When most people think of baked goods, they think of something with a lot of sugar and flour, things that are very bread-y or not necessarily health foods. A dish that doesn't often come to mind is custard. Smooth and creamy, with enough sweetener to be a dessert, yet hearty enough as a meal, we think custard is under-rated. It's even naturally gluten-free and low-sugar! With less sugar than a bowl of cereal, and way more protein than a cup of coffee, custard makes a great snack, on-the-go breakfast, or after dinner treat. And it's so easy to make! It has 5 ingredients! This recipe will yield about a dozen single-serving custards.
Step 1: Ingredients and Kitchen Items:
4 cups milk (whole milk is best)
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon salt
a heaping 1 cup of mini marshmallows
a dozen-ish small oven-proof bowls; mini or 1/2 pint mason jars work very well too. (Glass or ceramic works best; anything metal will heat up too quickly and will boil the custard, resulting in curdled eggs)
a deep pan or dish that can hold all of the above mentioned bowls (like a lasagna or steam table pan)
Step 2: Preheat Oven
Preheat oven to 350°. Arrange oven rack to middle.
Step 3: Scald Milk
Pour milk into a medium saucepan. Heat milk to 180°.
Low heat is best for this step because at higher heat, the milk will cook, driving the molcules of fat apart, and chunks will form. At the right level of heat, this will take 10-15 minutes.
Why heat the milk? Adding heated milk to the eggs, which is next, allows the egg proteins to uncoil and will result in a smoother custard.
Step 4: Whisk Eggs, Syrup, Salt
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, salt, and syrup.
*Tip: After making this recipe often, I became frustrated with the amount of left-behind, oh-so-precious maple syrup clinging to the measuring cup. If you first 'grease' the cup with a teaspoon of butter, the syrup won't stick to the sides. Make sure to grease the spout as well!
Step 5: Add Milk to Eggs
Once the milk has reached 180°, remove from heat and gradually pour the milk into the egg mixture and whisk until blended.
Step 6: Set Out Bowls; Fill
In the lasagna-type dish, set the bowls/cups/jars, and fill with equal amounts of the custard mix. A ladle is helpful for this step, but a measuring cup with a spout would work here too. Once they're filled, add the mini marshmallows- 6-12 marshmallows per custard is about right.
Step 7: Put the Tray Halfway In!
Now, pull the oven rack out halfway, set the tray of un-baked custard onto it, and fill the tray with warm water. You'll want the small dishes to be sitting in a third to a half of their height in water. Setting the tray into the oven before you add water, saves you the trouble of carrying a tray full of liquid, also full of more containers full of liquid to the oven, while hoping to come out alive.
The water bath is very important for the custards to come out with a smooth texture!!! The water distributes heat evenly around the custards, ensuring that the custard's consistency is uniform.
Step 8: Wait for It...
Now, close the oven door and set the timer for a half hour. Depeding on your oven, it could take between 30-50 minutes to cook. The marshmallows are very helpful in determinig whether the custards are finished or not. You'll be looking for the marshmallows to be a nice golden hue. Also, if you gently shake the pan, the custards shouldn't jiggle very much. Once out of the oven, remove the cups from the water immediately to cease cooking action and to avoid unwanted pockets of air and water within your custard. When cooled, screw on lids, or cover with plastic wrap. Refridgerate and enjoy! We also think they're scrumptious while still warm and still beats scrambled eggs any day! :) These will keep well in the fridge for 2-3 weeks. Enjoy!
Step 9: Spice It Up a Little... Variations!
Once you've got the hang of making custard, there are lots of fun ways to change it up a bit:
Try fruit marshmallows
Swap out the maple syrup fro flavored coffee syrups
Spice it with cinnamon and nutmeg
Crush a gingersnap cookie; sprinkle into each cup of unbaked custard- it will sing to bottom, creating a cookie-bottom crust. The same can be done will vanilla wafers.