Sweet and salty holiday happiness coming at you!!
I know I have been posting so many sweets lately. It must be the holiday spirit that has gotten my brain into this sugar frenzy. I promise, I have plenty of savory dishes coming soon, but for now can we just relish in these lovely, little custards?
Custard can be a tricky animal, but once you get it down, it soon becomes one of the easiest and quickest desserts you can whip up! We are going to review the basics and jump onto the sleigh ride of success today!
The biggest challenge to custard making lies in the tempering stage. We have to add eggs to a hot liquid without scrambling them.
Rule No. 1: Take it slow. That is really the only rule, and certainly the most critical aspect of custard success. If you pour the eggs directly into the warm eggnog, they will scramble. If you heat the mixture too quickly and over very high heat, they will scramble. These are the things we have to avoid through patience and caution.
This particular custard begins with eggnog and sugar. Pour them into your favorite medium saucepan and whisk over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved.
In the meantime, beat some egg yolks until pale yellow in color and then whisk in a cup of whole milk.
Once the eggnog is steaming, slowly stream several ladle-fulls of the warmed eggnog into the egg and milk mixture. As you whisk, the eggs will gradually rise in temperature. This is known as tempering.
After the eggs are warm, everything goes back into the saucepan to warm up over medium heat. Once this mixture is thick and steaming, off the heat it goes.
Vanilla extract and fresh nutmeg are stirred in for a bit of extra eggnog magic.
The custard will appear too thin, but it will sit up after a few hours in the refrigerator.
This custard is scrumptious on its own, but it is spectacular when topped with sweet, whipped cream and a handful of salted caramel popcorn! I love the texture contrast between the crunchy popcorn and the smooth, eggy custard.
The perfect make-ahead dessert for entertaining!
Add your custard badge to your baking belt and pat yourself on the back!
We are winning at this Wednesday thing.
Eggnog Custard with Salted Caramel Corn
makes eight, 4-ounce servings
Cook’s Note: This recipe makes far more caramel corn than you need for the custard, but once you try it, you will not question what to do with leftovers.
FOR THE SALTED CARAMEL CORN
recipe adapted from Karo Corn Syrup
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1/3 cup popping corn
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Spray a large spatula and a 9x13 baking pan with nonstick spray and set aside for later use.
Place coconut oil in a popcorn pan and set over medium high heat. Once the oil has melted, add the popping corn. When you begin to hear the kernels pop, stir the pan continuously until you no longer hear popping.
Pour the popcorn into the prepared baking pan and place in the oven to dry out while you prepare the caramel.
In a 2-quart saucepan, combine brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, and salt. Place over medium high heat and stir constantly until the butter and brown sugar have melted. Bring the mixture to a boil and boil for five minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and quickly stir in baking soda and vanilla extract.
Working quickly so that the caramel does not set up, pour the caramel over the pan of popcorn. Use the prepared spatula to toss the mixture, making sure that all of the popcorn is evenly coated in the caramel.
Bake for 45 minutes - stirring the mixture every 15 minutes for even cooking.
Spread the popcorn out onto a large piece of foil coated with nonstick spray to cool. Once the popcorn has cooled to room temperature, store in zip-top bags until ready to use.
Cook’s Note: Popcorn will last up to 5 days if stored properly.
FOR THE CUSTARD & WHIPPED CREAM
8 large egg yolks
1 cup whole milk
3 cups eggnog
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanila extract
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
Place egg yolks in a medium mixing bowl and beat until thick and pale yellow in color; about 3-5 minutes. Whisk in milk and set aside.
Combine eggnog and granulated sugar in a heavy-bottomed 3-quart saucepan and set over medium heat. Warm, stirring often, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is steaming; but not boiling.
Once the mixture is steaming, remove from heat. Carefully add one ladle-full of the steaming eggnog to your prepared egg yolk mixture while whisking continuously. Continue this process of pouring and whisking until you have used about one-third of the eggnog mixture. Next, pour the tempered egg yolks into the saucepan of remaining eggnog and return to medium low heat.
Heat the mixture while stirring constantly for 7-10 minutes; until the mixture has thickened to that of a thin pudding. It should be steaming, but DO NOT allow the mixture to boil or the custard will become grainy.
Cook’s Note: I like to stir the custard in waves, making rough figure eights through the custard. This stirring method is not crucial to its overall success, but I find that it helps me recognize when the mixture becomes more viscous. When it begins to show a bit of resistance, you know it is ready.
Pour the custard through a fine mesh sieve and ladle the mixture into custard cups or ramekins. Cover the surfaces of the cups with plastic wrap - this will prevent a film from forming - and refrigerate for 3-4 hours.
In the meantime, prepare the whipped cream by beating together heavy cream and confectioner’s sugar until soft peaks form.
To serve, place a spoonful of whipped cream on top of each custard and sprinkle with prepared popcorn. Enjoy!
Cook’s Note: Do not top the custard with the whipped cream or caramel corn until just before serving, as the cream can separate and the popcorn will become soggy.
If covered, custard will last in the refrigerator for up to five days, so feel free to make this treat in advance!!