Easy, Economical Stirred Vanilla Custard or Pudding

Sometimes you don't want to "gild the whole lily" you just want to gild the edges.  

Stirred Custard is a rich, eggy pudding-like dessert that can be used as is, with fruit or poured over cakes or pies or other desserts.  It can be quite thick like pudding or thin like a sauce.  It is delicious.  If you want a truly good trifle, use custard instead of the instant pudding so many use these days.  Some people think of it as pudding and like to eat it out of a bowl (or the pot) for dessert.  I can do that.  

Custard has one drawback, as I see it (and not in flavour).  It uses only egg yolks so one is left with a bowl of egg whites to dispose of.  If you're like me, unless you use them while they are on your mind, you'll find them in the back of the fridge several weeks later turning green around the edges.  I hate wasting food so I will start looking for something to make with the egg whites and then end up with so much food cooked I have to freeze it or give it away.  So I decided to make a less rich version of the delectable custard that could be made without too much ado and less egg yolks.

This easy and economical custard is perfect when you want a small amount to pour over servings of cake or pie, especially if it's an ordinary meal and not a celebration. (Crack open the eggs for a celebration.)  It takes only one egg yolk so it is less rich than a traditional custard.  The one left-over egg white is easy to incorporate into scrambled eggs or an omelet.  

This is almost guaranteed to be lump free as I use a roux to thicken the milk before adding the egg yolk.  The secret to a good custard, whatever way you make it, is to keep stirring.  Don't let the milk scorch or burn on the pot.  

Easy, Economical Stirred Custard or Pudding
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup milk
3 tablespoon sugar, or to taste
Pinch of salt
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla or vanilla paste

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and stir in the flour.  Let the flour and butter cook for about a minute stirring constantly so it will not burn.  This is a roux--butter and flour mixed and cooked together, used to thicken liquids.  After about a minute stir in the milk, sugar and salt.  A whisk is perfect for stirring everything together.  Let this mixture come to a boil and cook for two minutes, stirring frequently. 

Remove the thickened milk mixture from the heat and pour half of it over the egg yolk while stirring the two together.  This will temper the egg so it will not cook into little lumps of scrambled egg.  Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan and bring the pan back to the burner.  Bring the mixture back up to a simmer and cook another minute to make sure the egg is thoroughly cooked.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. 

The custard can be used hot or cold.  

For a thinner, pouring custard, increase the milk to 1½ cups.

Making the roux:  Melt the butter and stir in the flour.  Cook the mixture for about a minute.  This is used to thicken the milk. Stir in the milk, sugar and salt and bring to a boil.  Boil for 2 minutes.  Keep stirring.  If you can find a little whisk like the one I have you will find it a handy kitchen gadget.

When the milk mixture has thickened and boiled, stir about half into the beaten egg yolk.  Pour this back into the saucepan and cook for an additional minute, stirring very frequently.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.  I used vanilla paste.  It has little specks of vanilla seed.  This is a nice thick pudding-like texture.  For a thinner pouring custard increase the milk.

Easy, Economical Stirred Custard makes a fitting accompaniment to a slice of apple pie.  If you look closely you can see the specks of vanilla seed in the custard.

Ready to be served.


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