Custards are dishes high in protein and consist of two varieties: those thickened entirely by eggs and known as true custards or plain custards and those in which a starchy material is used for part of the thickening. They may be cooked by steaming, dry steaming, or baking.

In true custards there must be a sufficient number of eggs to thicken the desired amount of milk, for nothing else produces thickening. To these two ingredients may be added sweetening in the form of sugar, sirup, honey, etc. and flavoring of any desirable kind. The plain custard thus produced makes an excellent dessert and one that is easily digested. In fact, it can be digested with such ease that it is used perhaps more frequently in the diets of children and unhealthy people than any other single dessert.

Although custards with starch are considered to decrease in quality as fewer eggs are used and starch in some form is added for thickening, many excellent custard desserts are made in this way. Because the starchy foods used are generally cheaper than eggs, custard desserts that rely partly on starch for their thickening are more economical than those thickened entirely by eggs. They are also different in composition and texture, being lower in protein because of a smaller proportion of eggs and higher in carbohydrate because of additional starch.They are often utilized in the making of desserts, such as tapioca, rice, and bread puddings. In such an event, fewer eggs are used and the starchy material is depended on for a certain amount of the thickening.

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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.

Because of the various ways of making custards, they differ somewhat when they are done. They may be thin enough to pour or they may be set and so thick that they can be cut. The consistency of the finished product depends, of course, on the proportion of the ingredients used and the method of cooking.