Posts Tagged With: Custard

276/365: National Caramel Custard Day

Today we celebrate a food that is known by several names: it is called either caramel custard, crème caramel, or flan, depending on where in the world you are ordering it. Officially, October 3 is National Caramel Custard Day!

Caramel custard is like crème brûlée, but with a layer of soft caramel on top instead of a hard caramel coating. It used to be especially popular in European restaurants; explains food historian Alan Davidson, “In the later part of the 20th century crème caramel occupied an excessively large amount of territory in European restaurant dessert menus. This was probably due to the convenience, for restaurateurs, of being able to prepare a lot in advance and keep them until needed.” Nowadays, it’s harder to find in Europe, but is extremely common in Latin American countries, where it is eaten with dulce de leche.

It’s a little tricky to prepare, requiring the use of a ramekin and a water bath, but at least you don’t need a blowtorch as you do when preparing an authentic  crème brûlée. I’ll admit, I was a little nervous heading into this holiday, because the last time custard was on the menu, it was a near-disaster. It didn’t set right, melted during transport (this was during our spontaneous road trip to Ely), and was an unappealing “watery sour cream” color and consistency. Blech. Easily the most challenging of our challenges to date. Fortunately, we had much better luck with the caramel custard. We bought a packaged flan mix in the grocery store, and Tara prepared it for dessert. This time everything set up perfectly! We found the consistency a little unusual – not as smooth and creamy as pudding – but the flavor wasn’t bad. And it looked beautiful!

National Caramel Custard Day

Categories: Desserts | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

229/365: National Vanilla Custard Day

I’d be pudding you on if I said we hadn’t celebrated today’s food holiday, in one form or another, a bunch of times already this year (and also used the word “pudding” in place of “putting” in at least one previous post). August 17 is National Custard Day!

Custard, a cooked mixture of milk and egg yolks, has been around since the Middle Ages. The name derives from the French word croustade, meaning “crust of a tart.” Early custards could be either sweet or savory, though nowadays sweet, pudding-like custards are the norm. And why do I insist we’ve celebrated custard many times already? Because it forms the base for a wide variety of dishes, including tartscrème brûlée, and quiche. And we can’t forget chocolate custard. Been there, done that. And that, and that, and that. But we haven’t actually had just plain ol’ custard yet, so in that regard, this holiday is a new one.

We are in Ely, Nevada today for a family gathering. A close friend of Tara’s family passed away suddenly and unexpectedly, and we wanted to be here to honor his memory. Now, we always figured we’d celebrate a few of this year’s food holidays in Ely, because we are planning a trip here for New Year’s, which means we’ll actually complete the challenge here. But obviously that is months away yet, and this visit was never in the cards. Ely is hardly the hotbed of civilization; I doubt there’s anywhere in town that even sells vanilla custard. And with everybody pretty busy today, making vanilla custard is hardly a top priority. So again, we had to plan ahead, and made a batch before we left, which we packed carefully in a cooler filled with ice and hauled 840 miles across three states. We are now enjoying it from the comfort of a Motel 6 in downtown Ely. Definitely one of the trickier holidays to celebrate, but where there’s a will, there’s a way.

The photo below is NOT our custard. As I am writing this entry the evening before we leave, the custard is still setting up, and that will take hours. This is what I’m HOPING our custard eventually looks like. As a completist, I’ll probably come back here and add a photo of ours, when we’re back home. I’m bringing my laptop along, but probably won’t have much of a chance to use it.

National Vanilla Custard Day

Categories: Desserts | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

142/365: National Vanilla Pudding Day

Today we’re pudding out plenty of good vibes. May 22 is National Vanilla Pudding Day!

In the modern vernacular, pudding usually refers to a dessert. (Side note: I’ve never used the phrase “modern vernacular” in a sentence before. I feel all kinds of smart). But it wasn’t always so. Pudding is derived from the French word boudin, which means “small sausage.” So guys, if your girlfriend ever refers to you as a “boudin,” take offense. Anyhoo. If you’re wondering what sausages have to do with pudding, in Medieval Europe puddings were primarily meat-based. To this day, in Europe they can be sweet or savory, and not very pudding-like at all, as we discovered when we had plum pudding, which is more of a cake (and not a very tasty one, no offense to you Brits). It was the ancient Romans who used eggs as a binding agent in their dishes, creating a custard very similar to what we think of as pudding in the U.S. Around the 1840s, American pudding began to differ from traditional boiled English pudding when we started using custard powder – a type of cornstarch – as a thickener. This proved handy to covered wagon cooks, who rarely had fresh eggs available. Instant custard and pudding mixes were introduced in the 1930s, and quickly became a popular dessert item due to their ease of preparation and convenience. Not to mention the fact that they’re delicious!

I would have liked to have attempted to make a homemade vanilla pudding, but we were short on time today. I settled instead for a box of Jell-O pudding – but at least went with the type you have to cook (which Tara had never tried) instead of instant. I even had leftover homemade whipped cream from yesterday to top it with. The results were wonderful!

Vanilla Pudding

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140/365: National Quiche Lorraine Day*

Contrary to popular belief, real men do eat today’s celebrated food. May 20 is National Quiche Lorraine Day!

It’s also National Pick A Strawberry Day. But here in the Pacific Northwest, strawberries won’t ripen for another couple of weeks yet. I suppose we could “pick” some from the grocery store, but that doesn’t really count. (Actually, we did pick some from the grocery store when we went shopping yesterday. For tomorrow’s challenge).

Quiche Lorraine is another in a long line of French dishes that are official American food holidays. Somewhere, a guy named Jacuques must be bribing government officials. He’s probably wearing a beret, too. The bastard. Not that I’m complaining: by and large, the French meals have been c’est magnifique. Named for the Lorraine region of France, and the German word kuchen (“cake”),  later altered to kische, Quiche Lorraine is a staple of France dating back to the 16th century, where it is usually served as either a light lunch or a first course at dinnertime. Recipes for savory custards baked in pastry and filled with meat, fish, and fruit are found in English cookbooks 200 years prior to that. Julia Child describes Quiche Lorraine as “an open pie with a filling consisting of an an egg and cream custard with smoked bacon or lardons.” In American versions, cheese is a popular addition, especially gruyere.

Tara baked us a quiche from scratch this morning. Actually, we ended up with two, since we had a pair of crusts (those were frozen…shh), so I took the second one to work. True to form, her quiche contained bacon, cheddar, and a dash of nutmeg and was a delicious way to start a Monday!

Quiche Lorraine

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123/365: National Chocolate Custard Day*

May 3rd is one of those days where more than one food holiday is celebrated. According to our calendars, it is both National Chocolate Custard Day and National Raspberry Tart Day. But wait…some calendars list May 5 as National Chocolate Custard Day. And they all show August 11th as National Raspberry Tart Day. The deeper into this challenge we get, the more confusing it becomes! I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to discuss how we decide which food holiday to celebrate when there is conflicting information like this.

First off, though we have an official calendar, this is really a compendium of multiple food holiday calendars out there. There are no fewer than 7 or 8 different food calendars on the internet and, while they all agree with each other 95% of the time, that other 5% can be really annoying. Every day I check our calendar against two or three other reputable ones to make sure they’re all in agreement. When they aren’t, my philosophy is, “majority rules.” Today is a perfect example. More calendars claim May 3 is chocolate custard day than May 5, so we’ll go along with that. Occasionally, I’ll come across a food holiday listed on one calendar that doesn’t show up anywhere else, or that I’ve otherwise missed. Take May 6, for instance. Up until a few days ago, I’d assumed we were making crepes suzette. But then I discovered a listing for National Beverage Day. When that happens, I scour the internet for backup proof. Sure enough, multiple websites list May 6 as National Beverage Day. As long as I have correlating documentation, I consider it official. For that reason, our own calendar is constantly evolving. The truth is, crepes suzette would have been a challenge for a workday with the kids, so I’m glad I found out we can just gulp down a drink of our choice instead, and call it good. At this point, we are glad when we can take the easy way out. There’s no shame in that. Hey, next week we have to cook a roast leg of lamb. Trust me, we are paying our dues and working hard at this project!

When there are multiple food holidays, we simply choose the one that appeals to us most. That may be based on personal tastes, what our schedules look like, or something else intangible, like the fun factor. We both hate lima beans, but we chose them over pineapple upside down cake on April 20 because we thought it would be far more interesting to eat something we otherwise wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole. Because there are two holidays for raspberry tart, today’s choice was a no-brainer: we’re celebrating National Chocolate Custard Day!

Frozen Chocolate Custard(Whew. Longest explanation ever).

Custard is prepared using a cooked mixture of milk or cream and egg yolk. It can vary from thin to thick, based on the amount of egg yolk and thickener added to the recipe. Most custards are used in dessert preparations, and include sugar and vanilla. They can also be used as a base for quiches and other savory foods. Custards have been popular in Europe for centuries, dating back to the Middle Ages.

Because we had chocolate parfait a couple of days ago, we decided to switch things up today and celebrate with frozen chocolate custard. There just so happens to be a place called Sheridan’s right down the street from us that serves delicious frozen custard. We hadn’t been there in awhile, so we stopped by on our lunch and got some frozen custard. With the temperature pushing 80 degrees, it hit the spot on a warm Friday afternoon!

Categories: Desserts | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

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