Ever wanted to make ace desserts, sweets, and baked goods but intimidated by the process? Welcome to Pastry School, a course from James Beard Award-nominated pastry chef Dana Cree. This week, Pastry School dives into the fine art of custards. We’d suggest you first read her introduction to custards and creme brulee here, then her step-by-step guide to creme Anglaise, then her primer on flan, before tackling today’s grand finale.
If given a specific ratio of cream, milk, eggs, and sugar, a stirred custard can become the base for one of the richest ice creams around. Any home ice cream maker will churn this stirred custard into rich frozen custard in the course of an afternoon, the perfect foil for all of summer’s desserts.
- 400 g whole milk
- 300 g heavy cream
- 120 g sugar
- 1 vanilla bean
- 100 g egg yolks
- Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl 2/3 of the way with very icy ice water, and place it in the refrigerator to keep it cold. Place a fine mesh strainer and a medium-sized bowl on the counter.
- Place the egg yolks in a medium bowl and whisk them together until even. Wet a kitchen towel lightly, and roll it up as if you were going to snap someone in the locker room. Wrap this twisted towel into a ring big enough to hold the bowl with the egg yolks. Leave this secured bowl on the counter near the stove.
- Place the milk, cream, and sugar in a pot. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise with a knife, then use the tip of the knife to scrape the tiny vanilla seeds from the pod, adding both pod and seeds to the pot with the dairy. Bring the vanilla cream to a full rolling boil, stirring occasionally to avoid scorching.
- Remove the pot from heat, and with a whisk in one hand and the pot in another, carefully add about 1/2 a cup of the hot cream to the egg yolks, while whisking. The wet towel ring should keep the bowl in place while your hands are multitasking.
- When the eggs have been evenly mixed with the addition of hot cream, whisk them back into the pot of hot cream. The residual heat from the recent boil should be enough to denature the proteins and thicken your custard—You should see the texture change within 10 to 15 seconds from a thin cream to a thick sauce. If this does indeed transpire, congratulations, you’ve made a velvety smooth stirred custard. Immediately strain the custard into the prepared bowl and place the hot bowl in the ice bath. Stir the custard in the ice bath until it’s cooled below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Once cooled, place your custard in the refrigerator overnight to cure. This will make for the best tasting frozen custard around, allowing flavors to mingle and the texture to settle into itself. If you don’t want to wait, go ahead and churn your frozen custard immediately.
- Churn in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturers instructions. Once finished, you can enjoy your rich frozen custard immediately, while still soft. Or you can pack it into a storage container and tuck it away in your freezer for later. If you do so, press plastic wrap or a piece of parchment paper directly on the surface of the frozen custard, this will keep any ice crystals from forming on the surface. Your frozen custard will be best within the first day it’s made, but will last in your freezer for up to two weeks.