Many desserts require a vanilla flavor, and this is usually best provided by a piece of vanilla bean, cut at about 1 inch long. The bean is generally soaked in the scalded milk and then discarded, or reserved for another using. If vanilla beans are unavailable, add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract before the pudding goes into the refrigerator.
When combining a jellied custard, that is crème à l'anglaise collée, with whipped cream, chill the custard to the point where it just holds its shape when a spoon is put into it. Then fold in the whipped cream by cutting through the custard with the spoon and folding it over the whipped cream. Stirring in the whipped cream would break down its lightness.
When you work with cooked rice, always use a fork and toss the grains, rather than stirring them, to keep them from matting.
The French call baked custard crême renvertée When it is baked in a pan coated with caramel—and this variation is very popular—it becomes crème renversee au caramel. When the baking dish is simply buttered, it is crème renversée à la française. These custards often make their appearance with a chocolate or a fruit sauce. Light, delicate, and smooth, a nicely chilled baked custard is one of the most delightful French desserts.
Crème Renversée à la Française (Baked Vanilla Custard)
Scald 3 cups milk with a 1-inch piece of vanilla bean and let it stand for 10 minutes to absorb the vanilla flavor. Beat together 4 whole eggs and 4 egg yolks, gradually add 1/2 cup sugar, and continue beating until all is well mixed. Remove the vanilla bean and stir the milk into the egg mixture, a little at a time. Strain the mixture into a buttered mold, or into individual custard cups, set the cups in a pan of hot water, and bake the custard in a slow oven (300° F.), until it sets, occasionally adding a little cold water to the pan to keep the water from boiling. Allow about 45 to 50 minutes for a large mold, or 20 to 25 minutes for cups. When the custard is done, a small pointed knife inserted in the center will come out clean. Cool and chill it and unmold to serve.
Crème Renversée au Cbocolat (Baked Chocolate Custard)
Cook 1/2 cup water and 4 ounces grated sweet chocolate over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is smooth. Combine with 2 1/2 cups scalded milk and follow the directions for Crème renversée a la française.
Crème Renversée au Caramel (Caramel Custard)
Follow the directions for versée à la française. Before pouring the custard into the baking pan or cups, line them with thick caramel.
Distribute 1 cup sugar in a heavy skillet and moisten the sugar with 1/2 cup water. Let the mixture stand for about 5 minutes. Cook the mixture without stirring until it turns to syrup and becomes golden brown. Remove the syrup from the fire and pour it into a baking pan or cups, coating the sides as well as the bottom. If glass ovenware is used, heat the dish first in a warm oven.
Vanilla Pots de Crème
Scald 2 cups milk with a 1-inch piece of vanilla bean and 1/2 cup sugar, remove it from the heat, and let it stand for 10 minutes to absorb the vanilla flavor. Remove the vanilla bean and slowly pour 6 beaten egg yolks into the milk mixture, stirring constantly. Strain the mixture into custard cups or into pots de Crème (little cups with handles made for this dessert). Set them in a pan of hot water and bake the cups in a slow oven (300° F.) for 15 minutes, or until a small pointed knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Add cold water if necessary to keep the hot water in the pan from boiling. Cool the pots de Crème and chill them.
Chocolate Pots de Crème
Scald 1 cup each of milk and cream, add 1/2 pound sweet chocolate, grated, and cook the mixture, stirring constantly, until the chocolate is melted. Heat 6 egg yolks light and into them slowly pour the milk mixture, stirring constantly. Continue to cook, stirring, for a few minutes longer, and add sugar if desired. Strain the mixture into pots de Crème or small custard cups, cool them, and chill them. Serve the chocolate pots de Crème with heavy cream, plain or whipped.
Crème à l'Anglaise (English Cream)
Scald 1 1/2 cups milk with a 1-inch piece of vanilla bean, and let it stand for 10 minutes to absorb the vanilla flavor. Beat 3 egg yolks light, gradually add 1/3 cup sugar, and beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Stir in 1 teaspoon flour. Pour the scalded milk into the egg mixture, stirring constantly. Cook the mixture, over low direct heat or in the top of a double boiler over simmering water, stirring constantly, until it coats the back of the spoon. If cooked over direct heat, remove the cream from the heat the moment it reaches the boiling point. Remove the vanilla bean, pour the cream into a cold bowl, and stir it briskly. Cool the cream, stirring occasionally to prevent skin from forming, and chill it.
Ile Flottante (Floating Island)
Beat 4 egg whites stiff, adding 1/2 cup sugar, little by little, when they start to stiffen. Add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and, if desired, 6 tablespoons roasted almonds or almond praline pounded to a powder, and turn the mixture into a 1-quart ring or swirl mold, buttered and sugared, or coated with caramel (see above). Place the mold in a pan of hot water and bake the meringue in a very slow oven (275° F.) for 20 to 25 minutes, or until it is firm. Cool the meringue, unmold it in a glass bowl, and pour crème à l'anglaise around it.