Well, I didn’t intend to choose an unpopular dessert for Tuesdays with Dorie this week. I was picturing a satiny, lemony pots de crème-type custard. Obviously I didn’t pay enough attention to the ingredients, which, with just milk, whole eggs, lemon zest, and sugar, in no way indicate that this custard would be rich. Sorry, custard-haters!
Hey, at least it was easy and didn’t use many ingredients. After the milk is steeped with lemon zest, it’s mixed into sugar and eggs, then baked in a water bath. I added a drop of lemon extract to half of my custards.
The lemon flavor was pretty tame, although it was noticeably stronger with the extract. The texture was certainly more eggy than I expected. I don’t mind the texture of classic baked custard, but I know it isn’t popular with a lot of people.
Overall, I thought the custard was light and refreshing, especially with the bit of lemon extract. It’s even a relatively healthy dessert – no butter, believe it or not! Not only that, but it was easy. So at least it was a winner in my book!
Lemon Cup Custard (from Baking: From my Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan)
Mine seemed to cook a little faster than Dorie indicates, so you might want to check them early.
Makes 6 servings
2¼ cups whole milk
grated zest of 1 lemon
4 large eggs
½ cup sugar
pure lemon oil or extract (optional)
Getting ready: Have six (6-ounce; ¾-cup) custard or coffee cups at hand. Put the milk and zest in a saucepan and bring just to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat, cover and set aside for 30 minutes so the zest can infuse the milk with its flavor. Reheat the milk before mixing the custard.
Getting ready to bake: 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 boil; when the water boils, turn off the heat.
In a 1-quart glass measuring cup or a heatproof bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together until well blended. Still whisking, strain in about ¼ cup of the hot milk little by little – this will temper, or warm, the eggs so they won’t curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly strain in the remaining milk. Discard the zest remaining in the strainer. If you’d like a stronger lemon flavor – Dorie usually does – stir a few drops of lemon oil or extract into the custards. (Don’t go overboard – ⅛ teaspoon extract, less if you’re using oil, is about the most you’ll 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 into the oven, then pour enough hot water from the teakettle into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the cups.
Bake the custards for 40 to 50 minutes, or until they jiggle only in the center when you tap the cups lightly. Transfer the cups to a rack and cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.
Serving: Serve just as is.
Storing: Well covered and away from foods with strong odors, the custards will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
Vanilla Cup Custard: Omit the lemon zest and oil or extract, and after the hot milk has been blended into the eggs, add 2½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract. (Dorie often adds ⅛ teaspoon pure almond extract too.) Alternatively, you can steep the milk with 1 split and scraped vanilla bean instead of using extract.
Lemon-Clove Cup Custard: Add 4 whole cloves to the milk along with the lemon zest.
Orange-Star Anise Cup Custard: Omit the lemon zest and oil or extract and add the grated zest of 1 orange and 3 points from a star anise to the milk before heating it.
Espresso-Cinnamon Cup Custard: Omit the lemon zest and oil or extract and add a cinnamon stick to the milk before heating it. Whisk 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder into the egg-sugar mixture.