June 9, 2011

A simple egg custard is comfort food for me

Sometimes I think maybe I should've named this blog Playing with Eggs instead of Playing with Flour...but it just doesn't sound right, does it?  I know there are plenty of controversies surrounding eggs if you are looking for it - whether it be about how chickens are raised or concerns about high cholesterol or even potential salmonella - but I'm going to set that aside for the moment.  Personally, I love eggs and I don't know what I'd do without them.  I love a soft-boiled egg for breakfast with a little sprinkling of salt, eggs fried in a sandwich or over just about anything (salad, rice, steak, noodles...the list goes on and on). 
I kind of look at the egg in awe.  Eggs are irreplaceable when it comes to making all these treats that I love.  No where is this more evident than when we talk about making a custard or a soufflé.  After tackling a soufflé, I thought I'd try making a simple egg custard.  For me, this is pure comfort food.  I like to eat it slighly warm; it is smooth, simple, and very soothing.
It reminds me of the chinese egg custard tarts that I love so much and is very similiar to the steamed egg custards I can order in some chinese restaurants.  I'm glad to know that now I can whip some up at home quite easily.
This is the custard after less than an hour out of the oven.  If you are patient and wait a bit longer, the custard center will set up a bit more.

This egg custard is simple to make and you only need 4 ingredients: milk, eggs, sugar, and a bit of vanilla extract.  I made these 2 ways on two separate occasions.  I first tried it with some almond extract.  It smelled sensational and tasted good but in our informal taste-test, we thought the almond distracted too much from the pure egg flavor and I want to focus on the eggs.  On the second go, I made the custards using the more typical vanilla extract.  I think I'll most likely be sticking with just a small dash of vanilla going forward since this seemed to blend in a bit more seamlessly. 

Many recipes call for a sprinkling of nutmeg on top of the custards.  I choose to omit this.  I like nutmeg as an ingredient in certain baked goods but I'm not a huge fan of it standing on its own.  Aesthetically, I think the nutmeg on top helps to hide the skin that forms on the custards as they cool.  The bit of skin might not look very appealing but actually tastes great.

The custard cooks in a water bath, in a 300 degree oven.  Preheat the oven and bring a kettle of water to boil and let it cool slightly.

Once again, I'm making a half recipe which translates into 2 filled ramekins that are about 6-ounces in capacity.  All you need to do is combine an egg, 1 egg yolk, 1/6 cup of sugar (about 2.5 tablespoons), and 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract by whisking them together.  I would suggest using extra-large size eggs if you have them around but large eggs are fine too.
This picture shows almond extract but again, I recommend sticking with a little vanilla
Set a cup of whole milk in a saucepan over medium-low heat and bring it to a simmer.  I turn the heat off at this point and slowly add the egg and sugar mixture into the milk and whisk to incorporate.  Whisk gently so you don't incorporate too much air and have lots of air bubbles on top of the custards.
Pour the custard through a strainer to capture any bits of cooked egg.  Fill your ramekins and set it into a baking pan. 
Carefully pour the hot water that you had boiled earlier into the pan about halfway up the sides of the custard cups.  Baking in the water bath ensures even, gentle cooking and produces a smooth custard.  I found that I had to bake my custards for about 45-50 minutes.  Depending on the size of your ramekins (since you may not have the same 6-ounce ones I'm using), keep an eye on the custard and adjust the time depending on the amount you are making in each cup.  When done, the custards are just set but will continue to be a bit loose when moved. 
The recipe calls for cooling the custard in the water bath for about 2 hours before eating.  I kind of like mine still slightly warm but I would note that waiting a few hours allows the custard to set up a bit more.  You will get a bit of a skin on top of the custards but it's delicious so it doesn't bother me. 

The recipe:

Egg custard
Adapted from Epicurious

- Yields 2 servings (or 2 filled 6-ounce ramekins) -

1 cup whole millk
1 egg, extra-large or large size
1 egg yolk, extra-large or large size
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Bring a large kettle of water to boil and set aside.  Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Whisk the egg, egg yolk, sugar and vanilla extract together, and set aside.  Bring the milk to a simmer over medium-low heat.  Turn the heat off and slowly pour the egg and sugar mixture into the milk, whisking gently together.

Pour the custard through a strainer to catch any bits of cooked egg.  Fill ramekins and set inside a baking pan.  Fill baking pan with the hot water,  about halfway up the sides of the ramekins.  Bake for approximately 45-50 minutes or until the custard is just set but still a bit loose when moved. 

Gently remove the pan from the oven and allow the custards to cool in the water bath for 1-2 hours before serving. 


  1. I hadn't seen this on here before. My husband loves the egg tarts in the shells. Have you tried combining this in a pastry shell? His mom makes them sometimes, but they're still not quite perfect. It's hard to get the shell browned!

    1. I also adore those egg tarts! Have wanted to make them for a long time but deterrents have been 1) I can buy them pretty easily and so cheap, 2) don't have a really reliable recipe I can trust, and 3) don't have the right size tart pans. Eventually...I plan to give it a try. I have 2 recipes bookmarked. We do love these egg custards here...they are so delicious and nice and light w/o the pastry crust.



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