Tuesday, March 10, 2009

TWD: Vanilla Bean Cup Custards, or Mildly Sweetened Hard Boiled Eggs with Black Pepper? You Be the Judge.


Sometimes things just aren't as easy as we think they will be. Take the story that our good friend Bill tells of his attempt to grab some lunch on New Year's Day, 2000. He had been up late ringing in the new millennium, and was feeling the need for some old fashioned greasy food. "Easy" was of paramount importance at that moment, so Bill did the easiest thing he could think of: he got into his car, drove up to the drive-thru of that mecca of quick and easy greasy food, Burger King, and attempted to order lunch for himself and his wife, Suzanne:

Bill: Hi there. I'd like two regular cheeseburgers and two small fries, please.

Burger King Guy: Ain't got no buns.

Bill: Excuse me? There's some static out here. It sounded like you said that that you don't have any buns.

Burger King Guy: Ain't got no buns.

Bill: Okay. I'm going to pull around and come inside.

{Bill goes into Burger King, where he has the following conversation with Burger King Guy}

Bill: Hey there, sorry, it was a late night. Did you really tell me that you don't have any buns?

Burger King Guy: Yeah.

Bill: This is Burger King. What do you have that I can eat if you don't have any buns?

Burger King Guy: Whopper.

Bill: I thought you said that you don't have any buns!

Burger King Guy: Ain't got no cheeseburger buns. Got Whopper buns.

I don't remember how Bill and Burger King Guy ended up solving the no cheeseburger buns problem that day -- Cheeseburger on Whopper Bun? Whopper on Whopper Bun? Bunless Cheeseburger? All I know is that Bill got into his car that day assuming that lunch would be easy, and it was not. easy. at. all.

Well, just as Bill thought getting a burger would be simple that day, I began this week's TWD recipe for Lemon Cup Custards thinking that they were going to be pretty easy to throw together, because (1) they call for a mere four ingredients, and (2) Dorie says in the intro to the recipe that "custards don't come simpler than this one." Sure, there was that little voice in my head that said "Floating Islands! Floating Islands! Remember how the French think that they are simple, but they were very much not simple for you?" But honestly, if I listened to all of the naysaying voices in my head, I'd never do anything. So I dove right into the custards, believing in my heart of hearts that they would, indeed, be easy.

I first asked David to read the recipe and the various playing around options and tell me which one sounded good to him. He chose the vanilla. Since I was only making a half recipe, and therefore only burning through a little over a cup of milk, two eggs, and a quarter cup of sugar, I decided that rather than using vanilla extract, I would splurge and buy some real vanilla beans to use in the custard. I visualized my silky smooth custard dotted throughout with beautiful vanilla beans from Papau New Guinea. Something not even a little bit like this:


Yes, it does look a little bit like someone sneezed while shaking the pepper shaker. The last time I saw something that looked like that, I was in freshman year bio looking through a microscope at the contents of a petri dish. How did I end up here? Let's review.


I scraped my vanilla beans into the milk, threw the pods in there as well (which Dorie suggest that you do when infusing milk with vanilla) and brought the milk just to a boil. Then I took it off the heat, covered it, and waited 30 minutes for the vanilla beans to work their magic.

I whisked together the eggs and sugar until well blended, just like I was supposed to. Then I slowly added a little hot milk to temper the eggs. So far, so good. No curdling in my bowl. I strained the remaining milk into the eggs while continuing to whisk. There appeared to be vanilla beans throughout the bowl -- hooray! I poured the custards into three teacups, set the teacups in a roasting pan, and filled the pan halfway with water.


I worried about spilling the water and thereby further destroying my oven, which is still reeling from Shrimp Incident '09 and its aftermath (which involved mindboggling amounts of broken glass when the handyman tried to take it apart so I could clean it), but that part all went fine, thankfully.

Dorie says to bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until they jiggle only in the center. I set the timer for 40 minutes and went off to get the kids into bed. I did not even think about the custards again until the timer went off after 40 minutes. Well, apparently my oven is running hot these days, because by the time I got there, it was evident that I had missed the "jiggly only in the center" stage by a long shot. My custards were not only not "jiggly in the center," they were, I kid you not, the Jessica Biel of spoon desserts, i.e., not jiggly anywhere. Which is great for you if you are Jessica Biel, but very, very bad if you are a custard. Because this is what happens when you stir up a not-jiggly-anywhere custard:


Several times I've made a dessert and thought "Now, this is one fugly dessert. But I bet that Kim, if given the chance, could make this look pretty." Well, between the pepper, er, vanilla bean clusters, on the top, and the shiny chunks of overcooked dairy products, I finally think I churned out a dessert that even Kim couldn't save. Kim?

The custard was edible. It definitely tasted eggy to me, which is not necessarily a problem, but it really needed a stronger vanilla flavor. I wish that I added some vanilla extract, or used the whole vanilla bean (I only used half), or both. But the texture was the dealbreaker for me. I guess it most closely resembles a flan, which will never be among my favorite desserts. David thought the custard was pretty good. He agreed that the flavor was pretty weak, and said that "it really seems like more of a palate cleanser than a dessert." And seeing as we don't really do palate cleansing courses in our house, I am not seeing this custard filling a gaping need for us. But I love trying new techniques, and this is definitely not a recipe I would have chosen to make myself. So I'm really glad that I tried it! And who knows, if I added a little more vanilla and didn't cook it as long, it might have been a completely different dessert.

Bridget of The Way the Cookie Crumbles chose this week's recipe. Thanks for a fun pick, Bridget!

56 comments:

Anne said...

Oh Cathy, that's too funny about the black pepper look. I hope your oven recovers and can't wait to see what happens next week! :)

Karen said...

I am glad you made this just for the story! :)

Megan said...

Well, I'm glad this recipe didn't require a visit from the oven service-man. Otherwise, that's some seriously chunky custard. Yikes.

Elyse said...

The Jessica Biel of custards, I love it! I'm sorry both you and Bill have run into some snags in the food-process. However, this baking process made for a great story, and if your custard passes the husband test, then it must be delicious!

Cristine said...

Your posts are always so entertaining! Good for you for trying the recipe even though it didn't turn out well.

Audrey said...

Oh, I hear you, sister, about the desserts pretending to be easy thing. And after you splurged on the beans, too. It's not fair, no it isn't. But good for you for trying it! It's funny though (not ha ha funny)...I thought my baked custards looked too brightly artificially yellow, like something from a cheap mix...but underneath they were a softer, prettier color. I wonder if my drops of lemon oil floated to the top like your beans?

Natashya said...

Mine were pretty cooked after 40 minutes too.
It is good that you tried them, even if they weren't your favourite.
Your exploits in the kitchen make me laugh! And your little cups are adorable.

n.o.e said...

Isn't it hard to know when to trust those pesky naysaying voices? And that promise of "easy" can just lull us into false peace of mind. I had to laugh about the palate cleansing course; when you are ready to institute that kind of dining, you'll know just what recipe to use, right?
Nancy

Mary Ann said...

Hey, at least you gave it a try. It still sounds like it was a success and I think sometimes the way a recipe is worded makes it difficult to know when it is done.

Marthe said...

That does indeed look more than a scrambled egg!!! Too bad you didn't really like it...

Steph said...

Cathy, I almost believed you with the black pepper. I wish I made this now. Sometimes I get so curious, I want to make something that people don't like just so I can taste it for myself too. Eggy, flannish.. who cares, I want to try..haha.

Jacque said...

Well, what can you do? Sorry it didn't turn out quite right.

Way to be a trooper!

Di said...

How funny! Everything must float to the top, because I used vanilla extract, and I ended up with brown circles on top of my custards. After deciding that she didn't like this, Brianna stirred the rest of her custard around in her cup and it ended up looking like scrambled eggs. =)

Oh, and I have a similar story to the one you told, but from McDonalds... I asked for a medium coke. "We don't have medium--we only have small, large and extra-large." Um, okay, how 'bout you just give me the one in the middle, then? Lol. =)

Jessica said...

How funny. I also used vanilla beans and thought that the custards would be exotic and delicately delicious. Some of my vanilla beans went to the top but most of mine settled on the bottom of the cup. Oh well. I'm glad that you made them, just for the story about Burger King. Definitely not the time to tell a person that he can't get his greasy hangover fix!

Shari@Whisk: a food blog said...

Funny story about Burger King! Adding vanilla bean was a good idea (even if it does look like black pepper)!

Sabrina said...

I am so out of it this morning... I kept wondering, now where is the part where she says she adds black pepper???? DUH! Okay Vanilla Beans look like Black Pepper!

Nice job trying it out though! I think it looks custardy to me... I dont like custard so it all looks the same. kinda weird.
On to next week! :)

Maria said...

I always love your descriptions!! Sorry this wasn't a favorite, you never give up on a challenge. Good for you!

Flourchild said...

Funny Burger King story. Im glad your custard turned out good. I made mine into little tarts. This recipe is not going to be a favorite of mine but Im glad I tried it!

Teanna said...

What do you mean you don't have palate cleanser courses!? Doesn't everyone? Haha jk! First of all, I'm so sorry that you are still suffering from Shrimp-Gate! Secondly, the Burger King story is HYSTERICAL and I can totally picture it, even though I don't know Bill or the Burger King guy. I'm so sorry that the custard didn't turn out! But you always tell the best stories!

natalia said...

Ciao ! I'm afraid I cooked mine too long too !

Pamela said...

Well, at least you tried it. The BK story was a good one...sounds like the BK worker might have had a hard New Years Eve, huh? Sorry this one didn't work out for you, but thanks again for a great post.

dharmagirl said...

Thanks for the daily dose of humor...between the BK story and the Jessica Biel metaphor, my day has improved exponentially. Vanilla specks have a way of gravitating towards one another like some kind of powerful, invisible magnet...

Andrea said...

Too funny about the bun shortage at Burger King. What a way to start the new year, huh?

Sorry these didn't work for you, I was hoping that maybe you would have a winner -- at least your husband liked them. I won't even ask about the kids. I know the answer. My oldest two had one bite each and didn't make a nasty face or say anything negative, just one "I'm full of that lemon cup, can I have another muffin?" I think they were trying to be nice to me :)

Katherine Aucoin said...

You are having a time but you have a great sense of humor about it. David needs to take you on a weekend getaway.

I am so sorry this didn't come out as planned. I know you won't give up.

Pam said...

What a bummer! At least it still tasted good - even if it needed more vanilla.

pinkstripes said...

Ugh. That picture of the mixed up cooked custard is making my stomach go oogy. The texture would not work for me either.

I love your stories. They are wonderful!

kim said...

lol!! ;) it's not as bad as that! if you didn't stir it... and included a vanilla bean in the photo to explain the dots... it would look great! :) the cups are really cute.
sorry you didn't like the texture.... hopefully everyone will get along again next week ;)

Katrina said...

Let's face it, even with extra vanilla and baked shorter time, it would have still tasted like eggs. Sorry. Love your writing if that's any consolation. I'm glad I tried it, too, even though it didn't fill my tummy the way I'd hoped!

Sara said...

Yeah, I didn't love these either. It was a texture thing. I also used some vanilla bean, but my strainer was so fine that you could barely see the nice black specks. I guess we had opposite problems here :)

bakingwiththeboys said...

I almost overcooked mine with a side trip to the laundry room. After seeing your photo, I am glad that didn't happen.

I made the vanilla and added smuckers caramel (which I know you have in abundance...). It was ok but definitely not a repeat for us.

The Blonde Duck said...

Ok, so go to YouTube and watch "Can I have your number?" MAD TV skit. This totally reminds me of "Ain't got no buns!"

vibi said...

Again... I'll say, you have such a way with words! Woahhh...

Okay, perhaps the look of that custard is not as Kim would make it... but isn't the important thing, how it taste!???

...and it was pretty good! I didn't add vanilla, but I doubled the zest and added lots of lemon oil!!! mmmmm...

Melissa said...

Oh, that's funny. Sorry you over-cooked it and didn't really enjoy it. But I do like your husband's description of it being like a palate cleanser - I totally agree. I'm glad we all tried it, but I'm hoping for much better success next week!

chocolatechic said...

Hilarious story.

Your custard looks great.

Carolina Belle said...

OMG, the "Ain't got no buns" story is bringing back memories of that dinner at Duners when all those stories came out. I am just cracking up. I am cracking up. I love it!

Jennifer said...

I overcooked mine a bit, too, way beyond jiggly.

But now I've got to wonder, would Jessica Biel like custard?

Cathy said...

Caroline Belle -- yes, it's part of the Holy Trinity of fast food service stories (ain't got no buns; the Blizzard machine be broke my brother, would you like a hard cone; how you ring up a Big Nasty?) Man, that was one fun dinner!

Jules Someone said...

Oh my. Sorry this one wasn't a hit. But the post made me laugh!

Ivette said...

Great post! Sorry it didn't turn out as you expected! Can't wait for next week's cake!!

Kayte said...

I love the part about Kim making it look good...her photos are something else, aren't they? I thought it was "eggy," too. Not my favorite, but hey, at least I didn't have to mess around with chocolate this week. Plenty of other favorites in this book! Oh, and really...no cleansing of palates around there between courses????? LOL. None here either...guys eat so fast after swimming for three hours that I am not sure they even realize there ARE courses! Onto next week...

Jill said...

I don't think the words "palette cleanser" have ever been spoken in our house! At least you tried it. I chickened out.

Heather said...

mmmm. the custard looks super yummy :) i love the burger king story! it amazes me that the guy didn't think to just use a whopper bun.... yikes ;)

karen said...

i really wanted to like this one, i kept tasting it telling myself "like it, like it!" but... oh well.

AmyRuth said...

Gosh, made me hungry for the fries. Yum Did the repair man break the glass in your oven door? Oh my. Hope all is restored soon. Seriously? A cleanser.... he he your hubs is a stitch too. You both crack me up. Maybe next time. There is always next week. YeeHaw.
AmyRuth

MacDuff said...

Yeah, my custards are your caramels, sister.

But really, read this article.
http://www.dlisted.com/node/30959

I laughed so hard, I about peed my pants the other day. I mean, can't you just hear her?

THIS IS AN EMERGENCY. MY MCNUGGETS ARE AN EMERGENCY!!!

Jess said...

We ain't got no buns...laughing. Yes, this was an interesting dessert texture-wise - much like flan, but I expect flan to have a bunch of caramel on top. Hmmm, maybe that would have done the trick...

Leslie said...

I didn't even realize you had broken glass to deal with! I thought that's why we call in the professionals after our shrimp juggling, no? You did everything right with this one. It just wasn't destined to be your favorite dessert. At least we have Tall and Creamy Cheesecake (which I never expected to like but I adore it) and World Peace cookies.

Bridgett said...

No palate cleansing in your house? LOL I love that line! I take it your butler has been fired as well? Your posts always make me giggle.

Gabe's Girl said...

You have no idea how much you make me laugh! Great post. Glad you did it, so I could read something awesome today!

Matt's Kitchen said...

Well, now, let's never underestimate the power of a newly cleansed palate. I, personally, prefer brushing my teeth to cleanse mine, but I am notoriously lowbrow and low maintenance.

I hate when recipes fail to live up to my expectations!

Jayne said...

Hahahaha! So frustrating, but such a great story!

farah said...

I laughed when i read the sneezing bit, very good ;)

I'm sorry you didn't like these. I agree that it is more of a palate cleanser than a dessert. I quite liked it though.

Karen said...

Cute post... enjoyed reading it :)

TeaLady said...

Sometimes you wonder where they find some of the people working in the 'fast' food joints. Funny story. Petri dishes. Memories of H.S. Biology. As long as you 'sort of' liked it the looks don't count. Looks just fine to me.

The Food Librarian said...

Cathy, are you now in Los Angeles? Because I have BEEN TO THAT Burger King. Oh dear. I have pretty much had the same conversation about no small beverages because they were out of cups. Um, could you just pour less liquid in a medium cup instead? Sigh.

Cakelaw said...

Love the black pepper comparison - vanilla beans often look that way, even though they taste delicious. Sorry this didn't turn out how you would have wanted it too, but I am glad that it was edible. (For the record, I didn't get the Floating Islands at all.)

 
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