custard and i have an interesting relationship. i have changed my philosophy several times as i’ve worked towards a good custard recipe. for instance i was initially against thickening additives on the basis that eggs, sugar and cream were the purest form. a few failed attempts at sufficiently thickened custard provided the required attitude adjustment.
i have attempted to apply a the traditional creme anglaise process to various fillings from pastry cream for eclairs to french buttercream to bog standard dessert custard for malva pudding.
as usual i don’t like having spare egg whites lying around but bear helps me deal with those by way of scrambled eggs the next morning.
so the basis is simple. fresh egg yolks, castor sugar and milk or cream. vanilla to flavour and cornstarch or flour for additional thickening…usually only applicable to tart fillings or eclairs.
for the tart filling i wanted to make a chocolate cream. i had originally wanted to use a simple ganache but the added element of a whiskey caramel made me think that a ganache caramel combo would be too intense. i decided that a lighter chocolate element would be better so i decided on custard based cream. my recipe was like so…
2 egg yolks
4 tablespoons of castor sugar (you can use 3 if you are using a lighter chocolate)
100g 80% chocolate chopped (next time i’ll go lighter, this one packs a punch)
1 tablespoon maizena
1 teaspoon vanilla essence or half a vanilla pod of you wanna get fancy
generous tablespoon of butter
mix the egg yolk and castor sugar with a whisk until the mixture is pail yellow.
you will see from the images above the distinct change in colour from when you start to whisk and when the mixture has turned pale. another test is the ribbon test. if you lift the whisk the mixture falls like a ribbon resting lightly on the surface of the mixture before sinking.
once i had this prepped i got started heating the milk and cream. because i need quite a thick custard i used relatively little milk/cream. i placed both ingredients in a small saucepan with the vanilla essence and heated the mixture up until there was steam. while i waiting for the steam i whisked the tablespoon of maizena (cornstarch) into the egg/sugar mixture. when the milk mixture was hot enough i poured some of it into the egg mixture and whisked before returning the whole lot back to the saucepan.
so in this particular attempt i added more than one tablespoon to the egg mixture and the result was instant thickening of the custard. as i mentioned in “baking tart” i was concerned that the custard hadn’t cooked sufficiently to render the egg yolks safe.
subsequent research has indicated that a custard is sufficiently cooked when the mixture comes to around 71 to 80 deg celsius.
i wasn’t sure what temperature it had gotten to so i added the chocolate and decided to bake the filling to be safe.
chopping the chocolate really makes a difference. the chocolate melts much more easily and you don’t end up with a case of some of the chocolate overheating (and potentially splitting) while the rest of it is still solid. i have learnt this lesson the hard way.
at this stage i tasted some of the custard and realised that it had a slightly powdery mouth feel. i attested this to the 80% chocolate. fortunately i remembered that i’d seen a recipe that added butter to chocolate cream. so i did. i realised then that not only does butter add a wonderful silky shine, its also rounds out the mouthfeel of the custard, making it more decadent. i love butter.
i stirred the custard till it had come to roughly room temperature (larousse recommends this) before setting it aside and getting started on rolling out the pastry. as i mentioned in my previous post i ended up baking the custard for about 11 minutes in total. it developed a skin but was still shiny and soft and light on the inside with enough thickening to be cut without losing shape. thats how you know you’re winning.
so one more instalment to discuss the sneaky whiskey caramel that i hid under the chocolate cream.
tune in to the next post to see the final product, when pastry, cream and caramel come together to create a mouth-watering, knee-weakening, chocolate punch to the face…but like in a totally delightful way.
lessons learnt: get your custard to at least 71 deg celsius.