I ended up making these twice. The first time around I tried to make a healthier version by using 2% milk instead of whole milk. I think I over baked them a bit and found the whole combination lacking flavor. So, back to the drawing board I went.
When I set out to make these the second time, I caved and used the whole milk and I added additional lemon zest, the lemon extract, and a vanilla bean.
The flavor was definitely much improved the second time around. However, this was not my favorite recipe. I think my main issue was the texture, which was too eggy for me. I would have enjoyed this more if it was a pudding instead of a custard. I prefer the smooth creaminess of a pudding. To jazz it up a bit, we decided some pyrotechnics were in order. So we turned one of the custards into a crème brûlée (I know, I know, there is only whole milk and not cream in there), which was actually quite tasty and the crunchiness of the sugar helped me get over the eggy custard texture.
Overall, I enjoyed the flavor of these, but I learned here that I just don’t love a custard. If you do, this is definitely something you should try.
See my adapted recipe and pictures (including the curdling of my milk) after the jump.
Vanilla Lemon Custard or Crème Brûlée
2 1/4 cups whole milk
zest of 2 lemons
4 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
In a saucepan, heat the milk, lemon zest, and scraped vanilla bean over low heat until just boiling. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to steep for at least 30 minutes. The milk will need to be reheated before tempering it into the eggs.
Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 325F. Line a roasting pan or 9×13 pyrex dish with a double layer of paper towels and place 6 (6 ounce) cups or ramekins in the pan. Boil enough water for a water bath that will come halfway up the custard cups. Once boiling, take off heat and set aside.
In a small heatproof bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together until well blended.
Strain your reheated milk mixture into another heatproof bowl to discard the lemon zest and vanilla bean. Then temper in about 1/2 cup of the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking continuously so the eggs do not scramble. Now, add your tempered egg mixture back to the remaining strained milk mixture, again whisking continuously so the eggs do not scramble.
Add your lemon extract to the mixture and skim off any foam that may have accumulated on top of the custard.
Carefully pour the custard into the cups, and then fill the pan with the hot water until it comes about halfway up the cups. Slide the pan into the oven and bake for about 40 minutes, or until they jiggle only in the center when lightly tapped.
When nearing the end of the baking time, in a shallow pan prepare an ice water bath.
Once they come out of the oven, immediately take them out of the hot water bath and place them in the ice bath to stop the cooking and prevent them from over baking. Cool to room temperature, then cover and chill for at least 2 hours before serving.
Here are my eggs and sugar:
And the curdled portion of my milk mixture. My milk actually separated somewhat while cooking, I think partially because of the acidity of the lemon zest and I potentially had it on too high a heat. When this happened, I was ready to trash it and forget about this dessert, but hubby reconstituted my milk with a vigorous whisking and I continued.
I strained the milk again a second time for good measure, and as you can see, this was a smart idea:
My double strained milk mixture:
And my fully tempered custard:
Out of the oven in their ice bath:
Fire…Fire….Fire…(I used about a soup spoons worth of sugar to brulee this bad boy, you should also bring the custard to room temperature before torching.)
Looks pretty good, if I do say so myself!