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Custard – a tale of unrequited love.

May 6, 2011
Milk, eggs and sugar

A match made in heaven?

I’ve got to get this out in the open, you may have suspected this but I cannot hide my feelings any longer.   I am hopelessly in love with custard.  It started as a childish crush, innocently measuring the powder out from a Bird’s sachet, combining it with sugar and a little milk until it turned into a bright orange paste to mix with hot milk.  Its yellow skin caught my eye, but also my sister’s and we battled over its affections until my Mother drew a rota on the dining-room wall (yes, actually on the wallpaper).  I realise that ‘custard-skin-haters’ might stop reading at this point.

My tastes matured but it was love at first bite in all its guises, from a nutmeg sprinkled custard tart glimpsed in the baker’s window to a light, primrose cream hiding under a caramel shell of a crème brûlée.

But how to make this relationship last? How to capture it and make it my own happy ever after fairy tale?  Custard is so tricky,  gets bored and is thin company,  take your eye off it and it splits, gets the hump and goes lumpy.  I’ve watched with envy with other people – take my Mother-in-Law for instance, six free-range local egg yolks and farmhouse cream transformed to divine perfection in the microwave, no less.  Perhaps my love-struck nerves get the better of me – tragically, custard eludes me in my own kitchen.

Making Portugese custard tarts

perseverance has been my middle name – in the wake of many heart-rending break-ups.  This time I turned to a cheeky mockney for advice (shielding my eyes from the dubious ‘Naked’ undertones) and he introduced me to Portuguese custard tarts.  Would packet puff pastry sprinkled with cinnamon and an ‘aggressive’ method in the saucepan yield success?  Alas the pastry mantle was too thin, and the eggs, cream and vanilla transformed not into thick, unctuous creaminess but bland lumpiness.  A whizz in the blender and the addition of a splash of orange-flower water patched it up temporarily but the union with the pastry was not a happy one.  The whole date was an ‘epic fail’.

Portuguese custard tarts

So what now?  Do I try a new improved quick version from the aforesaid matchmaker or flirt with alternatives?

“The path of true love never did run smooth.”   Will I ever achieve my Midsummer night’s custard dream or be doomed eternally to milk-pudding nightmares?  Stay tuned for the next installment…

  1. May 6, 2011 1:13 am

    I love custard too! We always have little tubs of Ambrosia ready made custard so the boy can have it hot, with chunks of chocolate in it. I also like stir and serve Birds custard. The shame!

    Portuguese custard tarts are a real favourite. They sell them at our local bakery, The Loaf in Crich, and they tweet me when they have gone in the oven. Please continue your search for the perfect tart, then I can make them too!

    • May 6, 2011 3:47 pm

      Oh, you’ve painted such a great picture – tweets about custard! Danone have started some little custards in tubs which are strangely addictive. I will continue my quest.

  2. May 6, 2011 8:36 am

    Love these little tarts and I love your site and recipes!!

  3. May 6, 2011 10:08 am

    Custard is an ongoing quest for me too 🙂

    • May 6, 2011 3:45 pm

      Glad to hear I’m not the only one to find it challenging!

  4. May 6, 2011 2:18 pm

    I have a strange relationship with the custard, sometimes I crave for it, sometimes I can’t even think of it. But I’ve never had a Portuegese custard tart, I’m curious to try it.

    • May 6, 2011 5:14 pm

      I now want to try one from The Loaf in Crich (see earlier comment)!

  5. May 7, 2011 1:24 am

    Sally, I’ve had some luck making custard in the microwave – it’s quick and easy. The recipe is on my blog on the Cakes and Cookies page (under “Other”). I’ve had mixed luck with the JO recipe as well – the pastry was fine, but I kept curdling the filling on the stove!

  6. May 8, 2011 1:20 am

    Flirt with alternatives!

  7. May 14, 2011 7:02 pm

    I too love Bird’s custard! I have a tin in the cupboard somewhere….but such too is the joy of life, learning, making mistakes and discovering combos that definitely do not work!

  8. June 5, 2011 9:45 am

    i have an easy recipe too, if you want to give it a try, i am a custard fan too!

  9. June 7, 2013 11:23 pm

    Your tale about the custard skin made me laugh. Oh, the battles my sister and I have had over baked goods! 😛 I also have a great fondness for custard, and was fortunate to be able to try a homemade Portuguese custard tart at the farmer’s market, and they have been beckoning me ever since. I’ve had custard curdle on me when I tried a recipe without cornstarch, and it’s the most disappointing thing!


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