What do cheesecakes, ice cream, trifles, Bavarians, crème brûlée, pots de crème, and pudding all have in common? These creamy and very delicious desserts are all custards, if you didn’t notice. Custard is a culinary preparation made by blending eggs with milk or cream and it is thickened by the coagulation of the egg proteins, which is achieved by gently heating the custard in some way. It is mainly used as a dessert, or as a base for a dessert, or as a dessert sauce.
Custard is usually cooked in a double boiler (bain-marie) in which keeping the cooking air moist and heating the custard gently to prevent it from curdling or cracking are both possible. It can also be heated very gently in a saucepan on a stove, as well as steamed, baked in the oven with or without a water bath, or even cooked in a pressure cooker.
Depending on how much egg or thickener is used, custard may vary in consistency from thick and firm, as in creme brulee, to nearly liquid, as in creme anglaise. Pastry cream, which is used as a filling for classic desserts like cream puffs and éclairs, is made by adding some sort of starch, such as flour.
There are three types:
- Pure or basic is the most delicate type. They require careful attention during cooking, which is usually done in the even heat of a water bath, as they can quickly go from undercooked to broken and curdled.
- Starch-thickened custards contain ingredients such as flour or cornstarch for added thickening power. These starches give custards more body, making them sturdy enough to endure cooking with direct heat.
- Gelatin-set custards have a structural firmness that only gelatin can provide
So, are you ready to give custards a try for your next desserts? Do tell us what recipes you are most interested in and we will see what we can do.