Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Carpe Custard - Seize the Custard

My inability to make custard (see my semi-failed attempt at banana custard) is going to be a problem. You see, there are at least 12 recipes for custard in How to Eat, including Real, Quick Foolproof, Sauternes, Rhubarb, Marsala Muscovado… which all sound divine, if it weren’t for my complete custard-making-ineptitude. And these don’t even begin to include all the pudding recipes for which a custard would be the perfect accompaniment, quickly and effortlessly whipped-up by a beaming domestic goddess.

My previous experiences with custard have been either scrambled eggs, or lumpy and thin soup. My custards, which I stir constantly and obsessively, on the lowest of heats, go from “runny liquid” to “almost curdle”, totally bypassing the delectable “voluptuous gloop” stage of proper custard.

Making custard should be a simple thing! I can bake cakes, I can fry steaks, I can make meringue, I can make risotto, I can even make pastry! PASTRY, dammit! I’m a professional, I get paid to prepare food. So why can’t I make bloody custard? I’ve been told that it’s due to various factors – too many egg-yolks make for an unstable mixture, if the heat is too hot it will curdle, thin liquid (e.g. milk instead of cream) means the mixture won’t thicken as quickly, flour or cocoa in the mixture stabilises it (which explains my unprecedented successes with chocolate custards…), and so on.

I have to face my fears and jump over this hurdle ASAP, for the sake of this project. You see, it’s not only the custard recipes that are at stake, but all the recipes with custard as an accompaniment, and all of the menus which have a custard component. For example, I have my eye on the Fish and Porcini Pie from Weekend Lunch. Looks simple enough, and the ingredients aren’t too exotic, even by Australian standards. The only problem is that the suggested dessert is ice-cream (recipe provided in Basics etc. chapter), cherries, flaked almonds and chocolate sauce. But what is home-made ice-cream? It’s nothing more than the frozen form of the dreaded custard. So this whole fish pie idea is screwed if I can’t get a custard right.

I’ve seen Delia make custard on her How to Cook programme. Didn’t look too difficult, and if it’s been made on How to Cook, it’s definitely within my reach. Don’t fret, I’m not a Delia fan, and despite this custard situation, I’m not a complete moron, so I don’t need her How to Cook books to teach me how to cook. To turn to Delia’s How to Cook for help at this stage would be an admission of failure – my failure, as a cook, as a provider, as a woman, as a human being. But this still doesn’t solve the custard problem…

Oh fuck it. I have 500ml single cream sitting in the fridge, and I don’t want it to go to waste. Carpe diem. Or carpe custard. I’m making the ice-cream this week!

Deep breaths, deep breaths… Watch this space…

4 comments:

Meg said...

Good luck Sarah! Custard is the one thing that bugs me too - it either doesn't thicken or it curdles but I keep on trying!

Maria said...

Practice makes perfect...!
Isn't it annoying when people tell you that, LOL! But still it is so true...
I know that after your HTE project you'll be the Queen of Custards, believe me!

:-)

Kelly-Jane said...

Ice cream is a good place to start with custard, if it starts to scramble plonk the bottom of the pan into cold water and sieve the mixture before freezing. Say 'I can do this!!'

Think positive. I whipped cream for 10 years before reading that I could over whip it, yikes I thought and have over whipped it twice since the worry about doing it appeared!

megan5286 said...

Please keep posting pictures - I keep printing them off, because I am one of those goofy people that only seem to get inspired to try recipes if there is a pretty picture! It's probably arrested development.