In When a Lady Loves, Maureen Collins attends a Reveillon dinner on Christmas Eve at the Colville home in the French Quarter. It was the custom for Catholic families to fast all day on Christmas Eve, attend Midnight Mass and then celebrate with a meal that often lasted until dawn on Christmas day.
Maureen is so sickened by a conversation with Madame Colville that she bypasses the delicacies on the dessert table, including Caramel Custard.
“Maureen walked slowly and unsteadily toward the bathroom reserved for ladies during Colville parties. Her path took her past a table of desserts in the front hall. The Charlotte Russe, fruitcake, crystallized fruits, bread pudding and caramel custard—all treats Maureen loved—disgusted her.”
Try Grandmère’s Caramel Custard for dessert any time of year. You’ll find it delicious—unless like Maureen—you’re being forced to marry a man you do not love. This custard is an easy, sophisticated finish to any meal. It is best if made a day ahead. Makes five 4-ounce custard cups
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon boiling water
4 eggs at room temperature
1 ½ cups milk
1/3 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
STEP BY STEP:
1) Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place custard cups in a large baking pan, to which you will add about one inch of hot water just before baking.
2) To make caramel, melt ½ cup sugar in a frying pan, stirring constantly, until it begins to brown and liquefy, about 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in 1 tablespoon boiling water slowly. It may splatter.
3) Pour immediately into custard cups to coat the bottom of each. This hardens quickly so don’t measure, just eyeball an equal portion to each.
4) To make custard, scald milk and remove from heat.
5) In a bowl, beat eggs by hand, not to a froth. Add scalded milk and stir. Mix in sugar, salt and vanilla.
6) Pour into custard cups on top of now-hardened caramel.
7) Pour hot water into pan so custard cups stand in an inch of water.
8) Bake for about 45 to 50 minutes until tops are brown and a knife comes out clean.
9) Cool for an hour, then refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours or overnight before serving.
10) To serve, loosen each custard cup with a knife all around, place a dessert plate on top and invert. The caramel is now on top, oozing sugar down the sides of the custard.