5 weeks ago
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Everyone is familiar with the old saying "if at first you don't succeed, try try again." I remember my mother cheerfully chirping that one to me as a kid if I messed up in soccer or didn't understand my math homework. I feel like old sayings with staying power get that way for a reason - they have merit, they embody wisdom, they hold some universal truth. And so, despite my multiple failures, I have continued to try to make custard, time and time again, like the good old adage-follower that I am. But this saying does not promise eventual success. It just tells you to keep trying. There is no follow up, no instructions for what to do "if at second you don't succeed." (Although I do think that the saying implies that you should try at least twice more after your first failed attempt -- "try try again" - that's two more tries.) But I have to believe that if we could ask the author of that saying what we should do if we keep try-trying and not-not succeeding, he would say "if at fifth you don't succeed, you really need to move on."
And that's where I find myself with custard. Custard is not my friend. I can't put my finger on exactly why things tend to break down for me when I make custard, but break down they do. And since custard was required for this week's TWD selection, Honey Peach Ice Cream, you can probably guess how it turned out for me.
But first, let's discuss what did work. My peach puree.
That simply required peeling and cutting up peaches, boiling them with honey, and then pureeing them with an immersion blender. Apparently some people really hate peeling peaches and will go to great lengths to avoid it. My bloggy friend Di and I have a deal that if we ever live near each other, I'll peel her peaches and she'll make my custard. I totally get the better end of that bargain.
Now let's discuss the more complicated matter of what did not work.
I know the drill by now. Whisk egg yolks & sugar in one bowl, boil milk in a different bowl, add a small amount of milk to the eggs to temper them, add the rest of the milk slowly while whisking vigorously. But this time, we had to pour the egg/sugar/milk mixture back into the pan and cook over medium heat until it hit between 170 and 180 degrees.
Kitchen thermometers mysteriously refuse to hit the desired temperature when they are taking the temperature of custard in my kitchen. When this first started happening, I thought that maybe the cheap thermometer I bought at Target or the grocery store just wasn't reliable, so I started diverting my children's college savings to fancy Williams-Sonoma thermometers in the hopes of ending my custard temperature-taking woes.
That's my fancy candy thermometer, hanging out at 155 degrees, a full 20 degrees shy of where it needed to be. It pretty much didn't budge from there, other than to drop a few degrees from time to time.
So I broke out my fancy new instant read and double teamed the custard:
Well, I can report, in true Consumer Reports fashion, that kitchen thermometers at all price points that are used to take the temperature of custard in my kitchen will reliably register readings that are a solid 20 degrees lower than required.
So my custard boiled and boiled away, never getting above 155 degrees. In addition to the temperature test for determining whether the custard is done, Dorie describes a "spoon test," in which the custard coats the back of a spoon, and if you run your finger down the bowl of the spoon, the custard won't run into the track. Well, I tried the spoon test, and it seemed to be holding the track. But then when I'd bend down to squint and read my thermometers while holding the spoon, the custard seemed to drip back into the track, so I started to doubt that it was satisfying the spoon test, especially since the custard appeared to be way short of hitting temperature.
I finally bailed after about 30+ minutes. As soon as it came off the heat, I knew that it was way overdone, probably by a good 20 minutes. I mixed the custard with the peach puree, refrigerated, and churned the ice cream the next night.
My first thought when I tasted it was "grainy." David didn't really notice the graininess, but he did think that it tasted like there was a film on it. I think that's even worse than grainy. The flavor was okay, as copious amount of peaches, honey, sugar, milk and cream have a way of keeping things from being truly awful no matter what you do to them, but I am sure the flavor was nothing like what it would have been had I not ruined the custard AGAIN.
The honey peach ice cream was chosen by Tommi of Brown Interior. Tommi, you couldn't have picked a better June recipe than this one, and I'm so bummed that I ruined it. I know that this had to be incredible for all the TWDers who cooked their custard for 5 minutes instead of 45.