Finally! It feels like it's been ages since my last Tuesdays with Dorie post. It probably has been, actually. Last week I was so close to making the Chocolate Armagnac Cake – but I didn't, what with all the horrible bouts of illness that plagued my house.
Fortunately that seems to be over (knock wood, fingers crossed, and all those other gestures), and yesterday I spent most of the day IN THE KITCHEN, which made me pretty happy. Not only did I make the Lemon Cup Custards for this week's TWD post, but I also made four loaves of Potato bread – much to everyone's delight. Especially my husband's.
I was also hoping to make that Chocolate Armagnac Cake yesterday, too, because it sounds really good, and besides, I bought prunes for it and everything – but I ran out of time. I'm hoping to work it in today. I'll let you know.
Anyway – the Lemon Cup Custards. The recipe was selected by Bridget, of The Way the Cookie Crumbles, and she has the recipe posted on her site, so if you'd like to make this simple little treat, head on over there to see how to do it. You could also check on page 387 of Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours.
The recipe – milk, lemon zest, eggs and sugar – is wonderfully simple. I meant to add a bit of lemon extract, but I got distracted (it happens so easily) that I forgot until I'd poured the custard into the ramekins, and then the idea of dividing 1/8 of a teaspoon of extract into 6 equal portions and then stirring them into each ramekin…um…never mind. I was just glad I'd finally put something together that I didn't want to stop (to pour all the custard back in the bowl and add in the extract) because what if I got distracted AGAIN??? I'd never finish. So into the oven (in their water bath) they went.
Now, Bridget mentioned that hers cooked faster than Dorie's instructions. Mine took about twenty minutes longer. Ah well. When they emerged from the oven, the custards were bright yellow on top and just jiggley in the center. I let them cool and then popped them in the fridge. They'd have a couple of hours to chill, and then I planned to try them out on my unsuspecting family members after dinner.
I figured I should taste on first, just to make sure there wasn't some horrible error made that I didn't remember, like using salt instead of sugar, for instance. I had a little taste, and – no salt, fortunately – it tasted mildly lemony…very eggy, definitely custardy, as opposed, I guess, to puddingy. Or curdy. Or gelatiny. I wasn't sure how I felt about it at that point. It was…nice.
Time to make use of the children. First up – Alex.
"Hey Alex, come here for a minute. I need your help!" (At this age, they still like to help.)
He came into the room, smiling with all his assorted-size teeth plus the one new gap. "What do you need me to help with?"
"I want you to taste this dessert I made." I opened the fridge and scooped out a little bit from one of the ramekins and started to cross the room toward him.
You'd think I was a chronically horrible cook by the way he reacted. He sort of hunched his shoulders together and started to back away, the sweet expression on his face replaced by a polite cringe.
"What is it?"
"It's called 'Lemon Cup Custard!' " I said brightly, a big, probably scary 1950's housewife propaganda smile scotch taped to my face. "Try it!" I urged, advancing on the cowering child, spoon held out, like Snow White's stepmother with the poisoned apple.
"What's custard?" he asked, looking fearfully at the pale yellow eggy quenelle on my spoon.
I knew I was doomed to failure, but I kept that smile on and that chipper voice as I said, "It's like pudding!"
He clamped his mouth shut and shook his head from side to side, effectively telling me no and preventing me from trying to shove the offensive spoonful down his throat by force. Like I'd do such a thing. He still tried to smile with his eyes. He's a kind boy.
I let him go and summoned his sister. Actually, Alex sent her up from the basement, saying "Mom needs your help with something important!" He was probably hoping she'd try it, just to see what might happen to her as a result. I'm surprised he didn't sneak back to watch.
Anyway, I tried again with Julia.
"What is it Mama?" she asked, coming into the room.
"I want you to try a dessert I made!" (My face just morphs into that scary smile all by itself. I swear I don't do it on purpose.)
She looked at the new spoonful of custard. I told her what it was called, and before she could ask what "custard" was, I had a flash of inspiration.
"It's like YOGURT!" I said, with desperate enthusiasm. She looooooves yogurt.
"You eat it," she told me.
Why do they think the worst of me???
So I ate what I had, smiled with delight, and got her some.
Reluctantly, she opened her mouth a bit and allowed me to spoon some in.
A second later she wrinkled her nose and said she didn't like it.
(This is Julia reenacting her dislike, but she kept laughing while I took pictures, so I was unable to capture her initial feeling with any accuracy.)
Okay, well, I figured Alex wouldn't like it because it's just a texture thing with him, plain and simple. I'd thought Julia would like it, but I guess it wasn't really like yogurt after all. Only one
victim family member left. I re-spooned and headed downstairs.
"Honey, I know you're still full from dinner, but could you just have a taste of this and let me know what you think? The kids have already had some."
He sat up in his chair and Julia, who had followed me down, said "Go on, try it, Daddy. It's good!" (Huh? Who IS this child?) Bill didn't put up the same barricade of questions and suspicion that the kids did – maybe Julia was convincing in her BALD FACED LIE just then. Anyway, he ate the custard, thought a moment, and then shrugged.
"It's not terrible, but it's not exciting," he said. "It could be more lemony."
Well okay. Kind of a tepid response all around, at best. Maybe I should have mixed in the lemon extract after all. I thought of mixing up another batch right then and there, but did I really want to? What if I got the same responses?
Okay, never mind another batch, then. I still would need to take some pictures and post something about it. I'd made a yellow custard in white ramekins. Not all that exciting to look at. I needed to do something to gussy it up.
Now, if I was in a truly fanatical baking frame of mind, I'd probably have made come candied lemon peel in really thin julienne strips, or maybe curls. Yes, curls would be better. And I could sprinkle a couple of fresh raspberries on top. (Except that raspberries aren't in season locally and I'm not going to pay eighteen dollars for half a dozen berries and find that three are moldy underneath the label. So nix that one.
And then I thought – what is one of my favorite desserts AND is a custard? Of course. Creme brulee. Well then, I wonder how the Lemon Cup Custard would be with a nice thin layer of cooked, crackley sugar on top?
Because the thing with me…well, it's also a texture thing, kind of like Alex, except I DO like the texture – I just prefer it with some kind of contrasting texture. Maybe to emphasize the soft eggyness. Like a pie shell, for instance. "Crunch crunch…oooh, my, how soft and soothing this custard is by comparison!" Something like that. So hey – since I couldn't bake a pie around the already-made filling, I could add some crunch on top.
Last night was too late (for pictures), so this morning, after I brought the kids to school, I set up my platters and got out my little kitchen torch and played with fire for a bit. And then I had to come up with another variation, because, well, I'm using this long, skinny white plattery thing with three sections, and I needed something for the third section. I really do create many more complications than there ought to be. This whole post could have been done half an hour ago if my brain would just STOP!
Anyway – back to that fresh rasperry idea I'd had. Because raspberry and lemon are lovely in combination. Well………………I had some seedless raspberry all-fruit preserves in the fridge…I could warm that a bit and make a little sauce. That would be nice, right? At the very least, it would be pretty!
And so that's the great long saga of what I did.
And by the way, when I tasted the plain, unadulterated custard this morning, I liked it better. Maybe it just needed to be super-chilled. Maybe my taste buds were still sluggish after several days of eating only a banana and then things just not tasting right for the next day or so after. Who knows. But for whatever reason, the texture was custardyer (Yes, I'm having a grand old time making up words as I go.) and the lemon flavor was a bit more lemony. It was nice. But my favorite version is still the one with the contrasty textures. I ate ALL of that one.
To read what all the other TWD members thought of this recipe, check out the blogroll on the official Tuesdays with Dorie website! It's a long list – you might want to get a little dish of something to sustain you while you read….