Dear object of my affection,
You are the reason I believe in love at first sight. You are sweet and smooth and charming. Few things sound better than curling up on the couch with you to watch a movie or just hanging out on a Sunday afternoon reading the newspaper. There is no doubt that I will always love you no matter what.
But sometimes you simply break my heart. I have tried to be thoughtful with you, to pay attention to every detail that surrounds our relationship, and to be more patient with you than I have been with nearly anyone else. I tried because you are worth it. You are special and I appreciate that you allowed me to know you with all of your qualities and flaws.
I always knew you were a little moody, but I can tolerate and accept you the way you are… I never once wanted to change you- I love you just the way you are with all of your quirks and insecurities and mood swings. I always believed that if I am patient enough, understanding and loving enough, our relationship will just grow stronger.
Over time, your messages have been mixed and confusing. You made me hope and beg and long. You made me plead and pray and believe in us and then you made me lust just standing next to you. You made me happy. You made me sad. You rejected me then loved me again. You made me cry of frustration. You made me say never again and then again I tried.
There were times when we needed a break from each other, but we always came back together and every time more trust was established and more confidence that this love will last. So on this Valentine’s Day, darling, I want to say I love you (still). Let’s try again.
There is no shortage of dysfunctional relationships in anyone’s life but some are easier to tolerate because they are worth it. That is how I feel about CUSTARD. Yes, custard- custard of every kind. The moody, sensitive, quirky, idiosyncratic custard. With a little cooperation (and love) from this finicky product, you can experience the smoothest most delicious (and technically-speaking simple) home-made vanilla ice-cream. I figured that VDay was a good time to acknowledge that some of the things (and people) we love also make us crazy [you know who you are] and that some of them are still worth it.
Vanilla ice cream is one of the simplest pleasures of life. It is the most popular flavor of ice-cream, and, by my theory, that is because it is so versatile- on top of a pie or under some strawberries, in between two chocolate wafers or folded in a French crepe, or mixed in a smoothie- you can dress this little item so many ways! For the record, I would never put ice cream in a smoothie, but I don’t judge.
Done right, plain vanilla is not very plain after all. It is rich and silky smooth and its flavor is deep and complex. To get to this though, you must experience the emotional roller coaster that can be making custard. My success ration with custard was about 50-50 until I understood what I was doing wrong. Over-thinking it- or to be more accurate, over-cooking it. But before we get to that, let’s get a few things out of the way.
First, do you have an ice cream maker? If not, you can keep reading, but you’re not going to be able to make this until you get one. A wooden spoon or small flat spatula is also a must. Other things that will make your life easier while making this: measuring cups, etc, whisk, non-reactive saucepan [non-reactive what??? Non reactive saucepan- click here]
The recipe (shocking by now) comes from the Bouchon cookbook- thanks Bob for lending that to me! I love it.
The Custard [remember, you too have to be patient and careful and thoughtful and sensitive]
Put the milk and cream in the saucepan. Scrape the vanilla bean into the mixture. Add the pod. Gently bring to a simmer, cover, and remove from the heat. Let infuse for 30 minutes.
Separate the egg whites from the yolks. I do this in a very simple way- with 2 (small) bowls; I crack the egg shell and attempt (generally ably) to keep the yolk inside one side of the shell while the white pours into one of the bowls. I move the yolk from one half of the shell to the other until all of the egg white is gone. The danger in doing this no matter how skilled you are at it is that you can get a yolk that is already broken and that can contaminate your entire bowl of egg whites. That aside, my method is fairly fast and efficient. See- the white just drains out of the shell.[note- you will not use the whites for this, but you can always save them for that very healthy egg white omelet ]
After the 30 min, take the vanilla pod out of the mixture, return to a simmer and add half of the sugar allowing it to dissolve.
Whisk the egg yolks with half of the sugar until they thicken slightly and lighten in color.
Ladle in a bowl a third of the milk/cream mixture.
[Try to keep your measurements straight- 1/3 of 2 cups gets my lack of math spinning. Seriously!]
Slowly and gradually whisk into the eggs that third of themixture you just ladled out. Slowly! The point is to temper the eggs [again, to what? tempering the eggs was one of the things I googled when I first made this- here are my findings].
Return the egg mixture to the saucepan and heat stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the custard thickens and coats the back of your spoon. This is where things can get really shaky in your new relationship with custard. If you cook it for 2 seconds longer than perfection, the eggs will scramble and you will have a sort of an omelet instead of custard. Seriously, this is delicate business. Keep stirring. Coating the spoon does not mean a very thick mixture. It is still somewhat runny from the spoon but it did thicken and coats the back of your spoon.
Pour the custard in a bowl set over ice. Stir occasionally until the custard cools. Cover and refrigerate for at least a few hours or (the book says) overnight for the creamiest texture. Now, if you have the kind of ice cream maker I have, you have to freeze the bowl and it takes a while. Put it in the freezer!
The next day (or a few hours later) freeze the custard in the ice cream maker as directed by the instructions of the ice-cream maker- I do 30 min in mine. Transfer into your chosen container and freeze for 2 hours and up to 2 days.
Ok, it will be delicious, but here’s the thing- if you feel at all insecure about making this- I (still) feel that way every single time I deal with it, maybe consider doing half the quantity the first time. Throwing away 10 eggs in one sitting puts me over the edge every single time.
Enjoy and thank you for reading. Lots of love!
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