Just saying Slippery-Slidey Cinnamon-Espresso Cup Custard is enough to twist your tongue, but eating it—now that's another matter. One spoonful and your tongue will be even and your mood will be pretty smooth, too.
Cup custards are just inherently paradoxical—they're warm, soothing, and comforting while they're cool and sleek. And although they're considered a nursery sweet, they're loved by adults.
Happily, cup custards are among the easiest of the creamy desserts to make because they're based on whole eggs, which keep the custard from curdling, and baked in the cozy confines of your oven, where nothing bad, like scorching, can happen to them.
Playing around: Lemon-Clove Cup Custard. Steep the milk with 3 whole cloves and the zest of 2 lemons (make sure to remove the white cottony pith from the zest) and add 1/4 teaspoon pure lemon extract or 1/8 teaspoon pure lemon oil to the mixture at the end.
- 1 3/4 cups whole milk
- 2 to 3 teaspoons espresso powder (2 teaspoons gives you a mild espresso flavor)
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 3 large eggs, preferably at room temperature
- 1/2 cup sugar
Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter four 6-ounce custard cups (or coffee cups) and find a roasting pan that's large enough to hold them; line the roasting pan with a double thickness of paper towels to keep the cups from sliding. Have a kettle of very hot water at the ready.
Bring the milk just to the boil and stir in the espresso powder and cinnamon, stirring until they are dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and keep at hand.
Whisk together the eggs and sugar until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is pale. (You can do this by hand or with a mixer.) Mixing without stop, add just a little of the milk—you don't want to the heat to shock the eggs. When you've got about one-quarter cup of the milk in (and the eggs are tempered), you can add the rest in a slow, steady stream. Mix gently so you don't create too much foam.
Strain the custard into a measuring cup with a spout and skim off all the foam that's on the top (even though you mixed gently); divide the custard evenly among the four cups. Place the cups in the prepared roasting pan, set the pan in the oven and very carefully fill it with hot water to come halfway up the sides of the cups.
Bake the custards about 45 minutes, or until they're jiggly only in the center when you tap them lightly. Remove the cups to a rack and cool to room temperature. Chill, covered, for at least 2 hours before serving.
Serving: Serve the custards in the cups or unmold onto small plates by running a knife around the edge of the cup to break the seal.
Storing: Covered, cup custard will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, but custard is really best the day it is made.