Tuesday, March 10, 2009

{TWD} Bay Custard Cups (Duck Egg)

This week's recipe was a lot of fun for me to play with. I got to: (a) be inspired by another recipe, (b) use a new ingredient, and (c) do lots of math!!

(a) Another recipe for inspiration:
I'd been planning to make Dan Lepard's Bay Custard Tarts for my book group. I measured all of the dry ingredients and was all ready to bake them up on the day of our meeting. But on Book Group Morning I learned that Dorie's French Yogurt Cake had been chosen as one of the March TWD recipes, and I immediately baked that instead (will be posted next week). I was on a mission to bake all of the March recipes in the few days before Lent began so that I could sample them, so the TWD recipes took baking priority.

A couple of days later the rest of the March recipes were announced and one was for a Lemon Cup Custard. Seeing as I had just made the lemon yogurt cake 2 days earlier I wasn't really in the mood for more lemon so I decided to take Dorie's permission and play around with the flavors. I cooked Dorie's custards with the bay flavor of Dan's recipe.
(b) A new ingredient:
I was lucky enough to get 1/2 dozen duck eggs through my farm box folks. They are not always offered and they sell out quickly, so I was pretty excited to experiment with this new-to-me ingredient. When I opened the carton I saw that the eggs were of wildly varying sizes. I used the two biggest ones for scrambled eggs (yummy, btw!). The two smallest eggs weighed in at 65 grams each - just a bit bigger than my 61 gram large chicken eggs. I used these small ones to make 1/2 recipe of custard (plus a little bit).
(c) An opportunity for quick math:
Although I was pretty sure I could just substitute the larger duck eggs for the chicken eggs, I thought I'd try an easy scaling of the recipe. There are only 3 ingredients, so it was pretty simple with the digital scale: I first measured the sugar and the milk, then for every 60 grams of weight, I increased the ingredient by 4 grams. There, that wasn't so painful, right?

n.o.e.'s notes:

- I didn't have whole milk, so I used approximately 3/4 of 2% milk and 1/4 half-and-half.

- Once the milk was hot, I steeped three dried bay leaves and a corner of a fresh one. I couldn't really tell whether Dan's recipe contemplated fresh or dried, so I went with dried since they were supposed to be "crumbled."

- My small glass custard cups were 1/2 cup each, which was perfect for 4 custards with the half recipe. (Dorie's recipe calls for 3/4 cup ramekins)

- The duck eggs had really large yolks. I figured this would be a good thing, since Dan's bay custard recipe was a yolk-only custard.

- I managed to temper the eggs without curdling them (a minor victory when considering my luck with a few previous TWD recipes).

- I grated fresh nutmeg over the tops and floated a fresh bay leaf on the surface.

- The water bath went off without a hitch. Unlike last time.

- I baked these at 315 degrees, which is lower than the recipe specifies. I did expect my smaller ramekins to cook a bit faster, but I was pretty surprised when I happened to check after 15 minutes and they were done! In fact, past done - they were firm and not jiggly at all. I grabbed them out of the oven, and then promptly forgot to take them out of the water bath, so they stayed there for a while, cooking even longer.

the verdict:

Luckily - miraculously? - the custards were not overcooked, or at least they were not rubbery. Or eggy. The custard had a rich silky texture - almost pudding-like. There was no danger of it falling off the spoon (as Dorie warns); it clung to the spoon lovingly. Some of that texture was no doubt from the duck eggs, with their extra rich flavor and large yolks. And I don't really know if my 2%/half+half mixture had more butterfat than whole milk or not. That was one equation I decided not to calculate.

The bay/nutmeg flavor was unusual and good. My husband liked these even more than I did; he thought the bay leaves gave the custards a "clean" taste. I could have used just a smidge less bay - maybe if I'd not put the fresh bay leaf on the top while it baked. But all in all, this is a nice dessert with a sophisticated flavor. I do want to try Dan Lepard's recipe to see what his tarts would taste like (I still have the dry ingredients all measured out). And I'd like to experiment with some of the custard flavor combinations that Dorie lists in the recipe, such as the lemon-clove or the orange-star anise.

This lovely recipe was chosen by Bridget of The Way the Cookie Crumbles. Judging from the P&Q post, the TWD bakers have had mixed success with this one. You can check out their experiences by visiting the TWD blogroll and clicking on each baker's blog. If you'd like to make this custard for yourself, you can find the recipe on page 387 of Dorie Greenspan's book Baking From My Home to Yours, or on Bridget's post.

47 comments:

Jules Someone said...

Wow! That's quite a success story! I've never worked with duck eggs. Very cool.

Steph said...

I'm glad you enjoyed them! I think I wouldn't mind the egginess that people were complaining about.. i guess I should make the recipe to find out first! I've just been swamped with school stuff lately. I liked your changes, especially with the duck eggs, how cool!

Megan said...

Duck eggs? Well, I guess it's not so different than chicken eggs.

Otherwise, a very interesting variation -

pinkstripes said...

Your custards look gorgeous. The bay leaf/nutmeg flavor combo sounds interesting. And duck eggs? I'm a little bit scared.

Cathy said...

Wow, Caroline would definitely give a loud quack out for your custards! The cool flavor choices, the duck eggs -- it all sounds fabulous! Mine were overcooked, rubbery, eggy and ugly. Other than that, they were perfect. I will come back to read your post to pick up some pointers before attempting custard again!

Karen said...

That is quite a difference! I am glad they turned out so good!

Elyse said...

These look lovely! And what great experimentation!! Guess duck eggs are the way to go. So glad these turned out wonderfully.

Natashya said...

Wow, you were feeling really creative this week! They look great!

Audrey said...

Yes, pretty AND sophisticated! And how interesting to try duck eggs! I'm glad you were able to find some. I've seen lots and lots of recipes combining lemon and thyme (my favorite herb), and I might try that in the yogurt cake. Hope you're having a good month.
Audrey

Marthe said...

Glad you liked it and it wasn't too eggy. Bay leaf sounds interesting, I would never have thought of using that in a dessert!

Di said...

I love nutmeg. I bet it was great in this recipe. I never would have thought about the bay leaf, though. And I've never had a duck egg. It looks like they worked quite well!

Jessica said...

I love the fresh bay leaf on top and I'm just bowled over by your creativity on this one.

dharmagirl said...

I love your scientific process here with the digital scale and all the math--wonderful!

Your custards look elegant, and just slightly slanted enough, flavor-wise, to be really interesting.

I used chai spices...

natalia said...

Ciao ! I wish I had tried your variation !! It sounds so delicious !

myfamousrecipe said...

I want to join your book group. You always seem to bring the most delicious treats!

I love that you invited humble, subtle bay leaf into this recipe. It's often overlooked, but so versatile. I occasionally drop 2-3 bay leaves in the bechamel sauce for macaroni and cheese, and it's heavenly.

Maria said...

Duck eggs, very interesting. Looks like they turned out great! Nice job!

rainbowbrown said...

Holy cow. That's too cool. And, oh, how I relish in the idea of having duck eggs...hmmm.

MacDuff said...

These look so lovely! And the recipe sounds perfect - nice and savory with a touch of sweetness. I'm going to have to bookmark this one...thank you!

Andrea said...

Beautiful custard cups! I'm so glad you enjoyed this one. The flavor combination of bay leaf and nutmeg is really intriguing, I will have to figure out something to try that in :)

spike. said...

I love your variations! And very impressed you made the recipes before the start of Lent

kim said...

wow, i never would have thought of using bay to flavor this! neat idea, and the duck eggs sound great!

bakingwiththeboys said...

Duck eggs? Bay leaf? You are too sohpisticated for me. I plopped in some smuckers caramel topping and called it a day.

Amanda said...

Very interesting twist on things. I used lemons from my tree in the backyard here in Italy. They are very flavorfull, but I still found it a bit bland, although I liked it.

Fit Chick said...

So glad you played around and had success!!! Yours sound so good, the lemon custard I made was not very good.

chocolatechic said...

Duck eggs...how cool.

Your custard looks great.

Peggy said...

I can't even imagine these with bay leaves Nancy, but I trust you and I bet they were fabulous! Maybe one day I'll try these, but not this week.

Peggy said...

Oh, and DUCK eggs. Wow. I'm so impressed with you!!

Kayte said...

You do the most interesting substitutions! Duck eggs and bay leaves...who knew? Very nice photos also!

Melissa said...

Very creative. I'm intrigued by the duck eggs - I've never had them. Great job!

slush said...

They look great and Im even more thrilled that you liked them as well. Very creative, well done. :)

karen said...

so cool what you've done here.

Katrina said...

Awesome work. The bay sounds interesting. Glad it was so well liked at your house.

Joy said...

Your custards are beautiful!

The duck eggs reminded me of a thread on eGullet (http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=108111 for after lent :) ) where duck eggs were preferred in a flan and a custard over chicken or guinea fowl eggs. Maybe more than you want to know, but I was excited to see your experiences were the same. I'm going to have to hunt out some duck eggs!

AmyRuth said...

Gracious, you really did get to use your precision math skills. Duck eggs? Who knew? I'm not sure I've had them before so that is fascinating. I'm glad they were pleasing to you both. I think the bay leaf on top is pretty. I liked this recipe and enjoyed its super simplicity.
AmyRuth

Carol Peterman said...

What exciting variations! They look beautiful. The fresh bay leaves could have been what put the flavor over the top because they look like California bay leaves, which are ridiculously potent compared to Turkish bay leaves. Your dried bay leaves look like Turkish leaves and I think they would be great in this custard. It's really hard to find fresh Turkish bay leaves. I just tried flavoring mandarinquat marmalade with bay leaf and ultimately decided cardamom works better with mandarinquats.

Teanna said...

YAY!!!!! I love that! Duck eggs! Nutmeg and bay leaves! That sounds fantastic and it was quite a success! I actually feel inspired after your post!

Jayne said...

Wow! Now I want to try out the recipe with bay leaves - sounds really interesting.

Leslie said...

Neat! This sounds like an interesting flavor profile. Good for you for making the recipe morph into the other one you had planned to prepare. I have three bay trees in my yard and I have to admit I never think to cook (or especially bake) with them.

Pamela said...

Well, that's Ducky! ( I didn't check your comments, but I'm sure I wasn't the first to say that!) Interesting variation on the custard, Nancy! Looks great. I chickened out and skipped the recipe. I made lemon cakes instead, though. See you next week!

Pam said...

The custards look lovely, the bay leaf sounds so elegant.

Madam Chow said...

Very interesting flavor combo, and then you used duck eggs! And it tasted great - don't you love when that happens? I really, really enjoyed this dessert.

Matt's Kitchen said...

Quack, quack! I wish I had access to duck eggs, although to be honest I would never have been as adventurous as you. Savory custards are delicious and your creation is really interesting. I'm curious as to what you served with it. A roasted meat would be especially good!

n.o.e said...

Matt, these weren't actually savory (although I'd like to try a savory custard or quiche with the duck eggs). They were a sweet and we enjoyed them for dessert!
Nancy

farah said...

These look delicious and they also look very professional, like something i would order at a restaurant. I'm glad you liked them, i did too :)

Gabe's Girl said...

Wow, brilliance, again! I love the duck egg touch.

Matt's Kitchen said...

Nancy,
Oops! I thought the use of bay made them savory. I didn't realize you made them for dessert! I've always wanted to try a savory custard. I have a recipe somewhere for garlic custards that are meant to be served alongside a meat dish. It's one of the many recipes I've been meaning to try.

Engineer Baker said...

Wow, that looks absolutely fantastic! As a spreadsheet baker, I completely approve of the scaling for the duck eggs :)