There is nothing that compares to a homemade vanilla custard. Velvety and smooth, serve it with fresh berries or cinnamon.
This egg custard recipe is fairly traditional and is not meant to be super thick like a pastry cream for cake.
I have stuffed the sweet custard it into doughnuts before with no issues and used it for my cookie and strawberry trifle, even made it into a custard pie and crema brulee. It would also be ideal for bread pudding or even using for creme brulee, maybe even French Cream Puffs. Even banana pudding or a pudding pie.
Homemade Custard Taste
Luscious, velvety, and smooth are the best ways to describe vanilla custard. It is a little thicker and richer than pudding. Some might refer to it as a creme anglaise or bavarian cream.
Pudding Vs. Custard
Is pudding the same as custard? Sometimes used interchangeably, they are vastly different. I think of custard as being more silky smooth, if made correctly, of course.
The term pudding is used more in Western culture and it made from sweetened milk and thickened with cornstarch. It is a little thinner, but still creamy.
Old fashioned custard, however, is made from whole milk and eggs using low heat to produce the coagulation of the egg proteins, which thickens the sauce. This is why you’ll commonly hear it called egg custard. The shortcut version is to add cornstarch.
Homemade Vanilla Custard Recipe
Custard can be eaten plain, like pudding, and it is used in creme brûlée and other baked desserts like flan.
It doesn’t stop there though, most are hybrids between custard and pudding, like this recipe because I am using both eggs and a thickener- cornstarch.
As long as there is a large proportion of eggs, I typically call it a custard, they all produce a very similar texture and consistency. After the base is made, custards can be flavored with whatever floats your boat.
How to make Vanilla Custard
Making custard isn’t hard, but does require a few tips and tricks to make sure you don’t end up with a grainy, frothy or scrambled egg-y mess.
- Start by scalding your milk with vanilla. You’ll need to have hot milk to make this work. I use vanilla extract for this recipe, but you can use vanilla bean, just consult the notes section to learn how. You can also use plain warm milk for a similar effect.
- Next, whisk the egg yolks with sugar, cornstarch and salt. It will start a little pasty, but then come to a thick pale yellow cream.
- Transfer the hot milk mixture to an easy pour measuring cup and/or use the pour in attachment on your stand mixer. In an even and steady stream, pour hot milk into the egg mixture while the mixer is on. This prevents the eggs from cooking. Do not mix or whisk too fast or else you’ll get a frothy mixture.
- Transfer back to the saucepan and whisk and heat over LOW heat until mixture starts to thicken, about 3-5 minutes. It won’t thicken all the way until it cools. Don’t bring to a boil or the mixture will get grainy.
- Remove from heat and add 1 tablespoon unsalted butter until smooth. If you want a thicker custard, do not use the butter. If your custard does develop foam or any streaky eggs, pour through a mesh sieve or colander to skim out any large bits.
- Pour custard into bowls, custard cups or small ramekins and cover with plastic wrap. Tightly covering wrap to the top of the custard will prevent a skin from developing.
- Chill for a minimum of 4 hours if in a large bowl, but 2 hours if in small bowls. Mixture can sit for up to 24 hours after being made before being served.
Topping custard is similar to topping ice cream or pudding. Anything you think will taste good, probably will. And if you make the vanilla flavor, nearly anything will complement it.
Here are my favorites:
- Crumbled cookies
- Crushed candy
- Fresh fruit
- Fresh mint
- Chocolate chips
You can also use other extracts and flavors like espresso, coffee or almond. After custard is complet, add freshly grated nutmeg or cinnamon.
Instead of butter, whisk in 1-2 tablespoons of bourbon.
To make chocolate egg custard, add 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa to the cornstarch mixture.
History of Egg Custard
Apparently the origin of custard goes all the way back to when Queen Victoria sat on the throne. It was made to stuff into pastries and cakes rather than be eaten alone.
Then, Sir Alfred Bird created an eggless custard powder in 1837. It was made from sugar, cornstarch, flavorings, and colorings, and it only needed some hot milk added to it to make it into custard.
It is essentially what we know as instant pudding today. There were no eggs added to it because his wife was allergic to them.
A fun little fact for you is that he also created baking powder. I guess we have Sir Alfred Bird to thank for a couple things!
American custard is sometimes referred to as pastry cream in England and France. It is more stable than pudding and therefore makes a better sauce for stuffing pastries.
Does Custard Have Raw Eggs?
Common question and the answer is…
It does contain near raw eggs, but has a little bit of heat added. If you are concerned, look for pasteurized or heat treated eggs at the grocery store.
Frozen Vanilla Custard
How do I make frozen custard?
To make frozen egg custard like you would buy at the store, you’ll need an ice cream maker to churn it. You can simply place the thickened version in the freezer, but it will be a solid hard brick.
You really need the churning and slow freeze to get it to be creamy. Follow your ice cream makers instructions for basic ice cream which usually includes freezer all the pieces and then allowing it to churn for 20-30 minutes before transferring to the freezer for hardening.
Make Ahead & Storage
You sure can! I would make it up to a day ahead of time, just keep it refrigerated until you are ready to serve it.
Pro-Tip: Cover with plastic wrap right on top of the custard to prevent that sticky film layer that often forms.
Custard can be stored in the fridge for up to a week.
What You’ll Need
Whisks– I buy whisks in multiple sizes. You never know which one you will need.
Measuring Utensils– While I like to eyeball it, most folks prefer to measure. Suit yourself 🙂
Heavy Bottom Sauce Pan– this will be one of your most used kitchen tools. Having something that is heavy bottom will distribute heat better and prevent burning whether you are using an electric or gas range.
- Heat milk and vanilla extract in a heavy bottom, medium saucepan until at a low simmer. Do not let it boil, until heat until little bubbles form around the edges.
- Meanwhile, place sugar, cornstarch and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or a large mixing bowl with a whisk, blend dry ingredients until mixed. Add egg yolks and blend until a pale yellow.
- Slowly pour milk mixture into eggs while whisking at a low speed. Do not mix too fast or it will froth and foam. Blend until mixed.
- Transfer back to the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat for 3-5 minutes, or until thickened. Whisk continually to prevent mixture from scalding to the pan.
- As soon as mixture thickens, remove from heat and whisk in butter (or bourbon), if desired.
- Transfer to a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Press plastic wrap into the custard mixture so there is no air between the two. This prevents the filmy skin that can develop. To set faster, place in small ramekins or bowls.
- Refrigerate for a minimum of 3 hours, but up to 2 days.
- If you have tried this recipe, come back and let me know how it was in the comments or ratings.
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