Custards are versatile. They are used for pie fillings, puddings and desserts, and even savory main dishes. They start out as egg-based liquid combinations and set up in the baking process. (The proteins in the egg coagulate at 160 to 170 degrees.) A pumpkin pie is the most popular custard in the world. A quiche is a savory custard in pie shell. Without the added ingredients in the filling—such as pumpkin or cheese–the traditional custard is creamy smooth and not too sweet.
The following custard recipe calls for honey crystals for a gently-flavored, silky smooth custard. If you don’t have honey crystals, it can be made with brown sugar for a caramel instead of honey-flavored custard.
While this version is baked in four oven proof dishes, by varying the baking time, it can be baked in a single baking dish or in a pie shell.
1/2 cup honey crystals (or brown sugar)
1/2 tablespoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups half and half
Recipe Directions for a Custard:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
1. You will bake these custards in a baking dish filled with water. Place four to six custard cups or small bowls in the baking dish if you are making individual custards. Place a soufflé dish in the center of the baking dish if you are making a single dessert.
2. Whisk the eggs, honey crystals, vanilla, salt, and half and half in a bowl until smooth but not foamy. Pour the mixture into the dish or dishes. Sprinkle the tops with cinnamon.
3. Pour very hot water into the baking dish and around the dessert dishes and to a depth of one-inch.
4. Bake six dishes for about 30 minutes, four dishes for about 40 minutes, and a single dish for about 55 minutes. Baking times will vary depending on the baking dishes used and the temperature and amount of water surrounding the dishes. The custards are done when a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on wire racks. After cooling, the custards should be refrigerated.
Recipe Directions for a Custard Pie:
1. Bake the pie shell at 450 degrees for about ten minutes or until it just starts to turn brown on the edges. Do not prick the pie shell with a fork. It will help the pie shell keep its shape during baking if you line the shell with aluminum foil and then place beans, rice, or weights in the shell to hold the crust down. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees.
2. Mix the custard as instructed above. Pour the filling into the partially baked pie shell and sprinkle the top with cinnamon.
3. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Cover the edges of the pie crust with aluminum foil during the last fifteen minutes to keep the crust from over browning. Cool on a wire rack. After cooling, the pie should be refrigerated.