Could you consider this custard as my side dish entry for the week? I must admit, I am having a difficult time working new healthy side items into my menus this month. We're not skimping of the vegetables and are still eating plenty of the usual - kale, sweet potatoes, green beans, broccoli - but I need to find some kid-friendly recipes to add to the mix.
On the other hand, I never seem to have a problem finding something sweet to cook. Last Friday, I made a fabulous chocolate and banana coffee cake for a retreat. Saturday, I finished my hazelnut macarons. Sunday afternoon, I whipped up some bacon-chocolate chip cookies for the food swap, even mixing a little bacon grease in with the butter. They were a hit. Today, I noticed that I'm almost done with the bottle of vanilla extract from the December Chicago Food Swap so it is time give that vanilla bean a second life to make custard.
I found a recipe that calls for whole milk but we drink skim. Ever since a friend shamed me into giving up Coffeemate (it was a good idea), I always have a carton of half and half for my coffee. Last week, I bought too much whipping cream, so my fridge is stocked with plenty of dairy, just not the right kind. I modified the recipe to use a combination of whipping cream and skim milk - I figured it should work since the combination would have just as much fat as whole milk. The recipe said to heat the mixture to 170, which I thought was odd since even packaged pudding mix is supposed to simmer. It didn't work the first time. Or the second when I adjusted the recipe to include more cornstarch and whipping cream. The custard didn't set and I was left with a fragrant sauce. I don't like to waste food, but I didn't think it would be a good idea to eat eight cups of custard sauce by myself, so I decided to turn one batch into ice cream. I poured the other batch back into a sauce pan and brought it to a boil. As soon as it was hot enough, I had a pot of thick, creamy pudding before my eyes. The only problem was the pudding was curdled, which is what happens if you let it boil and the eggs scramble. For my third batch, I used a thermometer and made sure that the temperature did not go about 200. I cooked the pudding over a low flame until it coated the back of a spoon, then strained it into a bowl and chilled until serving.
Finally, I had a nice bowl of creamy vanilla custard. After so many attempts, I needed to do something to make it special, so I served the custard with toasted coconut, raspberry puree and shaved chocolate. So good. And easy...now that I've figured it out.
- 1 vanilla bean (optional)
- 2 1/2 cup skim milk
- 1/2 cup whipping cream
- 6 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract (if you do not use the vanilla bean, add 1 teaspoon of extract)
If using, split vanilla bean down center and scrape out seeds with a paring knife. Add bean and seeds to milk/cream and heat in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until hot but not boiling.
Add hot milk to egg mixture in a slow stream, whisking constantly. I added about half a cup of milk, and whisked it in before adding the rest. You don’t want to add it too quickly or you could scramble your eggs. If your bowl is twirling around on the table while you are trying to whisk in the milk, place the bowl on a folded dish towel to keep it still. Once all the milk has been added, pour custard back into saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened. Do not let it boil; I used a probe thermometer to make sure that it did not heat to over 200. Use a spatula rather than a whisk to stir; you don’t want to incorporate too much air into the custard. Add butter and vanilla extract and stir to melt butter. Immediately strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl.
Save the vanilla bean to make vanilla sugar (see below).
Unless you are a Seinfeld fan and would like a skin on your pudding, cover surface of custard with parchment. Chill until cold, 2 to 3 hours. Serve plain or with toppings.
For vanilla sugar: Gently rinse vanilla bean and dry with a paper towel. Place bean in a clean jar and fill jar with sugar. Let sit for a week before using to develop vanilla flavor. You can use it on fresh fruit, in coffee or sprinkled on toast.