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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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!