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?
- 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.
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.