National Vanilla Custard Day is today, and I am starting this auspicious observance with a list of things I do not want:
No ice cream, because that is for tomorrow’s post.
Nothing with pastry cream, because it’s too heavy for the hot weather. And no creme brule because sweet freaking Christmas, I am 100% over them, at least for the foreseeable future.
Panna cotta would be great, but it is not, by definition, a true custard.
Nope, it’s not.
A custard is defined as a liquid (typically containing milk or cream, sugar, flavoring, and eggs) that is set solely by the coagulation of egg proteins.
So yeah, panna cotta doesn’t fit the bill, delicious though it is.
What I am observing the day instead is a traditional English custard. To the American palette it’s going to look quite a lot like pudding, and it is. It’s a softer version than what we get out of the box, but so, so nice. This version is also a little lighter on the sugar, which to me is a nice change. Top it off with fig-sesame jam, the original recipe can be found here, though I think my modified version fits this custard to a t.
Vanilla Bean Pudding
1 1/4 c. heavy cream
1/2 a vanilla bean, split
3 egg yolks
1 tsp. cornstarch*
2 Tbsp. sugar
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 tsp dark rum (optional)
Place the cream and vanilla bean in a medium heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Allow to come just up to a boil, then remove from heat.
While you’re waiting for the cream to come up, place the yolks, cornstarch, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk together until smooth and well combined.
Slowly whisk the hot cream into the eggs. Pour the cream/egg combo back into the pot, and whisk it over low heat until the pudding thickens and begins to bubble. Stir in the rum. Immediately remove from the heat and pour into a clean bowl set over some ice. Whisk occasionally until cool. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the pudding. This will prevent it from developing that weird, unappetizing skin pudding sometimes gets. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
1 1/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. water
1 # fresh mission figs
1 long strip of lemon zest
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp vanilla
Pinch of salt
1 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
Trim and quarter the figs.
Place the sugar and water in a medium pot over high heat. When it comes to a rolling boil, add the figs, zest, juice, vanilla and salt stir, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Allow the figs to reduce to a thick, chunky jam, approx. 20 min. Remove from the heat and discard the zest. Allow to cool a little before spooning onto the pudding.
Once assembled, eat with reckless abandon.
*After blah blah-ing about the definition of a custard, I went ahead and used cornstarch in the above recipe. Cornstarch aids in, you guessed it, thickening stuff, therefore making this technically not a custard in the truest sense.
But it is still way more of a custard than panna cotta.