Showing posts with label custard. Show all posts
Showing posts with label custard. Show all posts

Friday, April 1, 2016

Floating Islands

I woke up a couple of days ago thinking about the dessert Floating Islands. I really don’t know why. While there are few ingredients, It’s kind of a pain to make, because there are finicky parts to the recipe. It’s definitely kind of old fashioned. But for me it brings back memories.

I have no doubt told you before that my grandmother didn’t cook, except for fudge and meatloaf (why just those? I have no idea.). My mother produced tasty, healthy meals, but I don’t know how much pleasure she took in the whole process. But for some unknown reason I have a very clear memory of the two of them working together, in the kitchen of a house we rented for only a few years, to make this dish. It wasn’t a holiday meal or anything. Maybe they had some spare time or wanted to distract themselves from other things. I think my grandmother had her own memories of the dish, and while she might not have been able to make it herself, she certainly felt free to offer opinions and instructions. Me (age 11 or so), I just kept out of their way and watched.

But what made it memorable for me was that it’s kind of a playful dish: meringue islands floating in a yellow sea of custard. (Maybe that makes it appropriate for April Fools’ Day?)

Fanny Farmer said only, make custard, spoon beaten egg whites or whipped cream on top. Uh, no. These days we kind of prefer to cook our eggs. So I turned to The Joy of Cooking, where the recipe made much more sense.

Floating Island (or Snowy Eggs)

For the Islands:

3 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups [whole] milk

Separate the egg whites and yolks. Set aside the yolks.

Whip the egg whites until stiff, then beat in the sugar gradually.

Scald the milk (anybody remember how to do that? I do it in the microwave, in stages. You know it’s scalded when a thin skin forms on top. Discard the skin before using!). 

You can just see the skin
Place in on the heat but turn it down as low as it will go. Drop tablespoons of the egg white mixture onto the top of the milk and poach gently (for about four minutes), turning once. DO NOT LET THE MILK COME TO A BOIL!

Lift out the poached meringues carefully (there’s an understatement!) with a skimmer and lay them gently on a paper towels to drain.

The sea (all right, the custard)

You will still have the yolks left over from the eggs above, right? You’ll need another quarter-cup of sugar now.

In a double boiler (you do have one of those? I have my mother’s and my grandmother’s, both now definitely vintage) put the milk you’ve already scalded (still warm) in the top pan. Slowly stir in the slightly-beaten egg yolks, whisking steadily, plus 1/4 cup of sugar and a pinch of salt.

The heirloom double boilers
Put the top pan with the egg-milk mixture over lightly boiling water in the bottom half (do not let the bottom of the top pot come into contact with the water or you’ll get scrambled eggs). Stir the mixture constantly until it begins to thicken, which may take a while, then remove from the heat and let cool. Beat it occasionally to keep in smooth.

If you want, you can add vanilla, rum, or grated lemon rind for flavor now. Then pour the custard into a pretty serving dish (this will be a thin layer), cover loosely and place it in the refrigerator and chill thoroughly.

Assembling the dish

When the custard is cool, gently slip the meringue “islands” on top and return the dish to the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve it.

It’s kind of an odd dish, I must say. It’s very light, and mostly liquid, but it tastes pleasant. BTW, this recipe as given made enough for four small servings—not a lot given the effort to make it. 

There's floating involved here, right? A Turn for the Bad (County Cork Mystery #4) is still floating along happily at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

French Custard Cake

From Peg Cochran

The French name for this cake is "Le Far Aux Pruneaux."  Pruneaux I knew meant prunes (although they are calling them "dried plums" now.   Guess prunes had a bad rap.)  Le Far was a new word to me so I looked it up and it means Breton Custard Cake with Prunes.  So the name is apparently a little redundant.  The recipe originated in Brittany, France.  

The recipe came from a charming tea towel my girlfriend gave me.  It is printed with the recipe in French.  I read it over and could do a fairly decent job of understanding it but when it came time to make the cake, I relied on the English translation!

It is a very unusual batter--more like pancake batter than cake batter.  It is supposed to go into a cake pan but there was no way it was all going to fit into my 8 inch cake pan.  So I used a tube pan.  it turned out fine but I couldn't get it out of the pan--had to slice it in the pan and serve it like that.  No biggie because it was delicious!  Reminded me of a clafouti crossed with cheese cake--cakey around the edges and custardy in the center.  

1 cup whole prunes
4.5 cups light tea (I found 4 cups was enough)
1.5 cups white flour
3/4 cup white sugar
4 eggs
3 cups plus 8 teaspoons warmed milk
3.5 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
"Spoonful of rum" (you are on your own as to what a spoonful is.  I measured out a teaspoon but would use more next time.)

Macerate the prunes in the tea for 2 to 3 hours.  

In a large bowl, sift the flour and salt.  Make a well in the top.  Pour in sugar and eggs (I beat the eggs first).  

Add the warm milk to the bowl while constantly stirring.  (Helps to have a second pair of hands or at least a third arm for this.)

Stir in the rum and vanilla.  The batter will be very light and liquid.

Butter your cake pan with half the butter.  Drain the prunes and arrange on the bottom of the pan.  (Note: they will not stay where you put them when you pour in the batter.)  

Pour the batter over the prunes (you can rearrange your prunes now.)  Dot with the remaining butter (butter will sink.)

Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for one hour.  Cake will "fall" after being removed from the oven.

Kalon Digor!  Meaning enjoy in the Breton dialect.  


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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The 50 Most Delicious Foods and a Recipe for One of Them from Cleo Coyle


~ George Bernard Shaw

A fitting quote for this week, given the one-two punch of Mardi Gras and Valentine’s Day. Add the global Lunar New Year celebrations for the Year of the Black Snake and we have a foodie trifecta. 

Every culture has its favorite foods, of course, and a few years ago, members of the travel staff at CNN issued their own picks. The list of "The World's 50 Most Delicious Foods" is highly subjective and plenty of people disagreed with it. If you haven’t seen it, scroll to the end of this postand feel free to leave a comment on dishes you think should be on there.

A choice I absolutely agree with is the Hong Kong-style egg custard tart, which clocked in at #16, and if you've ever sampled one, then you know why. Creamy, eggy custard combines with flaky, buttery pastry to create a delightful combination of mouth-watering flavor and contrasting textures.

In Hong Kong—and New York’s Chinatown—the tarts are served warm, although they’re just as delightful at room temperature or chilled. (This I know from noshing a few for breakfast, straight from the fridge.) 

Watch a Hong Kong baker make
these tarts in the video below...

Cleo Coyle, trading hearts
for tarts this weeks,
is author of The
Coffeehouse Mysteries

Hong Kong-Style 
Egg Custard Tarts

from Cleo Coyle's 
A Brew to a Kill

You've heard of pub crawls? Well, to research this recipe, along with a few scenes that took place in our recent culinary mystery, A Brew to a Kill, my husband and I did an egg tart crawl to several bake shops in New York's Chinatown. 

In the acknowledgments of the book, you'll find the names of a few of those bakeries along with other fun, foodie destinations to try on your next trip to New York City.

To download this recipe in a PDF document that you can print, save, or share, click here.

The recipe below was also printed in the back of A Brew to a Kill, along with many more. Enjoy!

Makes 12 tarts 

4 large eggs 
4 large egg yolks 
2/3 cup whole milk 
2/3 cup white granulated sugar 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 

Directions: Gently whisk together ingredients. Run the mixture through a sieve. Pour into 12 pre-made tart shells or see my recipe below to make your own. Bake about 25 minutes in an oven preheated to 325° F. Centers should resemble creamy custard and not be rubbery. Tarts are done when an inserted toothpick (like a good alibi) stands up on its own. These tarts are traditionally served warm but are just as delicious at room temperature or chilled. To store, wrap loosely in wax paper or plastic and place in refrigerator. 

Tart Crusts 

Makes 12 small tart shells or 1 large tart crust 

1¼ cup all-purpose flour 
½ teaspoon salt 
1 tablespoon granulated sugar 
6 tablespoons butter (chilled) 
¼ cup vegetable shortening 
2–3 tablespoons hot water

Directions: Sift the flour, salt, and sugar into a bowl. Cut the butter into small pieces and add in the shortening. Using the tips of your fingers, work the fats into the flour until it resembles coarse crumbs. Add the hot water and continue working and kneading until it comes together into a smooth dough. Pat the dough into a large ball, flatten the ball into a disc, and wrap the disc in plastic or wax paper. Refrigerate for thirty minutes. Dust a surface with flour and roll flat. Stamp out circles and press into tart molds or (for more rustic tarts) use muffin pan tins. Bake as directed in the above recipe.

A few photos from our
Chinatown egg tart crawl...

If you see an NYPD cruiser in front of a restaurant, chances are
the food is good, and the egg custard tarts were excellent
at Golden Manna Bakery at 16 Bowery Street. Highly recommended!
No egg tarts on the menu, but you've
gotta dig a pagoda with golden arches.

Happy Chinese New Year!
~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

The Coffeehouse Mysteries are bestselling
works of amateur sleuth fiction set in a landmark
Greenwich Village 
coffeehouse, and each of the
12 titles includes the added bonus of recipes.  

To learn more...

Friend me on facebook here
Follow me on twitter here.
Visit my online coffeehouse here.

View the Coffeehouse
Mystery book trailer
by clicking here.

The World's 50
Most  Delicious Foods chosen by staff members of CNN
1. Massaman curry, Thailand, 2. Neapolitan pizza, Italy,
3. Chocolate, Mexico, 4. Sushi, Japan,
5. Peking duck, China, 6. Hamburger, Germany,
7. Penang assam laksa, Malaysia, 8. Tom yum goong, Thailand,
9. Ice cream, United States, 10. Chicken muamba, Gabon,
11. Rendang, Indonesia, 12. Shepherd’s pie, Britain,
13. Corn on the cob, global, 14. Donuts, USA,
15. Kalua pig, USA, 16. Egg tart, Hong Kong,
17. Lobster, global, 18. Kebab, Iran,
19. Nam tok moo, Thailand, 20. Arepas, Venezuela,
21. Croissant, France, 22. Brownie and vanilla ice cream, glob
23. Lasagna, Italy, 24. Champ, Ireland,  
25. Butter garlic crab, India, 26. Fajitas, Mexico, 
27. Montreal-style smoked meat, Canada 28. Pho, Vietnam, 29. Ohmi-gyu beef steak, Japan, 30. Goi cuon (summer roll), Vietnam 31. Parma ham, Italy 32. Ankimo, Japan 
33. Fish 'n’ chips, Britain, 34. Maple syrup, Canada,
35. Chili crab, Singapore, 36. Texas barbecue pork, United States,
37. Chicken parm, Australia, 38. French toast, Hong Kong,
39. Ketchup, United States, 40. Marzipan, Germany,
41. Stinky tofu, Southeast Asia, 42. Buttered toast with Marmite, Britain,
43. Tacos, Mexico, 44. Poutine, Canada,
45. Chicken rice, Singapore, 46. Som tam, Thailand,
47. Seafood paella, Spain, 48. Potato chips, United States,
49. Masala dosa, India, 50. Buttered popcorn, United States

Are your favorites listed?
What would you add?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Pots of Chocolate from Cleo Coyle

Cleo Coyle, who is searching
for new things to cover with
chocolate, is author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries
When I first discovered pots de crème, the clouds parted, the sun appeared, I’d found pudding nirvana! This classic dessert may translate from French to English as "pots of cream," but I always think of it as pots of chocolate, mainly because it's the only flavor I make. :)

This is not your high school cafeteria’s chocolate custard. It’s a rich, smooth, sinfully satisfying experience. It’s also very easy to whip up. Like last week's classic egg custard, you need no special culinary skills to make this treat.


This dessert, along with the modern gourmet philosophy of palate fatigue, plays a role in in my sixth Coffeehouse Mystery. To learn more about the book, click here: French Pressed

Cleo Coyle’s 
Chocolate Pots de Crème

To download this recipe in a free PDF that you can print, save, or share, click here.

Servings: This recipe will produce 4 cups of liquid to divide among your ramekins, custard cups, or ovenproof coffee cups. Consequently, depending on the size of your containers, this recipe will give you 6 to 8 servings.


12 ounces of good quality semisweet chocolate chopped (or chips)
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup milk
6 egg yolks (extra large or jumbo size)
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

Step 1: Melt the chocolate - Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Put your chopped chocolate (or chips) in a metal or glass bowl. In a medium saucepan, heat the cream and milk until it’s just about to boil, but not yet boiling. Pour this hot liquid over your chocolate and let it sit for about a minute until the chocolate is softened. Then stir this mixture until it’s smooth. The stirring will take one to two minutes.

Step 2: Beat the eggs - Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs well, for about 1 minute. Gradually mix in sugar until smooth. Add vanilla and salt. Now gradually beat the chocolate mixture you made (in Step 1) into these egg yolks.

Step 3: Strain and pour into containers - Strain this custard through a fine-meshed sieve (I use a small metal colander). Pour the strained liquid into a container with a spout. This will make it easier to evenly divide the mixture among containers.

Step 4: Prepare for Baking - Place the cups in a shallow baking pan. Carefully fill the pan with boiling water until it reaches about halfway up the sides of the custard cups (or ramekins or ovenproof coffee cups).

Step 5: Cover and Bake - Cover pan with foil, seal ends, and pierce in several places so that steam can escape. Bake for about 25 - 35 minutes in the center of your 300 degree F. oven until the tops of the pots de crème look solid, but the custard still jiggles slightly when you shake it. Don’t worry; the custard will firm up as it cools.

Note on Cooking Time: The smaller your cups, the quicker your custard will set. The deeper your cups, however, the longer your custard will take to set. If your custard still has a liquid top after 35 minutes, then turn up the oven temperature to 325 degrees F. and bake another 10 minutes. (If you use cool or room temperature water, rather than boiling water for the water bath, the cooking process may take longer, as well.)

Step 6: Chill, baby! - Now carefully remove the hot pots from the oven and the hot pan and let them cool to room temperature before placing in the fridge. After they come to room temperature, make sure to cover these with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. The custards should be chilled at least 3 hours before serving.

The photo above shows you the classic little French cups with lids that are traditionally used to make and serve pots de crèmeTo learn more, read the additional notes in the PDF version of my recipe by clicking here (this will download a free PDF doc for you).


Because this is a classic French dessert, many versions exist in cookbooks and on the Internet. For variations on this basic recipe, reduce the vanilla to 2 teaspoons and add 2 tablespoons Kahlúa (or try dark rum, Grand Marnier, or coffee syrup).

Coffee syrup can be bought pre-made. It can also be made from scratch. My recipe can be found by clicking here or turning to the back of the fifth Coffeehouse Mystery Decaffeinated Corpse.

For many more ideas on variations
for French pots de crème,
click here and have fun! There are some wonderful ideas there.


Eat with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle, author of

To get more of my recipes, enter to win
free coffee, or 
learn about my books, including
my bestselling 
Haunted Bookshop series, visit my online coffeehouse:

The Coffeehouse Mysteries are national bestselling
culinary mysteries set in a landmark Greenwich Village 
coffeehouse, and each of the ten titles includes the 
added bonus of recipes. 


The Ghost and
Mrs. McClure

Book #1 of 

The Haunted Bookshop
, which Cleo writes
under the name Alice Kimberly
To learn more, click here.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Creamy Egg Custard and Murder 203 with Cleo Coyle

Warm egg custard brings back equally warm memories for me...of Mom and home, crowded family kitchens, and those wonderful smells of good things baking 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.

But first a quick announcement.
I will be appearing at...

MURDER 203 on
Saturday April 14

My husband, Marc, will be attending with me. For the first time, we'll be on panels, signing books, and meeting you. So if you're attending be sure to say hello and let us know that you're a fan of Mystery Lovers' Kitchen!

What is Murder 203? It's a Mystery Festival held
by the Easton Public Library in Easton, Connecticut. 

Early Bird discount for those who register by
March 1 (postmark).
You can also register
later and walk-ins are welcome, too.

Learn more at the Murder 203
web site by
clicking here.

And now for this
week's recipe...

Cleo Coyle, who craves 
comfort foods in winter,
is author of 

Cleo Coyle’s 
Creamy Egg Custard

Baked egg custard is a lovely and satisfying comfort food that I've been eating ever since my mother made it for me as a child. I've baked it countless times since and am happy to share two tips I've learned along the way for producing a lovely custard with a smooth top and silky, creamy texture.

(1) Use room temperature eggs. Simply warm them quickly in a bowl of warm water from the tap. This will help loosen the albumin (protein) in the egg and make it easier for you to properly blend the custard.

(2) 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. Comfort in a cup from me to you, with a bit of nutmeg sprinkled on top…

To download this recipe in a free PDF document that you can print, save, or share, click here!

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


1-1/4 cups whole milk
3 large eggs, room temperature 
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup confectioners’ (powdered) sugar, sifted

Directions: 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. 

Serve and store: Eat the freshly baked custard at once or chill by placing plastic wrap over the top of each cup and storing in the refrigerator. (The plastic prevents a thick skin from forming on the custard.) 

Photos and notes...

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.

To the right is what happens if you try to rush the process of baking by raising the oven temperature or covering the pan with foil. 

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

To get more of my recipes, enter to win
free coffee, or 
learn about my books, including
my bestselling 
Haunted Bookshop series, visit my online coffeehouse:

The Coffeehouse Mysteries are national bestselling
culinary mysteries set in a landmark Greenwich Village 
coffeehouse, and each of the ten titles includes the 
added bonus of recipes. 


The Ghost and
Mrs. McClure

Book #1 of 

The Haunted Bookshop
, which Cleo writes
under the name Alice Kimberly
To learn more, click here.