Custard Tips

The chief requirement of a successful custard is that its texture be right, and the temperature at which the baking is done is largely responsible for this point. Too high a temperature or too long cooking will cause the custard to curdle and leave the edges full of holes. A smoother texture may be obtained if egg yolks alone instead of the yolks and whites are used to thicken the custard. The proportions are usually given in each recipe.

To make a custard of a firmer and harder texture, a greater proportion of eggs should be used.

Practically no special skill is required in the preparation of baked custard, but care must be taken during the baking in order that the right temperature be applied for the proper length of time.

Custard may be baked in individual baking dishes and then served in these or it may be cooked in a large baking dish and served either before or after it is placed on the table.

Individual baking dishes are perhaps more satisfactory, for, as there is a smaller amount of material, the heat can penetrate more quickly and evenly to the center.

Whatever kind of dish is used, however, should be placed in a pan of warm water, so that the custard will bake evenly.

The water in the pan should not boil, as this tends to make the custard whey, or separate.

Several tests can be applied to custard to determine whether it is sufficiently baked. As the heat penetrates to the center last, this part is the last to cook and it is therefore the place where the testing should be done.

One test consists in touching the center with the tip of the finger to find out whether it is firm or not.

A more common test, however, is testing with the eating knife. To perform this test, the blade of a eating knife is inserted in the center. If the blade comes out clean, it may be known that the custard is sufficiently baked, but if the mixture sticks to the knife, the custard requires more baking.

Soft custard should be stirred continuously during its cooking. Then it will not set nor thicken as does baked custard, even though the proportion of eggs and milk may be higher.

As soon as the soft custard mixture lightly coats a spoon it is done. Then it should be removed from the fire and the inner part of the double boiler removed from the outer part to avoid the application of any more heat.

If too much heat has been applied or the soft custard has been cooked too long, the result will be a curdled mass. As soon as this is observed, the custard should be removed from the hot water, placed at once into a pan of cold water, and beaten vigorously with a rotary egg beater or mixer. To improve it further, it may be poured through a fine wire sieve or strainer. Unless the curding has gone too far or the egg has been cooked a great deal too long, this treatment will produce a very decided improvement in the custard and possibly bring it to a normal condition.

Real Cooking

Did You Know?
For its thickness, or solidity, a true custard (or plain custard) depends largely on the thickening property of the protein material in the eggs. Here, again, as in the preparation of other foods, only a certain proportion of milk and eggs will thicken, or solidify, upon being cooked.

In general, the correct proportion for a true custard is 1 egg to 1 cup of milk. So important is this proportion that it should be memorized.

Before the eggs are added to the milk, they are, of course, beaten, but their beating is a matter of little consequence, for they are used merely to supply thickening and give richness and not to produce lightness. Therefore, they need only be mixed well and beaten slightly, as any increase in the amount of the beating adds nothing.

The sweetening and flavoring used in custards should be in sufficient quantity to suit the tastes of those who are to eat the dessert. However, the usual proportion of sugar is 1 tablespoonful to 1 egg and 1 cup of milk. A tiny pinch of salt added to a mixture of this kind improves its flavor and should never be omitted.

To obtain variety in custards, chocolate, caramel, maple, and other flavors may be used in their preparation.