Vanilla pouring custard

The simplest of custards is an easy, gentle undertaking while something warm and sweet bakes in the oven.

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There are a handful of recipes that, for me, live at the heart of home cooking. I won’t start listing them because we’ll be here all day; it’s enough to say that vanilla pouring custard – just custard, in my kitchen – is one of them.

The simplest of all custards, it’s an easy, gentle undertaking while something warm and sweet is baking in the oven. As the scent of the warming milk and vanilla hits the air it envelopes your kitchen with the culinary equivalent of a hug.

This is the way I learned to make custard and I have not tinkered with the method at all. Because I never want the sweetness of the custard to overwhelm whatever it’s being poured onto I use only a tablespoon of sugar. You can, of course, adjust this to suit your own tastes.

Homemade custard will always be paler than anything that comes from a box or carton because its colour, amped up artificially in commercial products, is determined only by the yellowness of your eggs. I use large, organic eggs from a local farm and their colour – in or out of custard – is a deep and joyful gold.


Vanilla pouring custard

Makes 1½ cups.

300ml (1¼ cups) milk
2 tablespoons cream
1 tablespoon caster (superfine) sugar
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon cornflour (cornstarch)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pour the milk and cream into a small saucepan. Place it over low heat and, stirring gently, bring it up to the edge of a simmer, when little bubbles are just starting to form at the edge of the pan.

In a bowl, use a small balloon whisk to mix the sugar and egg yolks together. Sprinkle over the cornflour and beat until thoroughly combined.

Pour a little of the hot milk, just a tablespoonful, into egg mixture, whisking continuously. Keep adding the milk, slowly and carefully, whisking all the time. Add the vanilla extract. Once everything is combined, return the custard to the saucepan over low heat.

Stir with a wooden spoon, slowly and insistently, until the custard thickens. It’s ready when it coats the back of the spoon and a line drawn through it with your finger holds its shape.