What’s Cookin’ at Callie’s Cabin Oh là là! Springtime Custard
Special to the Tribune
Custard, or creme, is a dish with French roots. Think of a rich combination with milk or cream, eggs, sugar, and a sweet flavoring like vanilla. It’s often served plain in those cute custard dishes or in filled mini pie crust tarts with colorful fruit on top. I’ve never met a custard that I didn’t like.
Back in the San Francisco Bay Area, I recall one young, ambitious European baker who had a small bakery shop in San Carlos. He created amazing custard tarts with scrumptious toppings, including dark chocolate shavings or whipped cream. The sad thing was, nobody knew he or his tarts existed. His location was not right on the main strip in town – it was on the outskirts. Worse, a large, dying tree with umpteen branches covered his store’s sign. Then, a dear octogenarian friend of mine came to the rescue.
One day she purchased one dozen of his sweet custard tarts. She brought them to me – the starving, struggling writer. Of course, I accepted the pastries. I was in custard heaven. Then, she went on her philanthropist mission to “save the baker.”
“His work is superb,” she told me more than once.
“People need to know about his shop,” my dear friend insisted.
She had a heart of gold like the lion in the “Wizard of Oz.”
Throughout the days and weeks ahead, the hardworking baker’s tarts were brought to me. I was growing concerned that I was going to pack on unwanted pounds. So, I started giving the custard tarts to neighbors, friends, and family.
Like a version of the film “Pay It Forward” when people do good for others and pass on their good deeds, we all were spreading the word that this pastry maker’s mini custard pies were too good to pass up. Plus, my Good Samaritan elderly pal paid to get the tree trimmed so it no longer overshadowed his shop sign. We gave life to his array of desserts and he told us that business had picked up. Mission completed.
11⁄2 cups half and half
1⁄2 cup organic milk, 2 percent low-fat
3 large eggs
1⁄2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons corn starch
1 tablespoon orange or lemon honey
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
nutmeg to taste
Combine milk and half and half in a saucepan and heat until scalded, but do not boil. Mix eggs, sugar, corn starch, vanilla (I put it in a blender and it was smooth with no lumps), and put in hot milk. Pour into small round custard cups. Sprinkle nutmeg on top. Place dishes in a pan of water and bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes until firm (In higher altitude it may take a few minutes longer to bake). Cool for about 15 minutes. Top with springtime fruit, a chocolate square, and whipped cream. Serves five to six.
Crust-less custard tastes heavenly when it’s fresh out of the oven – and it has less calories, too. The creamy texture of custard and fresh fruit, such as green and purple grapes, adds a light spring touch to a decadent dessert that should be eaten in moderation for health’s sake. This dish is easy on the eyes, simple to make, and boasts some nutritional perks.
Motto: Custard is the friendly, semi-sweet dessert with a worldly flair. It can comfort you during ups and downs in life.
– Cal Orey is an author and journalist. Her books include “The Healing Powers” series ((Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate) published by Kensington. Her website is http://www.calorey.com.
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