Basic Baked Custard

My husband, Dewey, and I love custard as a pie, crustless in a ramekin, just with vanilla, also with a bit of lemon zest and so on. This is my favorite way to prepare custard—in ramekins. It comes together quickly, no crust to worry about, and you can get a multitude of things crossed off your to-do list while the custard bakes slowly, patiently in the oven.

Smooth and creamy and pure, that's how I like my custard, and even though I add a little lemon zest to the basic vanilla, it's not much. You still get a clean, fresh and comforting flavor. If you're ready to get into this creamy, velvety yumminess, there's a recipe waiting for you at the end of this link.

Messing with perfection can be a way to express your creativity. Nutmeg or cinnamon? You can add a little nutmeg to the mix or top it with cinnamon as the custards are cooling, but for me it's perfection in its simplicity, so I leave it alone. You can experiment by using a little orange zest instead of lemon. You can add a few toasted almonds or raisins to each ramekin before you pop them in the oven. Maybe you'd like a little fresh fruit or caramel at the bottom of each ramekin. Some recipes use two or three extra egg yolks for additional richness. You can keep trying variations until you find your ultimate custard. My recipe is basic, so this can be where you begin.
Gilding the lily is nice sometimes.

What's easiest? For me, it's the basic recipe topped with a few fresh berries and dusted with powdered sugar. If I'm feeling fancy, I may sprinkle a little sugar on top and Brulee that for a Creme Brulee, but usually I'm happy with simplicity.
In a water bath in the oven patiently coming together.

Basic is best for me. I'll take it any day over a "special" dessert or one that takes so many steps to prepare that you have to take a day off from work to dedicate to baking. There are so many wonderful, decadent desserts worthy of the hours it may take to perfect them. Now and then, however, it's nice to pull together this luscious custard and enjoy it about two hours after it's come out of the oven. Creamy, smooth and delicately flavored. You might say this is the little black dress of desserts.



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