Custard fight! Stirred… or baked?

custard taste test

Custard fight – “Baked” dukes it out with “Stirred”

James Bond may have taken his martinis stirred. But in a recent egg custard duel, Stirred came in a far second-best behind Baked!

See for yourself. Using the same ingredients, eggs, milk, and sugar, follow the directions below for two different ways to cook them.  What you end up with is either a sauce… or a pudding.

People usually pour custard sauce over fruit or cake. Baked custards are sometimes jazzed up with caramel or liqueurs.

After you taste the recipes below, tell me, how do you like your eggs?

Stirred custard:

Get ready…

Get out 3 eggs, and measure 1 3/4 cups skimmed milk, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

You need a medium sauce pan, a metal spoon, a large bowl of ice water, a medium-sized pitcher or bowl, and plastic wrap.

Get set…

1. Cook the eggs, milk and sugar over medium heat in the saucepan. Stir constantly until the mixture thickens and coats the metal spoon. If it starts to boil, take the pan off the heat.

2.  Put the pan into the ice water. Stir a few minutes to cool, add the vanilla, then pour the mixture into the pitcher or serving bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge.

Baked Custard

Get ready…

Get out 3 eggs, and measure 1 1/2 cups skimmed milk, 1/3 cup sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

You need a medium sauce pan, a spoon, four to six oven-proof single-serving baking cups, a baking pan large enough to hold the cups, a kettle of boiled water, and plastic wrap.

Get set…

1. Put the milk in the saucepan over medium heat until you see steam rise. Stir in the sugar until it dissolves. Remove from heat to cool.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Beat the eggs with a hand-mixer at high speed until they foam, then get thick and bubbly, about 3 minutes. Pour the eggs slowly into the cooled milk and stir. Then spoon the mixture into the ovenproof  cups in the baking pan. Pour 1/2 inch of boiling water from the kettle around the cups and put the pan in the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a knife inserted into the custard comes out clean. Take the pan from the oven with oven mitts. Take the cups from the water and let them cool for 30 minutes. Eat right away or put into the fridge for later.

“Stirred” is better for dipping!


Now for the fun part. Pour some of the stirred custard into a small glass. Take a spoonful of  baked custard from the cup. What does it look like? How is it different from the  stirred  custard? Taste some from each type of dessert. What are the differences? What is the same about each of them? Which do you like the best?

But “Baked” wins!

You are now ready to try some recipes for custards. There are many variations on both the stirred and baked types. I like one called creme brule from Alton Brown, but it’s a bit rich.  I save it for special occasions. Look at the ingredients. Do you see why it’s rich? Now have a look at a recipe for creme caramel or panna cotta. They have less saturated fat, so they’re better for us. I usually use skim milk instead of whole milk or cream. It tastes good enough 🙂

Congratulations! You’ve done a food science experiment by altering only the method of cooking. You now know the difference between a sol (the sauce… a liquid colloid) and a gel (the baked custard… a solid colloid). Check out the link. If you understand this stuff, you get an A in Chemistry!

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Peri's Spice Ladle
    Apr 13, 2012 @ 09:37:21

    I’d always chose baked over stirred…but your stirred instructions look easy to do and equally delicious, going to try it:)

    Great site and pieces, glad I found you. Thanks for visiting Peri’s Spice Ladle.


  2. buttery77
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 23:40:14

    Impossible to choose between stirred and baked… I love all custards so much – plus they contain all the major food groups!


    • Vinny Grette
      Mar 07, 2012 @ 23:57:11

      Yes! But are they both “puddings”? The baked is, for sure, but I might have trouble calling the stirred version “pudding,” as it is rather runny… (at least that is how ours turned out). I have a feeling that you can reduce the liquid in the stirred version and end up with a rather nice pudding, after all. But what do I know 🙂


      • buttery77
        Mar 08, 2012 @ 09:38:57

        Well they are puddings in that they are desserts, but ibn the technical sense – that true puddings are boiled or steamed – neither are! The important thing is that they taste delicious!


  3. Vinny Grette
    Jan 18, 2012 @ 23:07:06

    Will did too! He wants me to make more. Adding a dash of Grand Marnier to the stirred version, though, makes a great fruit topping for the adults in the family.


  4. kris
    Jan 18, 2012 @ 22:47:02

    i loved the baked version!


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