Custard is a sweet or savory creamy dessert with a rich consistency. It dates back to the Middle Ages when it was used as a filling for a tart or flan in the United Kingdom. The word “custard” is derived from the French word "croustade," which means a tart with a crust.
After the 16th century, when fruit creams became widespread, people started making custard as an individual dish rather than filling a crust. Today, most people enjoy custard on its own, but some still use it as a filling for pies, tarts, éclairs, quiches, and cream puffs.
What Does Custard Taste Like?
The custard flavor can be best described as sweet and egg-y. However, savory custards are also famous and can be used to fill quiches. Most people enjoy sweet custards and prefer adding dessert flavors, such as vanilla and strawberry, to custard.
Custard texture is creamy and velvety. Some people like to keep a pouring consistency, whereas others prefer thicker custards filled in cream puffs, tarts, and éclairs. The higher the percentage of butterfat and egg yolk, the thicker and creamier the texture is.
Types of Custard
There are mainly 6 types of custards. They include:
1. Baked Custard
Traditionally, the baked custard is cooked in a water bath. The water bath slowly transfers the heat from the oven to the custard mixture and prevents it from curdling. The American version of custard is also a baked dessert made of eggs, milk, nutmeg, vanilla, and sugar.
2. Egg Custard
Usually consists of eggs, milk, and sugar. The custard becomes thicker and richer if more egg yolks are added or if cream is used instead of milk. Many people use cornstarch to obtain the thick consistency, but with egg custards, people use egg yolks.
3. Refrigerated Custard
Mostly made of starch and milk solids, there are three main types of refrigerated custard: premium, regular and low-fat. The premium variety is rich and creamy and has a fat content of approximately 6%. Regular custard has a fat content between 1% and 3%, and the low-fat custard has a fat content between 0% and 1%.
4. Powdered Custard
Powdered custard is produced using wheat starch, maize, sugar, salt, flavoring, and coloring. It is combined with sugar and milk and then stirred overheat. It thickens as the starch particles expand due to heat and moisture.
5. Stirred Custard
Sweet, stirred custards are either prepared on a stovetop or in a double boiler. The custard is then mixed until it is thick enough to smear the back of a spoon.
6. Pastry Cream Custard
Pastry cream is made from sugar, milk, eggs, and flour. Flour is added to the custard to prevent curdling and make it firm. This thick custard is used to fill pastries, tarts, cream puffs, and other desserts.
How is Custard Made?
Custard is mainly made from eggs, milk, and sugar. You can cook it in an oven or on a stovetop.
Sometimes a starch, such as flour or cornstarch, is added to the custard to prevent curdling and stabilize it. You don't need as many eggs when you add flour or cornstarch. Flavors such as chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, and mango can also be added to enrich the taste.
In many South Asian countries, the powdered custard is eaten with fresh fruits, sponge cake, Jell-O, and whipped cream. This dish is called "fruit trifle" and is a popular way of serving custard.
How to Store Custard
The ideal way to store custard is to refrigerate it. You can refrigerate just-cooked or baked custard, but let it cool for about 5 to 10 minutes at room temperature. When cooled, cover it with plastic wrap.
Make sure the plastic wrap touches the custard's surface to prevent the milk proteins from forming a thin crust on top of the custard when it’s in the refrigerator. Eat within 2 to 3 days to enjoy the prime custard texture and flavor.
Custard vs. Ice Cream: Similarities and Differences
- Custard is made from cream, milk, and egg yolks, whereas ice cream is made from milk or cream, or a combination of the two.
- Ice cream dates back to the 1850s, when it was first introduced in the US. Custard was not available in the US until the early 1900s.
- Custard and ice cream are prepared using different methods. Ice cream machines add extra air for a fleecier result, whereas custard machines combine very little air for a creamier texture.
- In general, plain custard has slightly fewer calories, more protein, and less grams of fat than plain ice cream.
- 4 c whole milk
- 1 T vanilla extract
- 1 T butter
- 4 eggs
- 2/3 c sugar
- 3 T cornstarch
- In a large bowl whisk together eggs, sugar and cornstarch until sugar dissolves. Set aside.
- Place a medium saucepan over medium heat.
- Add in milk, vanilla and butter. Stir to combine.
- Bring mixture to a simmer.
- Remove the mixture from the heat.
- Stir in two tablespoons of the egg mixture from the bowl. Whisk it to make sure that it is thoroughly combined.
- Return the pan to the heat.
- Turn the heat too low. It is very important that this mixture does not begin to boil.
- Slowly poor in the egg mixture and whisk continuously until the mixture starts to thicken. Be sure to slowly add the egg mixture. If you do it too fast it will turn into scrambled eggs. This may take around 15 minutes. The custard should coat the back of a spoon when it is ready.
- Poor the custard into dessert cups.
- Refrigerate for 4 hours.
- Sprinkle nutmeg and cinnamon on top before serving.
- Serve cold.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 272Total Fat: 10gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 145mgSodium: 133mgCarbohydrates: 34gFiber: 0gSugar: 31gProtein: 9g
The Bottom Line
Now that you know ‘what is custard?’, you can get started. Using just a few ingredients and a whole lot of determination, you can make this rich and creamy dessert on a cool summer evening or serve it at your next soiree to excite your guests!