Thick custards are essential additions to many traditional desserts and pastries. It is made from egg yolks, milk, sugar, salt, vanilla and occasionally cornstarch. Once mixed together, the liquids must be heated over low heat; if the heat is too high, or the length of time too short, the custard will be runny with a consistency of milk. It should be thick and filling with a consistency closer to that of yogurt.
Things You'll Need
Consider using cornstarch in your recipe. This may help thicken your custard, but also threatens to thicken it to the point of making a pastry cream, which is not the same thing as custard. This is an optional addition and should be added in the beginning to the dry ingredients.
Heat the mixed ingredients in a sauce pan over low heat. The egg proteins will bind to the milk between the temperatures of 149 degrees F and 158 degrees F. Adjust the heat of the stove top burner accordingly to ensure the custard stays between these temperatures.
Scald your whole milk according to the recipe prior to adding it to the dry ingredients. This prepares the proteins and is important for the thickening of the custard. Experiment with both ways to see what you prefer.
Stir the custard with the whisk constantly while heating. This ensures that all proteins have available material to bind to and do not stagnate over the heat, which can cause burning or curdling. This also helps to avoid the development of a skin over the custard.
Keep stirring until the custard thickens to a preferred consistency. This will take around 10 to 15 minutes. Use the timer to gauge when it is an appropriate time to pay closer attention to the consistency of the custard. Too little time over heat will result in runny, milky custard.
Remove the custard from heat when it is the correct consistency, or sticking to your whisk. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming and leave to cool on the counter. The custard will thicken further as it cools.
Custard takes longer to thicken than usually predicted – have patience.
References and ResourcesDr. Gourmet; Cooking Techniques - Thickening Agents, Custard; 2011
Incredible Egg; Pastry Cream (Vanilla Custard Filling); 2011
Petit Chef; The Custard Thickens; 2011