PRINCIPLES OF CUSTARD MAKING
Many of the desserts that are served cold come under the head of¬†custards. These are dishes high in protein and consist of two varieties: those thickened entirely by eggs and known as true 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 invalids than any other single dessert.
- For instance, when it is necessary that eggs and milk be taken in the diet, they usually become monotonous after a time, but a little variety may be added to the diet by serving them in the form of custard. While this is an expensive dessert when eggs are high in price, its value is such that it should be prepared frequently for children in spite of its cost.
- Although custards 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. Then, too, plain custard is 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.
- 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; nevertheless, they are delicious desserts and find much favor.
- For its thickness, or solidity, a 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 plain custard is 1 egg to 1 cupful 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.
- 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 cookery adopted.
- Practically no 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 of this kind is quickly made and finds favor with most persons.
- It 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 to insert the blade of a silver knife 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. Before the knife blade is inserted, however, the skin that covers the custard must be broken; if this is not done, the skin is sure to cling to the knife.
- 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.
BAKED CUSTARD RECIPE
- 2 eggs
- 2 Tb. sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 2 c. milk
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla
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