Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Chilled Espresso and Mayan Mocha Custards

This post is a two for one deal. I've been craving desserts as of late...anything sweet really. But when cutting the sugars a lot of traditional sweets are off limits. As custard is simply egg, milk, sweetener and flavoring it seemed to fit the bill. Two recipes are below.

Adapted from The South Beach Diet Cookbook by Arther Agatston, M.D.

serves 4

The Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups 1% milk
2 eggs
3 Tbsp sugar substitute
2 tsp espresso powder or instant coffee
1 tsp vanilla extract

The Process:
In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, sugar substitute, espresso powder, and vanilla extract until well-blended. Pour into four 6-ounce custard cups or ramekins and place in a 10" skillet.

Fill the skillet with water to 1/2" for the tops of the custard cups. Bring water to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer 10 minutes. Remove the cups from the skillet, cover with plastic wrap touching the surface of the custard and refrigerate for 3 hours or until chilled.

My Modifications:
I find sugar substitute often sweeter than the real deal so I reduced the sweetened from 3 Tbsp down to 2. And sadly, I have only two ramekins in my possession, but the recipe halved nicely. The end ratio was 1egg : 3/4 cup milk : 1 Tbsp splenda : 1 tsp instant coffee : 1/2 tsp vanilla.

The Review:
Like digging into a thick iced coffee...in a good way. Though the consistency was a little more slippery than smooth.

After some poking around (mostly courtesy of the red gingham checked staple of my kitchen: The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook) I decided to try baking the custards instead of using the stove top hot water bath. And I reduced the milk in the milk to egg ration from 3/4 cup per egg to 1/2 cup per egg. The flavoring was inspired by a Mexican hot chocolate.

The recipe is my own

serves 2

The Ingredients:
1/2 cup 1% milk
1 egg
1 Tbsp sugar substitute
1 tsp cocoa powder
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/4 cinnamon
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

The Process:
Set the kettle on to boil and preheat the oven to 325.

In a medium bowl paste together the cocoa powder and about 2 Tbsp of the milk until the chocolate reaches an even consistency. Add the remaining milk, the egg, sugar substitute, vanilla, cinnamon and cayenne pepper to the bowl and whisk together until well blended, but not frothy.

Arrange two 4 ounce ramekins in a 9" x 9" baking dish. Fill the ramekins with the mixture. Pour boiling water into the baking dish around the ramekins to a depth of 1 inch. Bake in the oven for 30 to 45 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center of the custard comes out clean.

Remove the cups from the water and set on a wire rack to cool. Or refrigerate until ready to serve.

The Review:
The consistency was much, much improved...the custard being thicker and smoother than the first attempt. I had an aesthetic little surprise upon breaking the custard's smooth skin. The cocoa powder, despite being well blended prior to baking, had settled slightly. As a result the custard had formed two layers...a darker more chocolaty band on the bottom, topped by a lighter layer of vanilla and spice.
With a base custard down in my arsenal many more flavor combinations are in the future. If only I had realized earlier how easy custards were to make!

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