If you've read my previous blog posts about BWD challenges, you'll know that I try to play around with these recipes - taking my cues from the alternative suggestions in the book. So, even though I chose the recipe for this weeks' challenge, I already knew I'd end up making anything but the Lemon Cup custard.
And how glad I am that I tried other variations. In fact, I tried two: the espresso-cinnamon cup custard and the orange-star anise version. I'll eat anything with cinnamon in it (I even eat fruit with a generous sprinkle of cinnamon), so I knew I was going to love the espresso custard. And I did.
The most enjoyable part of this challenge was baking these custards. I used espresso cups to bake my espresso-cinnamon custard and halved the recipe because I wanted to try more versions. The custard came out slightly jiggly after 20 minutes and I felt I might have under-baked it just a little.
I had plenty of custard left over but own only 3 espresso cups (don't ask me why). Since I was obsessed with the idea of making it in small cups, I baked the remaining amount in my daughters' tea cups (from Ikea). I loved how cute they looked:
This time I baked for 20 minutes again and it seemed just right. I cooled the custards overnight and dusted with cocoa powder right before taking these photos. I know it looks like specks of chocolate here but it's actually cocoa powder that just turned strangely solid, speck-like as soon as it came in contact with the very cold custard.
Regardless of how strange it looked, the espresso custard was lovely - the texture was that of a classic baked custard but there was no eggy taste because of the strong flavors from the espresso and cinnamon (I think I may have used a lot of cinnamon - but I did say I love cinnamon, didn't I?)
Since I'd made the Espresso Custard a week back, I still had plenty of time to do another version but it was hard to decide which one. I almost discarded the idea, but then Tina sparked my curiosity by talking about the 'egginess' of the custard and how bakers from TWD had been generally unhappy with this custard because of the eggy factor and the lack of strong lemon flavor.
I knew then that I had to do another version and find out for myself. I'd been partial towards the idea of Orange and Star Anise quite simply because I've never had a dessert flavored with star anise. Where I come from, star anise is used primarily in meat dishes, and then also, sparingly. The closest I've come to having it in something non-savory is green tea. So I was skeptical but too curious not to try it out.
Again, I halved the recipe and used the zest of 2 oranges instead of 1. I had a star anise with just 3 points so I threw the whole bud into the milk instead of removing 3 points from it. After the milk came to a boil, I removed it from the heat and then let everything infuse for about 45 minutes (or a little more) instead of 30.
This time, I baked the custard in a bowl instead of ramekins so I wasn't sure about the baking time and may have over-baked it just a little because the center jiggled only slightly. The custard smelled slightly eggy & I couldn't be sure the orange flavor had really come through because once again, I refrigerated the custard overnight before finally tasting it the next morning.
Let's just say it was simply wonderful! It took a few minutes for my taste-buds to adjust to the idea of star anise in a dessert, and then there was no looking back! It was slightly over-baked, but still very flan-like in texture with a wonderful burst of citrus flavor and the surprising warm undertone from the star anise. This recipe was, for me, a winner in every way and I may never go back to making custard with short-cut instant mixes when it is so simple to make it from scratch, and that too, with so many variations.
Do check out the BWD blogroll here and here to see the other versions of this dessert by my fellow BWD bakers. If you'd like to join us for our next BWD challenge on June 21 (Summer Fruit Galette, chosen by Elizabeth of Gluten-Free Baking 101), drop me an email - we'd love to have you bake along with us.
You can get the recipe right here, after the jump:Lemon Cup Custard
from Baking: From my home to yours, by Dorie Greenspan, Page 387
2 1/4 cups whole milk
grated zest of 1 lemon
4 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
pure lemon oil or extract (optional)
Have six (6 oz) custard or coffee cups at hand. Put the milk and zest in a saucepan and bring just to a boil. Remove pan from the heat, cover and set aside for 30 mins so the zest can infuse the milk with its' flavor. Reheat the milk before mixing the custard.
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325F.
Line a roasting pan with a double thickness of paper towels and put the custard or coffee cups in the pan. Have a fine-mesh strainer at hand. Fill a teakettle with water and put it on to the boil; when the water boils, turn off the heat.
In a 1-quart measuring cup or heatproof bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar till well-blended. Still whisking, strain in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk little by little - this will temper the eggs so they won't curdle. Strain in the remaining milk. Discard the zest. If you like a stronger lemon flavor stir in a few drops of lemon oil or extract into the custard (Don't go overboard - 1/8 tsp of extract, less if you're using oil, is all you need).
With a spoon, skim the foam off the top of the custard, then pour the custard into the cups. Very carefully slide the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the cups.
Bake the custards for 40 - 45 minutes or until they jiggle only in the center when you tap the cups lightly. Transfer the custards to a rack and cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.