Saturday, September 17, 2011

Cooking with K: Baked Custard

The very serious grating of the nutmeg.

It is probably not surprising that K has a list of recipes that she wants to try. She spent most of kindergarten carrying around a copy of Charlie Trotter's Desserts.  Her backpack resembled more the overly full ones of middle schoolers rather than the empty but for a lunch and folder ones of the five-year-olds. She later moved on to carrying  a very battered copy of  Cookie Swap, a Whoopie Pie book, and several different David Lebovitz books, among others. One of her favorite games was to sit in bed, read a recipe, and then pretend to make it, imaginary stirring and all. 

It turns out that the recipes on her list include: jello (not the homemade with raspberries kind I made), lemon meringue pie, Neapolitan ice cream and "that custard Grammy used to make when you were sick." K likes to hear "stories of my childhood" and often asks for ones with food. She has heard many times that my mother used to make me baked custard when I was sick.This was always an event because my mother did not believe in sick days unless you were really ill. No minor stomach aches or not enough sleep, only a full on flu or fever would do. There were several years I had no sick days. Probably because of this rarity, the custard is still the first thing I think of when someone uses the phrase comfort food.

We were also very much a no-sugar-allowed household, which made the custard even more special All bread, except for bagels, was wheat. Kool-aid and soda were forbidden, and some days, the morning bowl of cereal included the dreaded wheat germ. How I longed for the Oreos and sugared cereals found at our neighbor Sean's house. There is a story that I like to tell to make K laugh. At age six I was at a gathering of the Lithuanian side of my mother's family. These gatherings were great treats for us, because there was always powdered sugar covered fried cookies (Which I'd love the  name of and a recipe for) and other sweets. One of my great-aunts asked if I would like a soda and a brownie. I said yes, turned to my older brother and reportedly asked: "What's a brownie?" 

Feeling in need of a bit of comfort this weekend myself, I suggested K write to her Grammy to ask for her custard recipe. This morning, she got an email reply so today, "Grammy's" custard. Her emailed recipe is below:

Katie, the recipe is from the Fannie Farmer cookbook:  

2 egg yolks, 3 eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/8 teaspoon salt, 3 cups very hot milk, 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. nutmeg (I like lots)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees--butter a 1 quart baking dish (or 8 ramekins).  Set a shallow pan large enough to hold the container or ramekins in the oven and fill it with 1 or1 1/2 inches of hot water.  Beat egg yolks and eggs together just enough to blend.  Stir in the sugar and salt and slowly add the hot milk, stirring constantly.  Add the vanilla.  Strain into the baking dish or dishes and sprinkle with some nutmeg.  Put in the pan and bake for about 45 minutes; the custard is set when a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  Can add 1/4 cup flaked coconut to the custard mixture before putting it into the baking dish--or, dishes.  

Love and kisses, Grammy


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