A quick and easy creamy sweet vanilla custard, made with egg yolks, whole milk and cream. Proper English vanilla custard is just perfect drizzled over your favourite pudding.
I can vaguely remember being in charge of the custard as a child. It was an important job and quite frankly one I wasn't very good at. The general confusion of the whole process is my main memory. It seemed to involve a lot of swapping about from one pan to another, interspersed with some frantic whisking and stirring and ending in much stressing over a burnt bottom. I never quite knew what to do and when. I stuck to baking. It seemed to be far easier.
But, as with most things, it's easy when you know how!
And making PROPER vanilla English custard literally takes minutes.
And it so superior to the supermarket offerings. I mean, do those supermarket tubs of vanilla custard really remind you of your delicious childhood puddings?? Never. This easy proper English vanilla custard will do that job for you.
And (this last 'and' I promise) ... if you have a picky eater in the family this is a great way to get eggs and milk into them. All that protein in a sweet sauce who'd of thought it? Ok so yes, it might need to hide a slab of chocolate pudding or similar for this cunning plan to work, but at least you know the custard bit is full of goodness.
So the reason for posting this proper English vanilla custard recipe is because I needed a partner for my mom's amazing recipe Citrus jam roly poly spotted dick pudding.
If you're going to make a proper English suet pudding, you really must slather it in lashing of proper vanilla custard. It really would be very wrong not to.
The golden rules of perfect English vanilla custard
Custard is a surprisingly scientific process. These few ingredients all have an important individual role to play, but they need to be introduced to the show in the correct order.
So as long as you follow these few golden rules you are ensured of perfect results every time.
Beating together your eggs, sugar and cornflour: beat these three together in a large heat proof bowl just before your milk is ready. So have them prepped, but don't actually mix them together until your milk is good and hot and about to reach boiling point.
Heating your milk gently : heat on a medium/low setting and let the milk come up to just boiling. Literally just one or two bubbles start to rocket to the top that's hot enough. Then immediately remove from the heat.
Whisk constantly as you add the milk to the the egg mixture: this is really important. So, as you start pouring milk into the eggs/cornflour/sugar combo immediately start whisking them with your other hand. Add the milk in a steady stream and don't stop frantically whisking. Once all of the milk has been added and the custard is all mixed up, pour it all back into your saucepan. Keep the heat at a medium low still.
Do not whisk once back on the stove : if you do you will have frothy custard. Not good. You need to use a straight edged wooden spatula for this job. Or a wooden corner spoon. Both of these will allow you to get into the corners of the saucepan and ensure you don't incur a burnt bottom. Also not good.
Eggs contain the starch enzyme alpha amylase. This needs killing off to ensure your custard is perfect. To do this you must heat the custard to just before boiling point otherwise it won't thicken. So turn the heat right down after the custard has just started to come to the boil and continue to cook it for another 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly, to ensure this process has worked.
And that's it! Perfect vanilla custard! As I say, easy when you know how!
Ingredients of proper English vanilla custard
Vanilla bean paste: Vanilla bean paste is a really useful store cupboard essential. It can be used instead of a vanilla bean pod and is a far cheaper alternative. It still gives you those lovely little specs of vanilla dotted throughout your custard and it will last for ages.
Single cream this adds a luxurious silkiness to the custard, but you can replace it with milk if you prefer.
Whole milk: however you can swap for semi-skimmed milk. If you make the custard with semi-skimmed only I recommend that you add a teaspoon extra of cornflour to ensure the custard thickens.
Egg yolks: to separate the eggs, crack them into you hand and let the egg white slip through your fingers. As I have just made this custard today, I will shortly be using the left over egg whites to make meringue, so watch this space.
Cornflour: this is a crucial thickening agent. However it has a chemical effect on eggs yolks if introduced to them too early, hence why we beat them together just before the milk is ready.
Caster sugar: or you can use granulated sugar. It all melts just the same.
I hope I have made my case for making your own vanilla custard, believe me the taste is a zillion miles away from the bought stuff. Yum Yum.
Proper English vanilla custard
Here's what you'll need...
- Small saucepan
Ingredients you'll need...
- 550 ml whole milk
- 50 ml single cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- 4 egg yolks at room temperature
- 35 g caster sugar
- 15 g cornflour
Here's what we do...
- Place your milk, cream and vanilla bean paste into your small saucepan, mix together and then heat gently on a low-medium heat for about 5 minutes.
- In your large bowl, beat together your egg yolks, sugar and cornflour with your small whisk to form a paste.
- Once your milk has just started to come to boiling and you notice a few bubbles begin to pop on the surface remove it from the heat.
- Steadily pour your milk into your beaten egg mixture whilst constantly and rapidly whisking the egg mixture with your balloon whisk with your other hand.
- Ensure the eggs and milk are fully combined then pour the whole lot back into your small saucepan.
- Reheat the custard gently on a low-medium heat, continually mixing with your flat wooden spatula or corner wooden spoon, so that you can get into the corners of the saucepan.
- Remove as soon as the custard just as the first bubble begins to pop on the surface and continue to stir for another minute to ensure everything cooks through.
- Serve immediately.