No-Stress Custard

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Europeans do it better. Not the wine, beer and cheese, which are all great, but the holidays and vacations.

A holiday in Europe occupies at least two weeks. Summer vacation is six to eight weeks. With that much time off from work, one’s internal clock resets. Mind and body slow down to take in the pleasures of the moment.

In America, “hurry” is always the new “black.” Racing between appointments, checking what’s on sale before we buy, and dropping kids off at soccer, school or play dates keeps most people’s nerves frayed. Then when it’s time for the holidays, with only a few days off from work, it’s difficult to shift gears.

Even though we look forward to being with friends and family during the holidays, entertaining means more work.

Just when we should be relaxing, kicking back on the couch or taking a long walk at the beach, we find ourselves in front of the stove cooking for dinner guests or preparing a dish we need to bring to a potluck.

Short of flying off to Bermuda with a ton of cash in hand, there’s no way around it, except to make cooking take less time without cutting back on quality.

Easy-to-make holiday treats

Using easy-to-make recipes means having your cake and eating it too. While the dessert bakes in the oven, you’ll be watching the game on TV or canoodling on the couch with a loved one.

In the interest of lending a helping hand, here are two recipes that take very little effort but have a lot of flavor and an exceptionally high “wow” factor.

Brown sugar, golden raisins, Fuji apple custard

A variation on an apple pie, the apples take center stage with custard providing a pillow of creamy sweetness. The almonds and golden raisins surprise with crunchiness and chewiness, adding a touch of told-you-so sassiness.

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

6 Fuji apples, washed, peeled, cored, cut into dime-sized pieces
Juice from one lemon, about 1½ teaspoons
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup golden raisins, chopped into small pieces
½ cup raw, whole almonds
2 eggs, large or extra large
½ cup white sugar
1 cup whole cream or half-and-half
½ teaspoon vanilla

Directions

1. Put the lemon juice in a large, baking dish. As you cut up the apples, toss the pieces in the lemon juice to prevent discoloration. Add brown sugar, raisins, and almonds, mix well to coat. Set aside.
2. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar until well blended. Add the cream and vanilla and stir to combine.
3. Using a rubber spatula, fold the custard into the baking dish with the apples. Stir well.
4. Place the baking dish in a water bath — a larger pan with 1inch of water — and put into a preheated 350 F oven on the middle rack.
5. Baking time depends on the size of the baking dish and can be anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes. Be careful not to overbrown the top before the custard sets. If need be, lightly place a sheet of aluminum foil on the top. The dessert is done if the custard doesn’t jiggle when the baking dish is lightly shaken.
6. Serve at room temperature by itself, with ice cream or whipped cream.

 

Crystallized ginger custard

If a shallow baking dish is used, the custard benefits because a deliciously sticky ring forms around the outer edge.

Custard with crystallized ginger

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

6 pieces crystallized or candied ginger, finely chopped
2 eggs, large or extra large
½ cup white sugar
1 cup whole cream or half-and-half
½ teaspoon vanilla

Directions

1. Beat the eggs and sugar together in a bowl until well blended. Add cream and vanilla and finely chopped crystallized ginger. Stir well.
2. Pour the custard into a shallow or deep-sided baking dish.
3. Place the baking dish in a water bath — a larger pan with ½ inch of water — and put into a preheated 350 F oven on the middle rack.
4. Baking time depends on the size of the baking dish and can be anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes. Be careful not to overbrown the top before the custard sets. If need be, lightly place a sheet of aluminum foil on the top. The dessert is done when the custard doesn’t jiggle when the baking dish is lightly shaken.
5. Serve at room temperature by itself, with ice cream, whipped cream, or slices of ripe, fresh fruit — strawberries, mango, grapes, berries.

Zester Daily contributor David Latt is a television writer/producer with a passion for food. His new book, “10 Delicious Holiday Recipes” is available from Amazon. In addition to writing about food for his own site, Men Who Like to Cook, he has contributed to Mark Bittman’s New York Times food blogBittenOne for the Table and Traveling Mom. He continues to develop for television but recently has taken his passion for food on the road and is now a contributor to Peter Greenberg’s travel site and the New York Daily News online.

Photos, from top:

Custard with apples, almonds, and golden raisins.
Custard with crystallized ginger.

Credits: David Latt

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