If you've never had luck with custard, try these foolproof microwave versions. You can say "goodbye" to scorched milk, water baths and double boilers. Also to sticky, eggy pans that are a nuisance to scrub.
The microwave cooks custards with stunning speed and ease, but for best results follow these guidelines:
-- Always use large eggs unless otherwise specified, never bigger or smaller ones; these can affect cooking time and degree of thickening.
-- Never double recipes; they may curdle or boil over. Whenever you need double amounts, prepare two batches.
-- Space custard cups or ramekins one inch apart in a circle on microwave-safe tray or platter; this eliminates the bother of turning each individually. Better yet, use a turntable that equalizes cooking.
-- Never try to hurry cooking of egg-thickened desserts by microwaving on HIGH. And whenever a custard seems in danger of curdling, reduce the power level at once.
-- Always watch egg mixtures carefully as they microwave and check for doneness after the minimum cooking time; microwave times will vary according to an oven's power. When it comes to delicate egg-thickened mixtures, seconds, not minutes, can spell the difference between success and failure.
-- Remember that egg-thickened mixtures continue to cook as they stand, so remove from the microwave the instant they test done.
-- To stop the cooking of egg mixtures cold, quick-chill in an ice bath. Or whisk briskly for several seconds.
CREME ANGLAISE (Stirred Custard)
1 3/4 cups milk
1/4 cup sugar
4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
Cake, fruit or pudding, optional
Combine milk and sugar in 6-cup measure and microwave, uncovered, on HIGH (100% power) 4 to 5 minutes until small bubbles appear around edge (do not boil).
Blend small amount of hot mixture into egg yolks, return to measure and whisk briskly. Microwave, uncovered, on MEDIUM-LOW (30% power) 4 to 5 minutes, whisking every minute, until custard thickens and no eggy taste remains. (Watch carefully during final 1 to 2 minutes--mixture must not boil, to prevent curdling.)
In ovens of 700 watts or more, it may be necessary to microwave custard on LOW (10% power). If, despite all precautions, custard threatens to curdle, quickly drop in ice cube and whisk vigorously.
Stir in vanilla and serve warm over cake, fruit or pudding. Or quick-chill custard by setting container in ice water. Whisk often to prevent lumping until cooled. Makes 6 servings.
Variation: Floating Island--prepare custard as directed and quickly cool to lukewarm by setting container in ice water. Divide custard among 4 (6-ounce) ramekins and arrange 1 inch apart in circle on microwave-safe tray.
Beat 2 egg whites until frothy. Gradually beat in 1/4 cup sugar, then beat to stiff peaks. Using spoon dipped in cold water, float meringue puff on each custard. Smooth tops lightly. Microwave, uncovered, on MEDIUM (50% power) 2 1/2 to 3 minutes, rotating platter 90 degrees every minute, until meringues are just firm. Serve at once. Makes 4 servings.
1 3/4 cups milk
3 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Ground nutmeg or mace
Fresh berries, optional
Microwave milk, uncovered, in 6-cup measure on HIGH (100% power) 4 to 5 minutes until small bubbles appear around edge (do not boil).
Meanwhile, beat eggs with sugar and vanilla in bowl. Gradually whisk milk into egg mixture, pour into 4 (6-ounce) ramekins, sprinkle lightly with nutmeg and arrange 1 inch apart in circle on microwave-safe platter.
Microwave, uncovered, on MEDIUM (50% power) 7 to 8 1/2 minutes, rotating platter 90 degrees after 3 and 6 minutes. Check for doneness at minimum time--custard should be set 1 inch in from edge (centers will resemble softly set gelatin).
Remove finished custards and microwave those remaining in 30-second increments. Cool custards, uncovered, to room temperature, then chill, if desired. Serve in ramekins or unmold and serve with fresh berries. Makes 4 servings.
Note: In ovens of fewer than 600 watts, increase cooking time about 15%.