400ml milk (or 250ml milk with 150ml single cream)
2 large eggs
20g caster sugar
1 level tsp vanilla bean paste (or few drops vanilla extract)
Prep to Cook: Measuring jug, mixing bowl, whisk, teaspoon, tablespoon, four ovenproof dishes, large roasting tray to act as a waterbath.
Prep: Grease the ovenproof bowls with a buttered piece of kitchen paper.
Turn oven on 170C Gas Mark 3
Prep the egg blend:
Crack the egg into the mixing bowl
Add the vanilla bean paste and tablespoon of sugar
Prep the milk:
Heat the milk (or milk and cream mix) in the microwave for 1 minute
Pour onto the egg mixture and mix thoroughly
Hold the sieve over the ovenproof cooking and serving dishes
Pour in the egg mixture dividing it between the four bowls
Place the bowls in the roasting tray
Use the fresh nutmeg and grate it over the custard in a thin layer
Put the roasting tray in the oven
Fill the roasting tray with water
Leave to cook for around 25 to 35 mins
Check the mixture is set but wobbly
Remove the dishes from the waterbath and allow to cool
Chill in the refrigerator until really cold
A simple baked egg custard uses very few ingredients but it forms a classic base for light desserts. You can always make them richer and more complicated but sometimes it is the simplicity that makes it special
Using different milk affects the outcome. If you use skimmed milk the custard will be low in fat and taste of vanilla. If you use full fat milk the end result will have a creamier taste and richer mouthfeel.
Cooks Know How: You will notice you need very few ingredients for this baked custard. I make no apologies for including this very simple version because it is the basis of more complex dishes. You will use the egg to set the milk thus making milk a dessert rather than a drink. The vanilla bean paste will provide the vanilla flavour and is cheaper than using a vanilla pod and again for a weekday pudding I consider that the vanilla bean paste is adequate but if I was making this for entertaining I would splurge on a real vanilla pod. The tiny pinch of salt takes away the ‘milky’ flavour and slackens off the egg to allow it to mix in thoroughly. Once you have pre-heated the milk to blood heat in the microwave you help the setting process to start. The waterbath slows the oven temperature and stops it cooking the custard too fast. Keeping the temperature of the oven low is essential to allow the egg proteins to set gently giving a smooth end result. Some people think they can cook it quicker and hotter but it is too easy to get tell tale ‘over-set’ bubbles of watery fluid within the custard. Be sure your haste will find you out!! Cook it very slowly and take it out once the ‘set’ is evident but the custard remains wobbly. As it cools and you chill it the wobble will firm up. At this stage you can decide to leave the custard as it is or top it off with thinly sliced fresh strawberries with a light sifting of icing sugar. Alternately you can go for a ‘brulee’ coating by sprinkling the custard with caster sugar and popping it under a hot grill to turn the sugar golden. Once again you need to leave it to set to a crackle layer.
You can try flavouring the milk with either a teaspoon of coffee or cocoa powder dissolved in a little of the milk or dissolve 1 teaspoon of nutella into the milk. This idea will make you think of other ways to top the desserts perhaps by using crushed nuts, sieved jams such as apricot or reducing raspberries to a puree with some icing sugar and sieving them over the custard. Half the battle is to find some attractive ovenproof dishes so that your custard is made in the serving dish and you can design new layers to serve over the custard for a one-pot dessert.