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Old 05-09-2006, 09:03 PM   #1
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Join Date: May 2006
Location: Madison, WI
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Custard Technique for Gellatos and Creme Brulle

Hello all. New here.

I am a seasoned and accomplished cook and can make just about anything. I have been likened to McGuyver by my family as I can open the fridge and enter the pantry -- from its contents I can produce a great deal of quality.

My problem has always been that when it comes down to making custards, I believe that I am doing everything right -- the outcome always seems fine -- but I feel that I am always missing something. Is the cooked custard actually thick enough? Is my technique adequate? Am I wasting time? Am I beating the yokes too little, too much? As I have no formal education in this art and I have never been shown (I also can't make a good pie crust anymore!), I look to the accomplished folks to help.

Let it be known that I have turned out fine brulee and tasty gelato but have I reached the pinnacle of these fine bases? So, I look to everyone here to give me their tips, show me pictures of "coating the back of a wooden spoon," how thick is thick? Let me see what you've got. I'll show you mine if you show me yours .

Thanks.
AGE

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Old 05-09-2006, 10:06 PM   #2
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Welcome aboard, AGE.

I recommend you show us one of your recipes and let us look it over and offer suggestions. We're pretty good at that! There are a number of accomplished professional chefs and home cooks that will help.
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Old 05-10-2006, 08:42 AM   #3
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I can do that. The following is for a traditional gellato:

2 cups whole milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla or 2 vanilla beans whole
3 - 4 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream

Scald milk in saucepan with vanilla -- of course do not boil, yadda yadda yadda.
Beat egg yolks until creamy so that whisk pulls ribbons when removed.
Beat two table spoons of warmed milk into eggs. Slowly add remaining milk into eggs while gently beating (here is where I have a little foaming issues -- I use a wire wisk but very gently beat).
Gently beat in sugar.
Return to low heat and stir constantly until custard forms and is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. (I have been using an induction cooktop to reduce my gas useage. I start at about 125 and then up it to 170, then finally to 190 until the custard hits about between 180 and 190 and then back it down to 125. When it begins to thicken, the foam quickly incorporates. I might get a miniscule curd or two doing this. Most likely it is coming off the top edge of the pan as I stir.)
Immerse pan in cold water to slow cooking.
Allow to cool to room temp.
Mix in heavy cream.
Refridgerate till cold.
Churn as desired.

So, this makes a very nice gellato of a very nice consistency. As you can see, it is plain, simple, and no artificial anything. I am aiming for perfection for all custards and since I have no formal education, I don't really know what I should see. All that I have seen is written and trial and error.

Thanks for responding.
AGE
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Old 05-10-2006, 01:55 PM   #4
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According to Auguste Escoffier custard is a personal thing.
If it is the proper thickness to satisfy the situation then it is done right.
He says that the number of yolks will vary and the amount of sugar used will be dependant on the diners' taste.
From what you have said It sounds like you are doing everything right if all comes out right.
In her book How to Cook Everything Julia Child shows a picture of the custard coating the back of a spoon and Alton Brown has said that if you wipe your finger across the back of the spoon and leave a path then it is ready.
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Old 05-10-2006, 04:37 PM   #5
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Diane -

Thanks for the info. I love AB but can't watch all those episodes (gotta get me a PVR!!!). I understand the whole "personal taste" thing. Here is where the rubber meets the road - what really is "coating a spoon?"

So, I dip the back of my brown wooden spoon into the pan and there is a nice translucent film on the back. It does not run when turned vertical (well, maybe just a smidge...). But, I can definately see the spoon through it. Yes, when I run my finger through it a fine path is made and the path fills in a little but not much. Maybe I have it where it needs to be.

So the real question is when cooking a custard base, what is the thickness and consistency? Should it be like pudding (I think not)? Should it be like cake batter? Or is AGE just really over-thinking this whole thing.

In the end, what I am really missing is a good visual clue. My mother cooked but never baked. My wife bakes but not finer deserts. My mother-in-law makes great pies and never brings them to dinner but rather donates them to church functions . So, I am out here in Trial and Error land doing OK but I need to know. It is my quest...

Thanks for all who are participating. Maybe I should just spend an hour at Barnes and Noble until I find a great book with a fine photo.

AGE
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Old 05-10-2006, 04:44 PM   #6
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The answer to all the quesions in the original post is in the finished product. Is the custard right? Is it properly set and does it taste like what it's supposed to taste like? Is it too sweet or OK?

If the finished product is right on, it's OK to assume the intervening steps are right on as well.
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Old 05-14-2006, 08:02 PM   #7
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yes. coating the back of a spoon is the consistance of a creamy Italian salad dressing.
Don't over question it. It sounds like you are doing it right.
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