Project#3, Bake#1: Scrambled Beginnings

Well, I decided for my first documented week of baking to make something completely unprecedented. I decided to attempt custard.

Now, I’ve only made custard once in my life. In my early baking days, I think when I was about 15 or 16, I made a caramel-topped custard from a recipe in the old Good Houskeeping Cookbook. I love that cookbook. It’s old and bound like all the old books at the library, with gilded letters on the spine, and the recipes call for things like lard. And it doesn’t try to seduce you with pictures, though I admit I love being seduced by pictures in cookbooks. In this book there are only occasionally little postage-stamp sized ink sketches. So you just have to trust the recipe and your gut and not care that it won’t look like the picture because there isn’t one. I don’t exactly remember making this custard, so I don’t remember what I did wrong or right, if I did anything wrong or right. I do remember drizzling the bottom of the ramekin with melted sugar and then pouring the custard liquid on top. When I flipped it over onto a plate, the caramel oozed over the edges of the custard. It was delicious.

But it doesn’t count because I don’t remember how I did it. So I found a simple looking recipe, in a cookbook I trust perhaps a little too implicitly, for Milk-and-Honey Custard. It looks lovely in the picture, and it only called for about 4 or 5 ingredients, so I thought, What could go wrong?

Well, lots of things could go wrong. Especially since I happened to be visiting my dad at the time and didn’t know where anything was. It took me 15 minutes to find a suitable dish and another 10 to find a roasting pan to put it in. I don’t recommend baking in an unfamiliar kitchen. It makes the whole experience so much more stressful.

I’ve also never tried to reduce milk before. And the whole boiling water bath that’s always required for custard never really made sense to me. But I managed to put it all together and get it in the oven without scrambling everything or pouring boiling water down my front. And again 45 minutes later pulling it all out. Then I let it cool and then stuck it in the fridge for dessert later.

Well, just before bed I dug in a spoon and excitedly scooped my creation out into bowls. It was good. Not great. A bit too sweet for my taste. But the worst part of it was: it had scrambled. Dad used the word “curdled” but the thought of curdling makes me gag, so I prefer “scrambled.” It wasn’t awful. It didn’t taste bad. But the texture was less than pleasant, a bit tough and filled with bubbles. The center looked okay but we were full from dinner anyway, so I didn’t get to see if it was passable. I was and am hugely disappointed. This week I will probably try something a little less ambitious. But now I feel I must eventually master the custard, almost out of spite.

I made waffles the next day to boost my ego.

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