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Crazy for Custard

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.

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