Crazy for Custard

A spoonful of maple custard will make any day better.

I know some people who turn up their nose at custard, thinking it suitable only for teething kids or seniors with denture issues.

They must be mad.

I don’t know about you, but a creamy, silky, custard is what I call one of life’s little pleasures. The moment your spoon breaks the top and scoops up some of that smooth, eggy goodness, you know you’re in for a happy mouthful.

The other good thing about custards is that they make for a fine way to use up extra egg yolks left over from baking an egg white-laden angel food cake.

In fact, that’s what prompted me to make these lovely “Maple Custards” from the classic cookbook, “Chez Panisse Desserts” (Random House). It’s by Lindsey Remolif Shere, who was the opening pastry chef at Berkeley’s Chez Panisse, before she left to open the absolutely wonderful Downtown Bakery and Creamery in Healdsburg in 1987. If you’re ever in the area, you must visit it.

The base for these custards is simply egg yolks, cream and maple syrup. It’s poured into ramekins or custard cups that get baked gently in the oven in a water bath. You can enjoy them warm or chilled.

This isn’t a thick, dense custard like you would find in a pie.  Rather, the texture is more along the lines of creme brulee — a little more delicate, but with the rich, sweet, almost smoky taste of maple syrup.  Indeed, if you so desired, you could sprinkle a little sugar over the top of each, then torch them to create a classic, glassy brulee top to shatter with your spoon. Or if you’re a maple fiend like I am, just drizzle a few drops of additional maple syrup over the top before digging in.

Mmm, custard.

Maple Custard

(Makes 6 half-cup custards)

2 cups cream

1/2 cup maple syrup

6 egg yolks

Warm the cream. Stir the syrup into the egg yolks. Mix in a little of the warm cream, then mix in the rest of the cream, stirring constantly. Strain into a pitcher and pour into custard cups or pots de creme. Bake in a hot water bath in a preheated 325-degree oven, lightly covered with foil — just lay a sheet of foil on top. Bake for about 40 minutes or until custards are set in a ring about 1/2-inch wide around the outside edge. They should still be soft in the center.

Serve, warm or chilled.

From “Chez Panisse Desserts” by Lindsey Remolif Shere

What to Do With Those Egg Whites: Emily Luchetti’s Coffee-Orange Angel Food Cake

Another Chez Panisse-Related Recipe: Green Bean Salad with Pickled Shallots

And One From a Chez Panisse Alum: Bakesale Betty’s Banana Bread with Cinnamon Crumble Topping

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  • I’m with you on custard — for me, it’s one of those desserts that I need to sit down and relax while eating it. Love the maple in this recipe!

  • Definitely not turning my nose up for this one, especially when it is soft and delicate like creme brulee! 🙂

  • I love custard!! It is definitely one of my many comfort foods. Thanks for posting up this custard recipe 🙂

  • Oh, I love everything custard! Custard pies, creme brulee, custard tarts, custard filled baked goods. I could go on and on.

  • Creamy and silky custard are to die for! Strangely, as a child, I was not a big fan of them, but things have changed now that I am an adult! ;-P

    Those maple custards must be so enjoyable. What a divine combination.



  • yummy! i love custard!

  • oh wow, I’ve never even thought to make custard- this looks great!

    By the way, I loved your comparison of running to giving birth- I guess we all have a selective memory when we need to! 🙂

  • That custard looks so perfectly silky, sounds amazing with maple flavor!

  • I’m with you! I love custard and these look positively silky smooth and inviting. Never thought of maple custard but sounds like a great idea, love that the recipe requires so few ingredients too 😀

  • I love custard and I love maple, so that’s a perfect dessert!

  • Your description of the custard and maple syrup is so enticing! I can’t believe I’ve never heard of the combination, because now that I think about it, they would REALLY go well together. Great photography as well.

  • Why I never turn my nose up at custard! In fact it’s so necessary a dessert companion I love it to bits 🙂 This looks beautiful and I like that its sweetened and flavoured with maple syrup…so homey, comforting and simple!

  • turn their nose at custard? for shame!
    have you ever had frozen custard?
    hard to find. i wonder if there is any in cali; as i know its a new york thing? or south thing?

  • VanillaSugarBlog: Actually, frozen custard is a Midwest thang. And I have had the pleasure of enjoying it. Super rich with lots of egg yolks, it’s no wonder we all go crazy for it from the first spoonful.

  • Is custard like a flan? I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t know the difference and I’m not sure if I had custard. I’ve had plenty of flan, though.
    And happy birthday! Are you going to write about your birthday breakfast, lunch and dinner?

  • Mai: A flan and a custard are very similar. Both are baked, but the flan has a caramel layer on the bottom. So, when you unmold it by inverting it, you get this glorious burnt, runny caramel dripping down over it.

  • custard’s okay, but maple custard would be terrific. FROZEN maple custard would light up my life. 🙂

  • I am completely with you when it comes to custard dishes. I know most people think they are the easy way out on dessert menus, it’s usually what I order over the chocolate based desserts!

  • The perfect ending to a meal.

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