Baked vanilla custard (photo © Xiebiyun | Fotolia).
We looked for a custard recipe to tweet today, August 17th, National Vanilla Custard Day. (National Chocolate Custard Day is May 3rd.) But, zut alors, we didn’t have one. How can that be? It’s one of our favorite comfort foods (our mother always baked a batch when we were under the weather, scented with nutmeg).
So, here’s a remedy: Mom’s recipe—although as you can see, it’s a pretty basic recipe. You can use nonfat, 1% or 2% milk for a less rich custard.
Originally, all custard was flavored with vanilla, but simply called “custard.” Now there are chocolate custard, coconut custard, green tea custard, lemon custard, maple custard, pumpkin custard—any flavor can be added to, or infused into, the custard.
Custard is typically prepared in individual porcelain ramekins or glass custard cups. But you can use whatever size-appropriate, individual oven-safe dishes you may have; or prepare the custard in a single casserole size.
Note that most recipes are for a plain custard, garnished afterward with cinnamon or nutmeg. We love a nutmeg-infused custard, so mix it right into the custard prior to baking.
If you want more fruit and less cholesterol, check out this beautiful recipe from Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse.
You can also use the custard as a shell filling, to make custard pie, custard tarts or mini tarts.
Ingredients For 6 Servings
Substitution For Chocolate Custard
Swap out the vanilla for 3.5 ounces (100 g) unsweetened or 90% cacao, roughly chopped.
Using a quality chocolate bar like Lindt Absolut Noir 99% cacao, rather than supermarket baking chocolate, will produce superior results.
*Or, instead of mixing it into the custard, use the cinnamon or nutmeg as a garnish only.
1. BEAT together the eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt in a medium bowl, until well blended.
2. HEAT milk in a saucepan until very hot (but not boiling). For the chocolate custard recipe, remove the pot from the heat as it just begins to bubble; add the chocolate and whisk until the chocolate melts. For both vanilla and chocolate versions, next stir the cream mixture into the egg mixture.
3. PLACE 6 lightly greased 6-ounce custard cups or one 1-1/2-quart casserole in a large baking dish. Pour egg mixture into cups or casserole. Place pan on rack in preheated 350°F oven.
4. POUR very hot water into pan to within 1/2 inch of top of the cups or 1 inch of top of the casserole. Bake until a knife inserted near center comes out clean, about 30 minutes for cups or 40-60 minutes for casserole. Remove promptly from hot water. See the next section, “When Is The Custard Done?”
5. COOL on wire rack about 5-10 minutes. Serve warm or refrigerate and chill thoroughly to serve cold. Garnish with ground cinnamon or nutmeg.
 Pouring the water into the bain-marie (photo © American Egg Board).
When Is The Custard Done?
Baked custard should be removed from the oven (and water bath) before the center is completely set. The center will jiggle slightly when the dish or cup is gently shaken.
The knife test: Test for doneness with a thin-bladed knife. Insert the knife about 1 inch from the center of a one-dish custard, or midway between center and edge of custard cups. If the knife is clean when pulled out, the custard is done. If any custard clings to the blade, bake a few minutes longer and test again.
These tips are from the American Egg Board, IncredibleEgg.org.
Custard is semisoft preparation of milk or cream and eggs, thickened with heat. It can be cooked on top of the stove or baked in the oven.
Custards can be sweet or savory, from desserts and dessert sauces to quiche and savory custard tarts.
What’s the difference between custard, crème caramel, flan and panna cotta?
Check out the different types of custard in our Custard Glossary.
American pudding is a sweetened milk mixture thickened with cornstarch, then cooked. It has no eggs in it (American custard does have eggs, and is also called egg custard). In the U.K. and Europe, it is also known as blancmange, and is thickened with starch.