Friday, March 5, 2010

Cleo Coyle's Creamy Egg Custard

Cleo Coyle, custard eater
and author of The
Coffeehouse Mysteries
Warm egg custard brings back equally warm memories for me...of Mom and home; crowded family kitchens and those familiar baking smells of goodies in the oven: eggs, milk, vanilla, and nutmeg.

My recipe for you this week is an easy but evocative one--a simple dessert that I hope will bring back that feeling of comfort for you, too. (We can all use it these days, I think.)

There are three secrets to producing a lovely custard with a smooth top and silky, creamy texture:

(1) use sifted confectioners' sugar, which will dissolve more easily;

(2) use room temp. eggs (just warm them quickly in a bowl of water from the tap)--this will help loosen the albumin (protein) and make it easier to properly blend the custard; and

(3) bake it low and slow and do not put foil on top of the custard cups or the roasting pan (as some recipes suggest). Below I'll show you what happens if you try to speed up the baking with a higher temperature or foil on top.
So here you go: Love in a cup from me to you, with a bit of nutmeg sprinkled on top…

Cleo Coyle’s
Baked Egg Custard

Servings: 4 (in 4-ounce size ramekins or custard cups)

1-1/4 cups whole milk
3 large eggs, room temperature (just sit them in bowl of warm tap water)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup confectioners’ (powdered) sugar, sifted

Whisk together all ingredients until well blended and pour into 4 four-ounce size ramekins or custard cups. Place cups in a roasting pan or baking dish and create a shallow water bath by filling just enough to reach halfway up the sides of the cups. Bake uncovered in a preheated 325° F. oven for 1 hour and 5 minutes (the time may be a little longer or shorter, depending on your oven). When is it done? You are looking for the top to set. The custard may still jiggle slightly, but the top should no longer be liquid. It should feel firm (spongy but set) when lightly touched; and when a toothpick or skewer is inserted down into the custard at the edge of the cup, it should come out clean. Otherwise, keep baking and checking.

Remove from oven, take the cups out of the water bath, and allow them to cool for one hour on a rack. Eat the freshly baked custard at once or chill by placing plastic wrap over the top of each cup and storing in the refrigerator. (You need the plastic on there to prevent a skin from forming.) Note also that the low temperature and long baking time is important. If the custard boils, then you will end up with big, ugly pockmarks instead of a smooth, even top. This is also the reason you should bake the custard uncovered. (Some recipes suggest putting foil over the pan or cups to hasten bake time. Don't do it. Patience is a virtue in most things, but especially in making really good baked custard!)

Photos below show the easy steps in this process...

Whisk all ingredients together, divide evenly among
your 4 ramekins or custard cups. You'll notice that the nutmeg
floats to the top of the unbaked liquid. No worries.
It will look great in the finished custard,
as if you've sprinkled it on top.

Place ramekins in a shallow roasting or baking pan.
Fill with water, about halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Baking tips...

To the left is what happens if you follow this recipe and bake the custard (uncovered) in a water bath at 325 degrees F. for 1 hour and 5 minutes.

o the right is what happens if you try to rush the process of baking. Do you see those unsightly pockmarks on the top of the custard? That comes from the custard boiling instead of cooking slowly. In the batch at the right, I sealed aluminum foil over the roasting pan. Yes, this sped up the cooking time but it also made the custard boil, creating this less silky result.

Allow the custard to cool for an hour after removing from the oven.
If you chill or store in the fridge, don't forget to seal plastic wrap
over the top of the ramekins or custard cups to prevent
a skin from forming.
Now all you have to do is
pour a fresh cup of coffee and...

Eat with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle
author of the
Coffeehouse Mysteries 

To get more of my recipes
or to find out about the books
in my nationally bestselling
Coffeehouse Mystery series,
visit me at my official website:


  1. Oh Cleo! My mama used to make boiled custard every week growing up and it sounds VERY similar to this recipe. It was also her favorite thing to make for someone who was recovering from a hospital stay, good at building up strength! What great memories. Thanks for sharing this recipe!

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  2. I love a baked custard! Sprinkles with Murder goes on my list!

  3. I hope nobody minds that I mention that I reviewed Sprinkle with Murder today on my blog, Loved Jenn's characters & setting. And, who can resist cupcakes? Humor as well. Highly recommend it! And, I'm hoping to get to Poisoned Pen to meet Jenn on Saturday!

  4. This recipe looks delicious. I remember eating egg custards growing up and loved them. My grandmother and mother never wrote recipes down so I didn't have one. Thanks for reminding me a fun times from the past and a great recipe to help me make new ones.

  5. Wow, do those look easy and delish! I love custard. Can't wait to try the recipe. Where did you find the cute ramekins? I'm guessing W & S or Sur la Table? Yum! ~Avery

  6. I LOVE custards. This sounds amazing! Seriously. I'm like totally salivating.

    Cheesezits! I sound like a hungry valley girl ;)

  7. Well, the wackiest ingredient I can think of right now would be anchovies but I'm sure no one would want to eat them! As for a more palatable option, I'd have to say jelly beans in honor of Easter :-)

    Sarah M

  8. Belatedly chiming in here to congratulate Jenn on SPRINKLE WITH MURDER! Can't wait to start it! I read Lesa's review on her blog today -- woo-hoo!!
    Thrilled for you, Jenn!! A great new start to a great new series!

    Cleo -this sounds like a wonderfully simple, tasty recipe. Thanks for the great pics and hints for ensuring smoothness.

    Nice to be home again - but I have to tell you, I had a *wonderful* time in NC!


  9. Lesa, we're always delighted to see you. Especially when you write such lovely reviews of our books!

    Mmm. This looks so delicious, Cleo! I'm sure the hardest part is waiting for them to cool.

    ~ Krista

  10. You are so right that you can't hurry baking - I guess that's part of the love - it takes time to bake it in, right? These look great!

  11. My stomach is growling now! I've always loved custard, but I would probably throw in a little bit of cooked rice. I love rice pudding even more :)


    @Elizabeth/Riley – Smiling at your memory. Too true...for so many people Egg custard = Mom. And (sure) thanks to Proust, making any reference to taste unlocking memory sounds like a complete cliché, but IMHO one spoonful of this baby *does* indeed take me (as well as my husband) right back to our childhoods.

    @Pam – Thanks for dropping in to our ML Kithcen. I’m so happy to hear that you’re going to give Jenn’s book a try. I think you’ll enjoy *Sprinkle with Murder* -- I loved it.

    @Lesa – What a wonderful review of Jenn’s book on your Web site. Thank you for letting us know, and BTW we are *always* delighted to have you drop by our ML Kitchen.

    @Mason – Great comment – that is so very true about mothers and grandmothers (or at least a good percentage of them). They’ve made certain beloved recipes so many times that there’s no need for them to write them down. Consequently, unless a member of the family learns the ingredients and method by making the dish with them, the recipes are lost, which is a real shame. I hope you enjoy my Baked Egg Custard. Although the dish is a standard one, I've tweaked the basic ingredients and method to (hopefully) produce something that’s foolproof to make and delicious to eat.

    ~Cleo Coyle
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  13. Hmm... can i use 1% milk instead of whole milk for this? Because if so, I can make this NOW :D


    @Avery – I hope you enjoy the custard! I love those ramekins. They’re Corningware brand French White (4-ounce size) and lots of places sell these, of course! (Bed Bath and Beyond online is offering them for 2 for $7.99 – good deal!) I bought mine at a Corningware store here in NYC.

    @Juju – Like, I’m totally cracking up – Cheesezits, now I sound like one! Thanks for the nice words, Juju.

    @Sarah – Oh, I like the jelly bean idea. Good one. (Hey, you know anchovies might work in a cupcake if it included pizza sauce and mozzarella cheese!)

    @Julie – Welcome back from your author trip to NC! Can’t wait to hear more about it. (Photos? Hint, hint…)

    @Krista – Oh, yes, I consider waiting for the cool-down the most challenging part of baking! And not just on custard. :-)

    @Trix – So true and so sweet – you nailed the secret ingredient for every recipe.

    @Janel – Rice pudding is a recipe I plan to share here sometime soon—it’s a decadent and delish stovetop recipe. Glad to hear you’re also a fan of RP!

    @Dancia – I like your adapt and overcome foodie philosophy! Absolutely – you can use 1% milk. Go for it. The end result will not have as rich a taste as the whole milk version, but you should not have any trouble with the thickening, which comes from the eggs.

    ~Cleo Coyle
    “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”

    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

    OF JAVA.

  16. Reply to Anonymous - Stay tuned! I will be posting a fantastic rice pudding recipe this month (with photos and tips). Be sure to "follow" our blog so you don't miss it. Just hit the "follow" button in the right column.

    :) ~Cleo
    “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  17. Just cooked this last night , had it for breakfast, as suggested, chilled with a cup of coffee... DELICIOUS!! I WILL be making this again! Can't tell you guys how much I love this site, I'm cooking so much more now!

  18. I love custard - this looks so creamy! My mother taught me how to make custard when I was little - this recipe is going into my BOX!



  19. I so love this~ sounds and looks amazing great job on this....hate not seeing all these on FB anymore, its not like it use to be, glad I stumbled over this :)

  20. Do you have any suggestions for baking at a high altitude? My daughter loves custard, but it bakes irregular for her in the mountains.