“Goes Both Ways” Citrus Custard Cream

I’m going to start the Big February Dessert Extravaganza Of Doom with something that’s not really a dessert in it’s own – although in one of its two incarnations is very well could be. The first salvo in our effort to battle the mid-winter blahs is in fact a dessert condiment.

That’s right. I said “dessert condiment”.

This particular recipe grew out of the idea that it might be nice to have something other than ice cream as the topping on a warm dessert once in a while. Specifically, something with more of a liquid texture for topping cobbler or dumpling sorts of desserts where it might be nice to have something to soak into the doughy vehicle that carries the fruit. Combine that thought with my recent jonesing for frozen custard – while you can get frozen custard all over the U.S. midwest, its generally unknown in the rest of North America – and you get this: A sweet and citrus-tanged custard cream that can be poured over warm desserts like a thick devon cream or can be popped into your ice cream maker to make a deliciously light frozen custard.

Like the title says, it goes both ways.

Interested? Keep reading and lets whip up a batch. Get this ready today and tomorrow I’ll give you something new to pour it onto. With bacon.

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This recipe is all kinds of simple. If you know how to temper eggs and you have an instant-read thermometer, you are ready to go. If you don’t know how to temper eggs, click on this link and take a few seconds to get enlightened with a simple and concise slide show. Don’t worry, I’ll wait right here until you get back. And if you don’t have a decent instant read thermometer, get one. Really. It’s an absolutely vital tool for any kitchen, indoor or out.

IF YOU PLAN TO MAKE THIS AS FROZEN CUSTARD: Double all of the ingredients, but make the custard in exactly the same way up to and including the part where you chill the finished mix. Then just load it into your ice cream maker and follow the machine’s directions. Doubling the ingredients will give your ice cream maker a better chance to work air into the mix – most makers want a minimum amount of product loaded into them to get the dasher to work correctly.


125 ml (or 1/2 cup) of milk (full-fat or low-fat is fine, but no skim)
250 ml (1 cup) of heavy cream
4 strips of orange zest, cut with a vegetable peeler (see photo below)
4 strips lemon zest, cut with a vegetable peeler (see photo below)
2 large eggs
generous 75 ml measure (or heaping 1/4 cup) of sugar
a good pinch of salt

One of the key things here is the lemon and orange peel. You want nice big chunks of peel with lots of surface area. Since that makes it hard to use traditional measurements, I offer to you one of my rare “actually helpful” photos:


That is how big each of the pieces of peel should be. Use a standard vegetable peeler to get the correct depth.

WIth that hurdle out of the way, let’s get this show on the road. Mix the milk, the cream, and all of the citrus peels into a nice heavy saucepan that is large enough to hold all of the ingredients in the list up above. Turn your heat on medium low and bring the mixture up to a high simmer – you want this to be close to boiling but not quite there. Boiling is bad here. Stir it once in a while as it heats.

While the milk and cream mixture heats, thoroughly mix your eggs, sugar, and salt in a small bowl. The sugar and egg mixture should be completely smooth, no lumps of sugar and no egg strings. When the cream is almost at the boiling point use some of it to temper the egg mixture. Add the tempered mixture into the pot of hot cream and turn the temperature down to just above low. Now grab your thermometer and stir constantly until the mixture gets up to 75 degrees C (that’s about 165 F). The longer it takes to get to this temperature, the better your custard will be, so don’t succumb to any temptation to turn the heat back up.

When the temperature hits 165 take the pot off the heat immediately and strain it through a fine-meshed sieve and into a bowl while it is still hot. Put it in the fridge and chill it completely. Unlike a full custard you don’t have to cover the surface with plastic wrap or risk a nasty skin – instead just whisk the custard cream thoroughly once an hour or so while it chills. You might get a hint of a skin but it will mix right back in. When the custard is fully chilled it will be slightly thicker than fresh full-fat whipping cream. The taste is very subtle – a creamy sweetness with a soft layer of citrus that works incredibly well with tart and hard fruits as well as any kind of cake or biscuit or pastry.

To use it as a custard cream on desserts just pour it either chilled or warm (you can play around with this) over any sort of dessert that has a nice pillowy cake or cobbler component, or anything that has a nice acid to it, or (better yet) both. To use it as a frozen custard take the chilled mixture and put it in your ice cream maker like any other base. Remember that frozen custard is best as a soft serve, so try and make this fresh and keep it in the freezer for no more than two hours before you use it. Take it out of the freezer five minutes before you serve to let it soften up. If you have to make it in advance or you have leftovers, take it out of the freezer at least 15 minutes before serving and give it a gentle stir just before you plate up.

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