The custard is a simple cream made with milk, sugar, eggs, flour (or corn starch or rice), lemon peel, and vanilla, the most straightforward but indispensable preparation of all pastry. Just think of immortal desserts like Zuppa Inglese, apple and cream tart or donuts, but also of a sponge cake cut in half and then stuffed with a steaming cream, so scented with lemon and vanilla!
But let’s get to the traditional custard recipe: what are the difficulties, the fundamental steps and the mistakes you should never make during preparation? First, it must have the right consistency and not be raw. It must not have lumps, so be careful when you add the flour, but it must not stick either, so you will have to stay close to the cream and stir it constantly.
And in fact, the secret to making the perfect cream is to give it love, work calmly and precisely. First of all, the egg yolks must be whipped for a long time with an electric whisk for at least five minutes. And then, the flour is sieved and poured a little at a time and worked immediately to prevent lumps from forming. Another big mistake is to leave the custard as it is once you have finished the recipe.
To ensure that it remains very creamy and does not become a yellow blob, it must be cooled immediately by changing the container or putting it in the freezer for a few minutes. To prevent the skin from forming on top, cover it with compostable film and then remix it every 10 minutes until it has cooled. Another even more practical way is to sprinkle the cream with a handful of sugar, but this makes the cream even sweeter, so you see.
Once it has cooled, you can use it immediately or stored in the refrigerator. If you want a trick to make it shiny and even more creamy and, above all, greedy, add 5 grams of butter when it is ready. You can also use it to flavor it with coconut butter or almonds if you want to give an exquisite aroma to your cream.
Ingredients and doses for making custard
For 8 people or to fill a shortcrust pastry tart with a diameter of 22 cm
- 1 liter of milk
- 250 grams of sugar
- 8 yolks
- 120 grams of flour, replace with cornstarch if you want to make gluten-free custard
- 1 vanilla pod
- 1 organic lemon peel, untreated
How to make custard
Take a knife and cut the vanilla pod, cutting it all lengthwise. Open slightly so that the pasta and seeds come out during cooking. If you don’t have a pod, you can also use vanilla powder, but it’s always a makeshift solution. Peel the lemon with a small knife or potato peeler without cutting the albedo, the white part, which is bitter like hemlock. Put the pod and lemon peel in a saucepan, add the milk and bring to a boil over medium heat. If you want to flavor your cream with various ingredients, this is the time to use them. Put them to boil with milk. Add almond milk, coconut milk, orange peel, lime, bergamot.
Meanwhile, break the eggs and put only the yolks in a bowl or the mixer. Add the sugar and whip them at medium speed for 5 minutes. Sift the flour, pour it into the bowl a little at a time, and continue stirring. When the milk has boiled for 5 minutes, turn it off and wait a couple of minutes. Transfer the cream to a saucepan, pour in the milk a little at a time and mix.
When the cream is well blended, put it on the stove and cook until it thickens. Usually, the cooking time of the custard is 5 minutes, but if you want to be sure to cook the cream perfectly and pasteurize the eggs, you have to reach a temperature of 75 degrees, so equip yourself with an instant thermometer and check.
After 5 minutes or after reaching 75 degrees, turn off the stove. Remove the pod and the lemon peel, which should not be thrown away if you want to make the cream with a more intense lemon flavor. Filter the cream with a colander to eliminate any possible particles and put it in a bowl. Change the container or pour it into a cooled bowl and then put it in the freezer for a few minutes so that it does not become too thick, remember that it is a cream, not a pudding! If you want to make the custard richer, shiny and creamy, add 5 grams of butter, stir for another 2 minutes, then cover with compostable film and let it cool. But we’re not done yet, because the mistake you could make now is not to stir the custard every 20-30 minutes until it has completely cooled down. Three times are enough.
It seems like a trivial operation, but it is essential to prevent the annoying little skin above from forming. If you want, you can sprinkle with granulated sugar: in this way, the sugar will absorb the moisture, but you will add more sugar. Put the cream in the refrigerator and use it within 2 days. As you have seen, the custard recipe is fundamental. Just keep stirring, which is why many use babies. But this does not mean that it is a foregone preparation. Precise steps and respect for the doses are required.
And now we come to a more healthy speech if we want. The custard becomes tastier as you add the egg yolks, and it is no coincidence that the best custard in Italy is undoubtedly that of the Granarolo pastry chef Gino Fabbri. It is a real flavor bomb. It envelops you like a warm and persuasive embrace, but consider that to make the same amount of custard Gino Fabbri takes 18 egg yolks and 450 grams of sugar. His is genuinely galactic, and if you have never eaten a brioche with cream from the Caramella pastry, you have missed a masterpiece. Still, it is true that for home preparations based on custard, the doses of egg yolks and sugar should be reduced, especially if you have to give them to your children. Now that we have digested the basic recipe, let’s see some variations on the fly.
The easiest is one of the most popular, especially if you like traditional Zuppa Inglese. The recipe is simple. It doesn’t change anything. You have to add 60 grams of unsweetened cocoa to the flour and mix it before pouring it into the egg and sugar mixture.
Also, in this case, it is only a simple change, but not insignificant, given that even gluten intolerant and celiacs will be able to eat it without problems. Use corn starch or rice flour instead of the classic gluten flour.
Very similar recipe. To make this custard let’s go back for a moment. After boiling the milk with the vanilla pod and lemon peel, take the lemon peel, blend it and add it to the cream while it cooks. When the cream is cooked, add the filtered juice of half a lemon, stir, and cool.
Which wine to pair with custard?
This delicious preparation is very sweet, intense and rich, due to the presence of many eggs, do not hesitate and combine fortified and distilled wines such as Sweet vermouth, Port wine, Marsala, Madeira wine, Sherry, Brandy, Cognac, and Calvados to cut a lot of sumptuousness with alcohol, tannins and just as much richness.