Every time I pulled out my stash of dessert recipes, I’d come to this one, sigh, and move on. It sounded exactly like something I wanted to sit down and eat (in a fancy restaurant with no children), but it sounded too fussy to do at home. Besides, with my current diet restrictions I wouldn’t be able to actually eat any of it. Still, I kept it in my stash hoping that one day I’d feel up to it.
I decided that my self-inflicted challenge to bust through my recipe stash was the perfect opportunity. Even though I still wasn’t able to eat it, I had such fun making it and hearing my family’s satisfied murmurings at the dinner table. And it was surprisingly simple. No really! It was.
The custard recipe, when read on the page, sounded very complex and process-oriented. It did require several steps, but I approached them one step at a time throughout my day as I had time. I boiled the milk and steeped the tea bags while the Bean did his math worksheet. I stored it in the fridge overnight. In the morning, while the Sweet Pea did her math lesson, I warmed it up and whisked it into the egg yolks. It sat for a bit while I helped her figure out how to divide two digit numbers with remainders. Once she was back on track I set out the ramekins and the casserole dish for the water bath and turned the teapot on to boil. Another interruption to change the Peanut’s diaper, then back to pour the custard into the cups, fill the casserole with the hot water, and pop the whole thing into the oven. I washed up some dishes, started the laundry, then pulled out the custard to cool. Then, into the fridge until dinner-time. See how easy that was?? You’ll want to start it in the morning to give the custard plenty of time to cool and set. Or, if you approach your cooking like I do, you’ll want to start it the night before.
You can flavor your custard with any kind of tea you like. Or you could skip the tea altogether and just steep it with a cinnamon stick and a vanilla bean; or use some other spices. It’s pretty adaptable. I’m curious to try it with honey instead of the sugar, and I’m even considering trying a version with coconut milk and coconut cream instead of the dairy. Yummy!
Now, onto the cookies. I know you won’t believe me, because those cookies look awfully fussy, right? But they are insanely easy. I was curious if I could make them gluten-free and was surprised when the family actually preferred the gluten-free ones over the ones made with wheat flour. The gluten-free ones also came out prettier (although I admit to leaving the regular ones in the oven 1 minute too long and they got overly-browned). Here’s a photo for you, with the gluten-free version on the left and the wheat version on the right.
The texture is a little bit different–the gluten-free version tasting a bit more candy-like and the wheat version a bit more cookie-like. Whichever you choose, be sure to use parchment paper on your cookie sheet, otherwise they’ll be impossible to remove. And leave a generous amount of space between your dollops of batter because they spread considerably.
I’m so glad that I finally tried these recipes. I like them together, and I like them separately. The lace cookies would be delicious with a bowl of ice cream or a yogurt parfait; and the custard would be just as tasty (though perhaps a little less magical) without the cookies.
I’m curious to know you have recipes stashed that you’re intimidated by? What have you been wanting to cook, but are afraid to do so?
Use any other tea in place of the Earl Grey; you could also just use vanilla bean or cinnamon or other spices.
You can use arrowroot starch in place of the flour in the cookies for a gluten-free option.
Source: Martha Stewart, May 2003
Course: Desserts (Misc.)
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 Earl Grey tea bags
- 4 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup grated lemon zest
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 2 Tbs butter
- 2 Tbs Rapadura sugar
- 1 1/2 Tbs honey
- 2 Tbs flour or arrowroot starch
- pinch salt
- Preheat oven to 325. In a small saucepan, heat the cream, milk, and tea leaves until just boiling. Turn off the heat and let steep for at least 30 minutes, but not more than 2 hours. Remove the tea bags (or spices).
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Reheat the cream mixture and slowly whisk it into the yolk mixture.
- Arrange 6 ramekins in the bottom of a deep casserole dish. Pour the custard into the cups. Pour boiling water into the casserole dish until the water comes halfway up the sides of the cups. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and poke a few holes to let the steam escape. Bake until set, but still slightly wobbly (about 30 minutes–they won’t look done.)
- Remove the casserole dish and the foil. Transfer the cups to a cooling rack and let cool for 30 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge until firm–about 2 hours, up to 3 days.
- FOR THE COOKIES:
- Preheat oven to 375. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper (very important! don’t skip it!). Set aside.
- In a small saucepan, melt the butter with the sugar and honey. Whisk in the arrowroot starch and the salt until smooth.
- Working quickly (the batter thickens as it cools), drop 1/2 teaspoon of batter onto prepared baking sheets. Place them at least 3″ apart to give the cookies room to expand. Bake until they are spread and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and let cool completely. Carefully remove the cookies with your fingers once they’re cool. Serve with ice cream or other creamy, custardy desserts.