Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Baked egg custard

Buying the right amount of milk has become a bit of an issue lately as our daughter is growing out of toddlerhood. Her consumption is very irregular: she seems to have mostly given up on her morning and evening's cup of warm milk. But at times she wants to be just like her baby brother – and babies drink a lot of milk. So we continue buying 1/2 gallon whole organic milk every week and it isn't always used up. This is the perfect excuse to turn the soon-to-expire but still delicious ingredient into desserts the whole family can enjoy (I don't drink milk but I'll eat it!).

Flan aux œufs can be made with 2% milk but whole milk will make them a lot creamier

For 6 flans:
  • 1/2 liter (just over 2 cups) milk (whole, organic preferred)
  • 100 g sugar (I just measured it to be 7 tbsp, i.e. nearly 1/2 cup)
  • 3 large eggs

  1. Slowly bring the milk to a boil in a heavy bottom pot. Turn off the heat as soon as bubbles form on the surface.
  2. Whisk together the eggs and sugar until foamy.
  3. Slowly pour the hot milk on the egg and sugar mix, whisking continuously to prevent the eggs from coagulating.
  4. Pour one ladle of custard in each ramekin dish* (or other small oven-safe dish. I recycled Saint-Benoît and other yogurt ceramic containers).
  5. Place all the ramekin dishes in a big, flat, shallow, oven-safe dish and fill up with about 1/2 inch of water (this water bath is called a "bain marie").
  6. Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes at 365 F (185 C). Be careful not to overcook. The flans should not be entirely set when you take them out of the oven. They will get firmer as they cool down.
Let the flans come to room temperature. Cover each dish with a piece of aluminum foil and store in the refrigerator (up to 3 days).

*You can turn these flans into "flans au caramel" by simply pouring one tablespoon of light brown caramel at the bottom of each ramekin dish before pouring the custard. It will be easier to spread the caramel if the dishes are warm (to prevent the caramel from hardening at the contact of a cold dish...).

To prepare the caramel:
  • Use a small stainless steel pot (which can stand direct heat at a high temperature).
  • Melt 100 g (1/2 cup) sugar (or sugar cubes) with 1 or 2 tbsp water over medium-high heat.
  • Watch closely as the sugar will change color rapidly once the appropriate temperature is reached.
  • Do not steer; simply tilt the pot once in a while to level the sugar and distribute the heat.
  • Remove from heat as soon as the caramel takes a light, honey color. Do not wait until it becomes brown.
  • Pour in the ramekin dishes immediately, using a metal spoon (caramel is very hot, over 300 F – 150 C). Tilt the dishes to fully coat the bottom of each dish.

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