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Custard not firming up


magnolia
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Periodically, I make ice cream. And although I have successfully made a custard base, a coulpe of times, it hasn't worked (see below).

Here's what I do:

1) whisk egg yolks with 1/2 the sugar 'til pale yellow

2) heat milk with 1/2 the sugar, v-e-r-y slowly

3) take the heated milk off the heat, cool slightly & then whisk into egg mixture

4) return whole thing to the heat, again heat slowly, mixing constantly until it coats the back of a spoon.

Problem arises when it never thickens, never coats the back of the spoon. I turn the heat up a tiny bit but nothing happens. Ultimately I give up, and when I pour it out, inevitably there's some scrambled egg (which I determined happens when I turn the heat up in desperation). When I start over again, I follow the same procedure and it works. So what could be going wrong the other few times?

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Ok......let's see if I can help.....

Here's what I do:

1) whisk egg yolks with 1/2 the sugar 'til pale yellow

2) heat milk with 1/2 the sugar, v-e-r-y slowly

3) take the heated milk off the heat, cool slightly & then whisk into egg mixture

4) return whole thing to the heat, again heat slowly, mixing constantly until it coats the back of a spoon.

Ok.....step one looks good.....

Regarding step two, I don't think you necessarily have to worry about heating the milk and sugar slowly......it's when you are cooking the custard as a whole that you heat slowly.

For step three, it also isn't necessary to cool the milk....in fact, you're just making a long drawn out process even longer. Whisk your hot milk into your egg mixture while whisking constantly.....all you're trying to do here is temper the eggs so they don't curdle. Eggs are like men....you can't just all of a sudden hit them with something and expect them to be all agreeable with it. You have to broach ideas slowly or present it to them in a way where they think it's actually their idea in the first place......oh....but I digress...... :raz:

For step four....that looks good....when I do it, I use a whisk instead of a spoon, and use a clean spoon to test it for doneness. It may also help you to know that custard thickens at 160 degrees and curdles at 180. It might help you to use an instant read thermometer instead of doing the "spoon test".

I also think its easier to make creamy thick custards with cream instead of milk. Since you seem to have a bit of trouble with scrambled egg bits, you might want to try using a double boiler instead of using direct heat. When you use a double boiler, make sure that the water in it doesn't touch the bottom of your top pan.

Also, remember that custards thicken as they cool......if you heat it to the right temp, when cool, it should be completely satisfactory.

Hope this helps!

Cheers! :laugh: Annie

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Eggs are like men....you can't just all of a sudden hit them with something and expect them to be all agreeable with it. You have to broach ideas slowly or present it to them in a way where they think it's actually their idea in the first place......oh....but I digress...... :raz:

LOL! But then again, maybe eggs are easier than most men. :wink:

When I do custards, I take a bit of hot milk and add to eggs (whisk them to mix) to temper them and then pour the egg mixture into the hot milk in a thin stream while whisking/mixing continously.

And then heat it all up to boiling over a very slow fire, until it thickens which is usually for about 3-4 mins after boiling point. Too lazy to use the thermometer but then I'm not a pastry chef. :raz: But I do use the whisk to stir - works better than spoon.

Sometimes, my custard won't set as good though so I have resigned to adding a little cornstarch or custard powder to the milk. Works every time and gives 'body' to the custard.

Edited by kew (log)
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Annie I love your digression. I am now retired and its to bad that my former female employees never learned that trick. It would have made life much easier on all of us in the office.

I make custards for ice cream and such quite often and I use a all glass candy thermometer and a whisk in a heavy pan over med-low heat. I find that for many of the insta read thermometers the custard has to be 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches deep to read properly. If I am making a small batch it might not be that thick whereas with the glass candy thermometer the reading portion is at the very tip of the thermometer. I even went out and bought a fancy remote digital thermometer and found out that for custard it didn't work. The probe had to be in the custard a full 2 inches. Oh well live and learn and read the fine print always.

Fred Rowe

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Thanks for all of this, including the advice about men. Wish I'd learned that ages ago, but I will test it out this evening when I ask him to make custard. : :wink: But I digress...

The thermometer idea is a good one, I have a meat thermometer - do you think this is adequate? It's quite sensitive and even measures ambient temperature. I realise why a candy thermometer might be more convenient but I don't really need more equipment.

It also occurred to me that the time I made the best custard, I used a double boiler, don't know why I got out of this habit...I think I'll go back...

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I third or fourth the double boiler. I've never made a custard any other way -- having had the benefits of double boilers instilled at an early age. I've also never had a problem with scrambled eggs, and I've never had a custard fail to thicken.

Kineharah!

I've now got to go knock on wood and sprinkle some salt over my head. One NEVER wants to attract the evil eye!

Aidan

"Ess! Ess! It's a mitzvah!"

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Since it is an anglaise to be used as an ice cream base I think that you are being way way too fastidious about this.

Boil the cream - with all the sugar if you like

whisk the yolks in a seperate bowl

when the cream/milk is boiling away

steadily pour it into the yolks while you are whisking them

Pour it all back into the pan on the heat

whisk it for about 8 seconds (I mean that - no more than 10 seconds)

Remove from heat

Pour through a strainer into another container (use an ice bath if it is convenient)

Whatever stays in the pan - wash out

Chill the mixture so that a skin does not form on the surface

porocess in your ice cream freezer

You are being victimized by recipe writers who are terrified that you will not understand the yolk tempering process and that from there - assuming you managed to combine your hot cream and yolks - you will cook to too high a heat

Since you are not in fact making custard you need not be concerned about that - only whether or not the anglaise base you prepared is freezing properly in the ice cream maker

Do not worry overly about tempering the yolks - the key is to be moving the yolks - combining them with the hot liquid so that one area of the yolks does not have to suffer all the heat and cook while all its buddy yolk molecules ridicule it

There should be enough residual heat in the mixture over the heat to bring the anglaise up to 84 where it will be 'safe' (which is the whole point here for ice cream - safely cooked eggs)

The real critical element is quickly removing the anglaise from the heat source and pouring it through a strainer into a cooler container so you should have the recipient bowl all set up with the strainer set atop it so that you are able to efficiently move your ice cream base from the heating to the cooling portion of its life

So, only 3 things to think about

1- tempering the yolks

2- not heating anglaise above 84/85 (which happens very fast)

3- quickly removing from heating environment

For ice cream many people in professional kitchens reserve a portion of the cream and after the anglaise has been heated and strained - the cold cream is poured into the hot mixture which effectively stops the cooking process

Edited by chefette (log)
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What ratio of egg (yolks?) to liquid should I use in custards? The custard I make most frequently is creme brulee and I generally use 3 yolks/cup of liquid (with only a small amount of white... maybe 1 to 1/2 an egg's worth of white per three yolks). I used to use 1 yolk per 1/2 cup of liquid, but after a few loose custards I started adding the extra yolk. Am I using too much egg? Should I simply cook it longer and wait until it sets?

I have made stirred custards using the same ratio and have found that it also works. However, I think that in this application maybe less yolk could be used with the same results. This is what makes me wonder if that could be true for the brulee if I let it cook longer.

-------------------

Edited to add:

I actually don't use as much white as stated above. I'm not exactly sure how much... sometimes I don't use any at all though most times I sneak some in, in small quantities for some reason (brulee only). I don't add any in stirred custards.

Edited by fiftydollars (log)
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I'll fifth or sixth the double boiler - I especially love my Pyrex one, which allows me to see exactly how hard the water is going underneath. I'll also second the cream - I generally do my anglaise with half-milk/half-cream or two-milk/one-cream. I just like the extra richness and body. Also (ptui ptui ptui I spit between my fingers not to jinx it) - mine has never actually curdled or failed to "cust," but I do find that it never thickens until a few minutes after I've started to kvetch and moan and mutter, "I just know it, this stuff is NEVER going to thicken." (Unberufen!)

I'll also tenth chefpeon's remarks about eggs and men. Is there one among us who hasn't learned this the hard way?

Edited by balmagowry (log)
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  • 1 year later...

I am trying to make desaulniers'Zio Ciccio's Cassata and the custard is not firming up. Its staying quite liquid. The recipe calls for 1C whole milk, 1C heavy cream, 1/2C gran. sugar, 2 eggs, 3 egg yolks, 4 T cornstarch, 2t vanilla extract and 2 oz. chocolate crunchs. This custard does is to be used in the cake.

I made sure the milk and cream boiled before I poured it over the egg mixture.

Any ideas why custard staying fluid.

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was the cornstarch whisked with the eggs and sugar before you added the milk/cream? did you continue to cook it after you combined everything? i think that you actually have to boil cornstarch in order to activate it (as well as to get rid of the "raw" starch taste).

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was the cornstarch whisked with the eggs and sugar before you added the milk/cream?  did you continue to cook it after you combined everything?  i think that you actually have to boil cornstarch in order to activate it (as well as to get rid of the "raw" starch taste).

The milk and cream are brought to a boil. The sugar, eggs, and cornstarch are whipped in a mixing bowl for 3-4min. When the cream boils it is poring into the beaten egg mixture. It is then returned to the saucepan and heated to 185°F, about 3min. Removed from heat and 2t vanilla extract added and whisked to combine. The custard is transfered to another bowl to cool down(in ice bath). I noticed when it cooled down it continued to stay thin.

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i think 185 degrees was not hot enough. because the starch protects the egg...you should be able to bring it to a boil. you should notice it thickening as it cooks (stir or whisk contstantly as it is cooking to avoid scorching).

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i think 185 degrees was not hot enough.  because the starch protects the egg...you should be able to bring it to a boil.  you should notice it thickening as it cooks (stir or whisk contstantly as it is cooking to avoid scorching).

I think the therm. is off, my guess the recipe is okay, because Wendy tried it some years go and recommended it and did not say there was any problems with recipe. I think you are right about the temp. I have a another cable for the therm and it registers differently.

One more question. Would it help if I reheated the runny custard or should I start over again?

Edited by oli (log)
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i'm not sure if you can re-heat it. it can't hurt to give it a try. try to bring it up to a boil and see if it thickens. let it cook for a minute.

if it doesn't work then, go ahead and do it over.

good luck, let us know how it goes.

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You need to bring the custart to boil... and from the moment start to bubble ... boil exactly 1 minute ... mixing all the time.

68132247O285632003.jpg

Here try my version.

400 ml milk or any juice

3 leveled tablespoons of corn starch

5 tablespoons of sugar (more if citric fruits are used)

2 eggs

3 tablespoons of unsalted butter

Vanilla (if other flavors are used, exclude this)

Lemon or orange peel

Mix eggs with sugar, cornstarch with cold liquid. Mix together in a pot. Place over medium heat, mixing all the time and bring to a boil. From the first arriving boiling bubble, cook exactly 1 minute. Remove from heat, let stand 5 minutes. Mix in butter and flavors.

Also keep in mind the pastry you are using the custard for... use less or more liquid according to what consistency you need.

You could add to the very end 1/2 teaspoon of pre soaked gelatin, if you need to really stand.

Edited by MamaC (log)
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You need to bring the custart to boil... and from the moment start to bubble ... boil exactly 1 minute ... mixing all the time.

68132247O285632003.jpg

Here try my version.

400 ml milk or any juice

3 leveled tablespoons of corn starch

5 tablespoons of sugar (more if citric fruits are used)

2 eggs

3 tablespoons of unsalted butter

Vanilla (if other flavors are used, exclude this)

Lemon or orange peel

Mix eggs with sugar, cornstarch with cold liquid. Mix together in a pot. Place over medium heat, mixing all the time and bring to a boil. From the first arriving boiling bubble, cook exactly 1 minute. Remove from heat, let stand 5 minutes. Mix in butter and flavors.

Also keep in mind the pastry you are using the custard for... use less or more liquid according to what consistency you need.

You could add to the very end 1/2 teaspoon of pre soaked gelatin, if you need to really stand.

Thanks, will keep that recipe for future use. I have to tell you how I progressed. I continued with the original recipe and added the boiling cream to my 4 min. beaten eggs and when I poured it back into my pot to reheat to the recommended boil for 1 min., I noticed that it looked exactly like my genoise batter. So anyway it was hard to tell if it got to boil again point because of the volume of the mixture. I stopped stirring and took it off the heat when I notice that the bottom was just at the point before it would scorch. Its alright and has the consistancy of soft ice cream. I am wondering will it thicken more overnight? The reason I ask is I am putting bits of chocolat in the custard and then using that to fill a cake.

Thanks

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It's been sooo long since I made that recipe, I forget some of the details. So I pulled out my book and looked at my notes on this particular recipe.

I wrote that I used my own custard recipe. Assembled it and had to freeze the cake in order to cut it for buffet. I also wrote the marsala cake was very light and that next time I should try using a mouseline cream in place of the custard.

I can't be certain, but I do think I made his custard and it didn't work then resorted to using some pastry cream I had in the cooler cause his didn't set up.

Anyway, what I did, put aside for now.

Looking clearly at his recipe it won't work as written, period. There's either a mistake in the ingredient list or his dirrections....or both.

He does say only bring it up to 185F, so the cornstarch won't even kick in at that temp.. You HAVE to bring cornstarch up to a boil for it to work, so theres not even any point to that ingredients use. He also calls for 2 whole eggs and 4 yolks (not 3)..............but that still isn't enough to set 2 cups of milk/cream and with-out the cornstarch backing up the eggs thickening power.......no way it's going to work. And to reheat it this I think will be a waste of time. I'd scrap it and go with another custard filling....or a riccotta filling (like cannoli).

Also........one more point. The whole 'beat your eggs thing' is a waste of time when your going to temper them into a huge amount of liquid. The liquid imediately deflates the air structure. (I've been preaching about that for years....)

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It's been sooo long since I made that recipe, I forget some of the details. So I pulled out my book and looked at my notes on this particular recipe.

I wrote that I used my own custard recipe. Assembled it and had to freeze the cake in order to cut it for buffet. I also wrote the marsala cake was very light and that next time I should try using a mouseline cream in place of the custard.

I can't be certain, but I do think I made his custard and it didn't work then resorted to using some pastry cream I had in the cooler cause his didn't set up.

Anyway, what I did, put aside for now.

Looking clearly at his recipe it won't work as written, period. There's either a mistake in the ingredient list or his dirrections....or both.

He does say only bring it up to 185F, so the cornstarch won't even kick in at that temp.. You HAVE to bring cornstarch up to a boil for it to work, so theres not even any point to that ingredients use. He also calls for 2 whole eggs and 4 yolks (not 3)..............but that still isn't enough to set 2 cups of milk/cream and with-out the cornstarch backing up the eggs thickening power.......no way it's going to work. And to reheat it this I think will be a waste of time. I'd scrap it and go with another custard filling....or a riccotta filling (like cannoli).

Also........one more point. The whole 'beat your eggs thing' is a waste of time when your going to temper them into a huge amount of liquid. The liquid imediately deflates the air structure. (I've been preaching about that for years....)

Thanks, Wendy, I knew you'd kick in, but I felt it was my mistake because of your recommendation. So I am now making a note in the book for future use, to use another custard recipe or even a cannoli recipe.

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Thanks, will keep that recipe for future use.  I have to tell you how I progressed.  I continued with the original recipe and added the boiling cream to my 4 min. beaten eggs and when I poured it back into my pot to reheat to the recommended boil for 1 min., I noticed that it looked exactly like my genoise batter.  So anyway it was hard to tell if it got to boil again point because of the volume of the mixture.  I stopped stirring and took it off the heat when I notice that the bottom was just at the point before it would scorch.  Its alright and has the consistancy of soft ice cream.  I am wondering will it thicken more overnight?  The reason I ask is I am putting bits of chocolat in the custard and then using that to fill a cake.

Thanks

Never happened to scorch the bottom ... if you mix all the time. Use the whisk not a spoon and keep mixing... if you stop you burn it.

If you boil the custard for 1 minute, then it should be ok... however I am concerned about the quantity of liquid you used... it may be too much in rapport with the eggs and the starch.

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Thanks, will keep that recipe for future use.  I have to tell you how I progressed.  I continued with the original recipe and added the boiling cream to my 4 min. beaten eggs and when I poured it back into my pot to reheat to the recommended boil for 1 min., I noticed that it looked exactly like my genoise batter.  So anyway it was hard to tell if it got to boil again point because of the volume of the mixture.  I stopped stirring and took it off the heat when I notice that the bottom was just at the point before it would scorch.  Its alright and has the consistancy of soft ice cream.  I am wondering will it thicken more overnight?  The reason I ask is I am putting bits of chocolat in the custard and then using that to fill a cake.

Thanks

Never happened to scorch the bottom ... if you mix all the time. Use the whisk not a spoon and keep mixing... if you stop you burn it.

If you boil the custard for 1 minute, then it should be ok... however I am concerned about the quantity of liquid you used... it may be too much in rapport with the eggs and the starch.

It didn't really scorch the bottom. I usually get on my wife for scorching custards when she makes ice cream, because I have the bottle washer at home.

I knew I must take it off the stove when I was mixing the custard that at any second the bottom would scorch and the custard would be unsalvageable.

Thanks for all the help, everyone. Now I will have to do a search here for a cannoli filling recipe.

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It depends upon how you make the filling, etc... I wouldn't use a soft filling of any type so no matter what you do, you have to add some stablity to it. I'd "bastardize" the cannoli filling, myself.

Use really well drained riccotta (that's extremely important). Then I'd combine it with some pastry cream with added gelatin, or a white chocolate mousse, or bavarian that contained gelatin. Or go with a mousseline base (that's pastry cream with butter) so it becomes very thick/sturdy (like a napoleon). Some people combine marscarpone in their cannoli filling also, to thicken it/give it more body.

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