They’re incredible, they’re edible and they’re all over, around and through this week’s Food section. They’re eggs, of course, and we have a dozen great recipes for you in addition to three egg-related features: Bonnie S. Benwick reviews a batch of new egg-centric cookbooks; Emily C. Horton details the glories of hard-boiled eggs; and a rundown of egg tips and fun facts will help sharpen your skills and increase your knowledge.
Speaking of the new egg cookbooks, one of their authors will be a special guest for our weekly Free Range Chat. Michael Ruhlman, whose latest book is “Egg: A Culinary Exploration of the World’s Most Versatile Ingredient,” joins us today at noon sharp, so be there to greet him. Pretty versatile himself, he’s well equipped to address not only eggs but a wide variety of topics, so whatever your culinary question, bring it on.
And speaking of questions, here’s a leftover from last week’s chat:
I tried (several times!) to make egg custard/creme anglaise this weekend as part of making a trifle. None of the batches thickened, and it was only after wasting all those eggs and milk that it occurred to me the problem was that I was using 2 percent milk. Is it possible to make a thick custard sauce without whole milk? If I have this problem again, is there a way to thicken the custard? The ingredients were just egg yolks, milk, sugar and vanilla.
The light custard called creme anglaise is, surprisingly, a subject of some debate. Despite its name, there’s a large faction of cooks/chefs who believe that cream should not be one of the ingredients. Others would never dream of making it without cream.
Let me confess up front that though I’ve made my share of creme anglaise, I’ve never made it with low-fat milk. But there is plenty of evidence that it can be done; you can even find recipes online that call for skim milk, though I wouldn’t recommend them.
I wasn’t there when you were making your custard, of course, so I can’t know how attentive you were to temperature. But it’s a fact that if custard doesn’t get hot enough, it won’t thicken nicely. There’s a balancing act here, of course, because if custard gets too hot, the eggs will curdle. Use a thermometer and be sure to heat the mixture to just below 180 degrees. That’s the magic number because above that temperature, eggs coagulate. Heat the mixture slowly, stirring to keep it from sticking and getting lumpy. As soon as it hits the target temperature, pour the custard through a strainer into a bowl, and keep stirring for a while until it cools a little. Then refrigerate, and it should thicken. Though I suspect that it won’t be quite as thick as if you’d used whole milk, half-and-half or cream. And for a trifle, you do want your creme anglaise to be on the stiffer side.
You can make a non-classic creme anglaise that will thicken without fail if you use cornstarch or flour. But the technique for that is different. If you want to try it, I recommend going online or searching your cookbooks to find a recipe that specifically calls for starch or flour, and following that. Better not to wing it.