A Saucy Anglaise is guilt tripping me to make a discombobulated post. Pepper dash with a big word to fluff over the fact that I haven’t, until now, paid due homage to the Sauce that is Anglaise or indeed the British dessert sauce commonly known as Custard. Its simply bad manners to ice cream bases not to have mentioned by now. Custard is not happy at being left out. My bad, sorry Colonel Custard I didn’t get the blindingly obvious memo! It was in my ignore tray.
There is a ‘no cook vanilla ice cream’ here which is super, easy peasy to make, pimp and upscale with your choice of flavors. Fortunately there are, I am assured, good options for our non dairy and diabetic friends alike.
Good custard is like a cuddle from a dear friend rather than a soapy mannered fop. Just the right strength, at the right time, giving reassuring pleasure, it’s kindly and old school. Any badly reproduced watery, commercial, cloy or powdery replica is best avoided.
School custard has also scared many. If your School/Convent, like mine, was run by an Italian Order of Nuns the custard was occasionally confused with the cheese sauce made for Lasagna. Where upon the only non Catholic was invariably asked to “Please report to the Head mistress immediately” to the helium laughs of her beloved chums! Moving swiftly on….even if she is far older than me, her 60th birthday today and we have been friends since we were 5!
Custard accepts infusions, upgrades, flours, flavors and freezing. Proffer a set by baking in a bain Marie. Custard adorns duffs, puffs, puddings, (better pronounced pudd’n with added patriotic sentiment) a stalwart to trifles and the like. Readily puts on its festive party frock with the aid of brandy, cointreau and rum to be schmoozed and slathered over Christmas pud, winter crumbles, pies, all manner of tarts defusing fruit sauce like magma in its wake.
With added flour it fills cakes, choux and becomes the base of soufflé but most importantly ice cream. Befriending chocolate and vanilla, like no other. It’s an incredibly versatile vehicle for texture and flavour.
Without a decent custard you won’t achieve a decent iced custard ice cream. Finest quality store bought is a guilty pleasure but I do enjoy the process of making fresh.
Hands up all those old enough who remember the staple that is Birds instant custard? Err you in the back ? Who just said you can’t make Custard from a bird? Behave!
Oh a quick rant about flavors by the way: Why not make your ice cream from recycled ex-exhibition carpet tiles? Or maybe a suggestion of a sorbet made from tail feather a white dove? Cockatiel leg ice cream is out there! Google it if you don’t believe me. Egg and bacon ice cream (yes you HESSY baby, I’ve been to your gaff and done that, whilst its incredible….what were you ‘on’ the day you thought of that?)
Oh dear, that inspires a bizarre longer mind rant: If I want egg and bacon, its on a plate with the whole 9 yards. A ruddy great Full on English Fry Up in a “greasy spoon” cafe: (pronounced caff) listening to BBC radio 2 on a cheap old Woolworth’s radio, blaring out in the back ground. The sounds and smells of big rambunctious beefy truck drivers exchanging anecdotal stories about the M4-M5 Motorway corridor and the nightmare road works, whilst chomping on fried bread dipped into ponds of brown sauce. That my friends is the time and place for a ‘coronary on a plate’ fry up. They are a rarity at Ice Cream Towers but when we fry, we too Heavy Metal fry! No healthy options and certainly no cuties or thoughts of an ice cream cone. Hereby endeth both mind rants (albeit in the short term).
Oh you would like a recipe?
The vague and variable basics: you will need to adapt this to the resources available in your respective corner of the globe m’thinks.
Use 2-3 extra large fresh hen eggs -8 bantam or a truck load of quail egg yolks, the better the eggs the better the custard, size matters!
2-5 cups of full fat milk, heavy cream, double cream or combinations there of
2 tablespoons-1 cup of white fine sugar, depending on personal taste.
pinch of salt, seeds of vanilla or extract, *see cornflour-starch mentioned below
Gently heat the dairy to a simmer over a medium heat, in a saucepan, hot but not to boil.
Remove the pan from the heat to temper and cool.
Beat the eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt to combine throughly. Add a cup of the (by now hand hot) dairy. Stir to incorporate and then add the rest, stir stir stir. Swiftly pour the custard into the saucepan, place over the a medium heat still stirring constantly. Cook the custard but don’t allow it to boil.
It will become glossy and thicken. Once thickened, the consistency should obligingly coat the back of a wooden spoon. It will thicken a little more as it finally cools. Remove from the heat and cover the surface of the custard with plastic wrap to avoid a skin forming or serve straight away.
*Adding a teaspoon-dessert spoon of cornflour-starch to the egg mix will ensure a firmer set and will further limit the chance of curdling or splitting. Heating and subsequently cooling the unboiled milk does the same.
A good pud and a decent custard leaves me in a daze of repletion, I invariably make too much and churn ice cream the following day.
For this I blush to admit that I use half home-made custard to fresh double cream.