Saturday, December 31, 2016

Lucky Dessert for the New Year

 Custard and Coffee for 
New Year’s 
Good Health, Happiness, and Fortune

Did you know round-shaped sweets are popular good luck foods to savor on New Year's Eve or Day?  Cookies to cakes and other circle-like eats are symbolic of coins and fortune. I can personally attest that certain fare and fate are not just a myth. 
In the late 20th century, for instance, I recall a hardworking, young French baker who owned a small shop at the end of the main street in San Carlos where I used to live.  He made fabulous European-style custard tarts—all varieties—and displayed them in a showcase but nobody could see his baked goods because his store was hidden by trees and without a sign.
During the holiday season, every day my dear octogenarian friend bought his fruit and chocolate tarts adorned with berries and whipped cream and stacked them in my fridge. I ended up giving them to friends and family. I couldn’t eat them all! (I savored coffee to keep my weight in check.)
Sadly, the baker wasn’t selling any of his custard tarts because the city didn’t allow him to put up a sign due to an outdated ordinance. My pal, a wealthy philanthropist made a phone call to the right person and a huge store sign with neon light was put up on New Year’s Eve day. The baker’s sweet pastries sold out. And the New Year was a profitable one for him, thanks to a wise woman with a heart of gold—and a bit of good luck and good custard tarts.

So, as 2016 is almost over, I decided to use one of my very favorite recipes for custard—no tart, no pie. I’m giving you a treat of egg baked custard—the gold color is also a sign of gold. It’s a decadent dish that is best eaten warm, to enjoy the creamy, rich texture with notes of nutmeg and light crunch of a biscuit. This dish can be served for dessert (caffeine in joe can help you stay up and enjoy a late night), breakfast, or brunch. It's easy to make and bake. 

Golden Custard

2 cups half-and-half (organic)
1/4 cup 2% low-fat organic milk
4-5  large brown egg yolks
½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon anise (optional)
Nutmeg, to taste
1 teaspoon lemon or orange zest (optional)
Whipped cream (optional)
4 shortbread biscuits or tea biscuits (found in the cookie aisle)
Confectioners’ sugar to dust custard

Place half-and-half and milk in a saucepan and heat till scalded, but do not boil. Set aside. Mix egg yolks and sugar. Add vanilla. Combine all ingredients and stir well. Pour into glass or ceramic custard dishes. Sprinkle nutmeg on top. Place dishes in a pan of water. Bake at 350 degrees for about one hour until firm. (Insert a knife and when it comes out clean, it is done.) Cool. Top individual custard with one biscuit; dust with powdered sugar. (If you let sit in the refrigeration it softens it to a nice crust crunch.)  Serve with round fresh fruit (more money symbols) such as grapes or slices of a tangerine. Top with a dollop of real whipped cream Makes four servings.

The rich half-and-half gives this custard a rich and smooth texture. And the earthy, warm flavor of nutmeg is bliss. After swimming, shoveling snow, and walking the dog--the calories/fat/cholesterol are fine. You can enjoy dishes, like this, if you do it in moderation--and keep your portions in check. Pair with a cup of green tea or caramel flavored coffee (you can dip the tea biscuit in your brew).  Or even dish up fortune cookies (store bought in the Asian aisle) and dip in melted dark chocolate. And this golden custard delight may bring you a bit of luck for the New Year.

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