A custard is anything thickened by the coagulation of egg proteins. Custards can be stirred or baked. Stirred custards are cooked on the stove top and must be stirred throughout cooking to stabilize the eggs and prevent curdling (overcooking). Think of the filling for a cocount cream pie, made with pastry cream. Pastry cream is a custard. Another common custard in creme anglaise (vanilla custard sauce). Now I have some experience making custards. I have made successful creme brulee, panna cotta, and recently a very good coconut cream pie so I went into this class with confidence. How hard could it be to make some custards after all? Chef Loy warned us about curdling and the thin line between perfection and ruin so I was a little worried.
Pastry class in Texas when it’s 100 degrees outside is also a factor. It’s hard to concentrate 80+ degree kitchen! We were given the the following assignments:

Pastry Cream

Vanilla Custard Sauce

Chocolate Mousse

Creme Brulee

Lemon Curd

Panna Cotta


Fresh Fruit Bavarian

I was teamed with Eric and gave him first choice for 4 items. He picked Chocolate Mousse,

Creme Brulee, Lemon Curd and the Bavarian.

I thought things were going well as I was making my flan. It seemed pretty simple. I made pastry cream and then realized it was awfully thick and lumpy looking although I did everything according to the instructions (and I have made this before!) The creme anglaise looked fine, however I saw some signs of curdling around the edges of the pan so that should have clued me in on the fact that it was overdone but I have never made this before so I wasn’t sure. I now know what overdone creme angliase looks like though. My panna cotta looked pretty good but when it was tasted it was definitely a little too “tight”, meaning too much gelatin. Working with sheet gelatin is a little tricky so this will take some practice to get right. The pastry cream turned into a too thick, lumpy mass by tasting time. Surprisingly, the flan was very good but the sauce I attempted to create was not so good–brown sugar, syrup, nuts got very hard and sticky.
Eric’s mousse was good, the Bavarian cream OK, the creme brulee a little soft, and he did not get the lemon curd done. Although most of what we made turned out either mediocre to bad it was a good demonstration of the frustrating dynamic of failing to make something due to the situation. I could go into my kitchen right now and make very good pastry cream with a recipe from the textbook but I’m not juggling 3 or 4 other dishes using different equipment and around a lot of distractions. The factors at school that make cooking ordinary dishes hard are being timed, unfamiliar equipment, and unfamiliar ingredients. Also, making something for the first time is always a gamble. The pastry cream at school used flour but I prefer using cornstarch for smoothness. I would have also reduced the amount of flour but I didn’t know it at the time.
Now do I want to go home and practice making something with these ingredients?:
1 quart half and half
1 vanilla bean, split
12 egg yolks
10 oz sugar
Whisk eggs yolks and sugar together in a mixing bowl. Temper the egg mixture with 1/3 of the hot cream, return entire mixture to saucepan. Cook over medium high heat, stirring constantly until thick enough to coat back of a spoon. Do NOT allow the sauce to boil. As soon as it thickens, remove it form the heat, strain it and put in a clean bowl. Chill over an ice bath.
(This is the recipe for Creme Anglaise)
I have a 5 year physical for my job coming up this fall so after culinary school for a year I’m afraid to see what the cholesterol level is going to be!