Milk Punch Custards

One of my most trusted southern cookbooks is Bill Neal’s, Biscuits, Spoonbread and Sweet Potato Pie. It was a “go to” resource for me while I was at the restaurant and helped inspire a number of my desserts.  I came across the milk punch ice cream recipe when I was looking for something other than vanilla to go with a persimmon pudding I was making.  The intro for the recipe was “This is my favorite ice cream.”  How could I not try it? The recipe consisted of adding brandy and nutmeg to a plain vanilla ice cream base.  I was skeptical as to how “different” it would be from vanilla but I made a batch anyway.  Well, it was delicious, the addition of two simple ingredients was just enough to add a subtle and enjoyable  flavor.  It paired wonderfully with the persimmon pudding and the dessert was a hit.

After reading a little bit about the history of Milk Punch I learned that it is a specialty of New Orleans, and while the flavors make a lovely dessert it is often served at brunch.  It is said to be a nice remedy for a hangover!!! It is an “eggless cousin” of eggnog and its history is thought to date back to England in the 1800s.  If you aren’t a fan of brandy you can also use rum or bourbon.

This year our New Year’s plans included a visit from Bryan’s parents.  We went out for dinner on Friday night but I put together a cozy New Year’s Day dinner menu and we invited my mom up from CT for a little dinner party on Saturday.  I wanted a dessert that was elegant and could be prepared in advance.  I decided on pot de creme… it just sounds elegant.  It is the French version of custard and it is supposed to be baked in special ramekins that have their own lids.  Sadly,  I do not own a set of these cute little pots…but I do have many glass jam jars and they worked just fine.

I used the vanilla and chocolate pot de creme recipes in the Bouchon cookbook.  I started by making a batch of the plain vanilla and then I added the chocolate to half and the nutmeg and brandy to the other half – making a Milk Punch Pot De Creme!

To cover them while they bake I used tinfoil, however I could have probably put the jar lids on, fitting them loosely.  The custards need to bake in a water bath.  The best way to set that up is to place the custards in the pan, place it on the rack in the oven and then add the water to the pan with a pitcher.  I always add warm or hot water so that the water doesn’t have to heat before the custards start cooking – it helps keep the cooking time to about 40 min.

I didn’t love the chocolate, I thought they were a little too sweet and not chocolate-y enough.  However, the milk punch was perfect.  Maybe a bit “boozy” for some pallets, but they were really smooth, creamy and flavorful.  The first bite you taste brandy, and then the flavor moves to sweet nutmeg and creme.  I served them with Pepperidge Fram cookies (the variety box – a favorite of my childhood).  These are a “restaurant worthy” dessert, yet easy enough to make at home when you are craving something lovely and elegant.  HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

MILK PUNCH POT DE CREME

2 1/2 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup of whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
6 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
1/2 – 3/4 cup brandy
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees, gather ramekins/jars and baking dish for water bath.

Bring cream, milk, vanilla bean and half of the sugar to a simmer over medium heat.  Remove and let steep for a half hour.
Bring cream back to a simmer.  Whisk together the remaining sugar with the egg yolks  and pinch of salt.  Add the warm milk mixture a little at a time (temper)
into the egg mixture, whisking till smooth.  Add the brandy and nutmeg.  Strain into a pitcher.

Pour the base into ramekins, filling them 3/4 of the way.  Carefully place them in the baking dish, cover each one with foil.
Place baking dish in oven and add warm water to the pan so that it reaches about 1/2 way up the sides of the ramekins.  Bake till the centers
jiggle slightly, like jello.

Remove from oven cool on the counter, cover and then refrigerate for at least 6 hours before serving.  They will keep in the fridge for up to 4 days.

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