This is one of my new favourite things to make. I love custard. I don’t really like crème brûlée–yeah, no, I don’t know what’s wrong with me either–so I’ve made something a little less fiddly. This is a cinnamon and vanilla-infused baked custard topped with a delicate layer of spiced brown sugar.
Obviously if your favourite part of a baked custard is cold, rich cream beneath a crisp, glazed caramel shell, this is not for you, but you can find the base of my recipe, the perfect crème brûlée, linked below the recipe. Don’t say I never give you anything nice, now…
This recipe came about because I was hankering after 2 things: a lovely cinnamon ice cream and an indulgent interpretation of South African melktert which for some reason includes a load of cream. However, I couldn’t be bothered to make either dish in full–as I told you in my last post, I am very lazy.
I asked myself what I valued most, and the answer was smooth, voluptuous, cinnamon-scented custard, so that was what I set out to make.
My first attempt at this recipe was terrible–a damp sponge which tasted of nothing and, to add insult to injury, had grown a rubbery skin. I was actually a tiny bit upset. It can make you feel very silly when you mess up something so simple, but of course that’s often exactly why it goes wrong–you need to pay attention to the details. So, the second time round I let the spices infuse in scalded double cream, used all-egg yolks, added a spiced sugar layer, and let it cook low and slow.
After those tweaks, it all turned out precisely how I wanted–no horrifying skin, just a delicately grainy, melt-in-the-mouth layer of spiced sugar which added extra fragrance to each spoonful of absolutely smooth, creamy custard.
Even with the bit of extra fiddling, these little pots are still very straightforward to make. The only thing I’ve found is that if the uncooked custard is a touch warm, some of the sugar topping dissolves and falls to the bottom, creating a spiced sugar layer beneath the custard. That’s not a bad thing for me, really.
If you’re into that kind of thing, try topping the baked custards with some sliced banana. It’s pretty perfect.
BAKED CINNAMON CUSTARD POTS
Makes 2 pots, generously serving 2 each. If serving chilled, you can make this at least a day in advance.
This is perfect on its own. You might also wish to have it with slices of fresh and perfectly ripe banana, or a spoonful of gently cooked rhubarb which has been sweetened just enough, whatever you like.
for the custard:
300 ml double cream (or a mixture of double cream + milk)
1/2 vanilla pod, split and scraped
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half (for reference, mine was about 9 cm/3.5 inches)
3 egg yolks (I tested this recipe with UK medium-sized eggs, which translate to US large eggs)
1 tablespoon caster sugar
2 tablespoons soft brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg, if you like
for the custard: Preheat oven to 150 degrees C (130 fan)/300 degrees F.
Put the cream, split vanilla pod and its scraped seeds, and cinnamon stick pieces in a small saucepan and gradually bring to a boil. Turn off the heat as soon as the edge start bubbling, cover and leave in that warm spot to infuse for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, set 2 small (8 oz/225 ml/scant 1 cup) ramekins into a high-sided baking tin or dish large enough to comfortably hold them without crowding (I just use my 23 cm/9 inch square tin).
When the cream’s infused, mix the egg yolks and sugar together in a medium jug or (preferably lipped) bowl. Remove the aromatics from the cream (press and squeeze the vanilla pod with your fingers) before splashing a little of it into the yolks, stirring constantly. Gradually pour in the rest of the cream, stirring to make a smooth mixture and disperse the vanilla seeds. Evenly divide between the 2 ramekins. If needed, let it cool to just above room temperature.
for the topping: mix all the topping ingredients in a small bowl, breaking up any clumps (your fingers are the best tool) and divide between the two custards, sprinkling gently and evenly on top, right to the edges. (It won’t dissolve completely; surface tension is an excellently helpful thing.)
to bake: Pour enough cold water into the larger tin to come up halfway round the ramekins. Bake for 40 minutes or until just set. If you jiggle the ramekin, the custard should wobble in one piece, like jelly.
Remove from the oven and carefully lift the ramekins onto a rack. For the best texture, allow to cool until warm or room temperature before eating, about 10 minutes; the custard will be a little firmer on top while being gorgeously thick and creamy on the bottom. You can serve it chilled if you prefer; the texture’s similar, so it’s really your preference.