolate mousse. I enjoy the occasional slice of pecan pie. But on days when I am tired or upset, in need of a hug, I simply crave caramel custard. It is the first dessert that I ever learnt to make back home in India. In India, caramel custard is often steamed in a pressure cooker (without using the pressure). Since I was making a tried and tested recipe, I wanted to use a new method of cooking it to make it a learning experience for me. Enter the bain marie, where the custard is baked in a water bath.
My obsession for food shows on PBS have ensured that I have watched the bain marie in action so I was pretty eager to try it for myself. The only bain that I could think of was my standard 13x9 glass baking tray. The only thing that would now sit in it holding my custard was my non-stick loaf pan. Certainly an odd contraption to make custard in but it worked.
To make the caramel, I placed 4 tbsp of sugar ( with some drizzles of water) in the non-stick loaf pan and placed it on the stove top, then fussed over it for several minutes turning it this way and that till the sugar started caramelizing. Soon a lovely brown layer of caramel was coating the pan and I hastily pulled the pan off and set it aside. One learns the hard way that there is a thin line between caramel and charcoal.
To make the custard, I started by scalding two and a half cups of whole milk , then dissolving 2 tbsps of sugar in the hot milk. I added a slice of bread to the hot mixture so that the bread soaked and swelled and gave way. I know bread is not traditionally part of this recipe but I really like the "body" that it lends to the custard. I let this mixture cool while I watched Jacques Pepin: Fast Food My Way...by then the mixture was cool enough so I cracked 2 eggs into it and added a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Then using an immersion blender I whirred the whole thing into a wonderful custard and poured it into the pan with the caramel.
For the bain marie, I poured boiling water 1/3 of the way into the 13x9 dish and placed that in a 325 deg F oven. Then I placed my custard pan gently into it and held my breath for about 30 minutes. I did not expect it to cook so quickly but by 30 minutes it was done and the knife came clean. I had to chill it for 3 hours and then eagerly turned it onto another tray. Hallelujah! My first attempt at bain marie was a success. The texture of the custard was creamy and smooth and cooked to perfection and utterly luscious. V (the significant other) and I grabbed a fork and ate it right out of the platter! Dale (he who woofs) also got a tiny bit...he loves people food.
2.5 cups milk
6 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 slice bread
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Caramelize the sugar in the pan in which you want to make the custard. Alternatively, caramelize the sugar in another small saucepan and then pour it into the baking dish to coat the bottom.
- In a saucepan, scald the milk. Dissolve 2 T sugar in the milk and crumble the bread into it. Let the mixture cool to room temperature.
- Blend the milk with the eggs and vanilla and pour the custard into the pan with the caramel.
- Bake in a bain marie for 30-40 minutes till a knife comes clean and the custard is set.
- Chill for a few hours and then invert into a serving platter. It is that simple.
- If your custard has an eggy smell, increase the amount of vanilla extract.
- Custard can be made in a pressure cooker, but steam it without the weight!