vanilla-custards-with-roasted-blueberries Recipes

vanilla custards with roasted blueberries

Today is my sister’s birthday. Every year, I ask her what kind of cake I can make her and do you know what she says? “I don’t want a cake. I just want a big bowl of vanilla bean custard.” I hope you understand how hard this is for me (and please read that back in your brattiest little sister voice; it is, after all, all about me, right?) Making elaborate birthday cakes for family and friends is my thing. It has launched an entire section of this site, and portion of my cookbook (which includes my son’s 2nd, my husband’s 37th and 38th, and maybe even your next birthday cakes, too). I delight in trying to find a layered summary of everyone’s favorite things that fits in a cake carrier, and I think it’s awfully mean of my sister to deny me this outlet every August 30th. (Huff. Puff.) A bowl of custard? There’s not much to say about it.

getting ready to make custards
to begin

Or, there might not be if your narrator wasn’t such a blabbermouth. To wit: Custard, or pastry cream, is a pretty big deal in my family. My mother and sister especially consider it among the dessert greats, whereas others mostly look at it as just an element of grander things. It’s the filling of cream puffs and eclairs; it forms a delightful layer underneath freshly sliced strawberries or an artful arrangement of stunning fruit. Sometimes, it separates cake layers, fills the hollows of doughnuts and Boston Cream Pies, too. But it rarely gets its own day in the sun — or you know, single serving bowl with a spoon — and my sister thinks that it should.

whisk, whisk, whisk

bubbles blurp-glurping
scooping into little cups

Custard, especially that which is flecked with the sweepings of a recently split vanilla bean, is really the ultimate vanilla pudding. And I know, I know that I had a rant not so long ago on this site about how it irks me when people call pudding what I actually call custard (I consider puddings to be mainly cornstarch-thicken simplicities, not to bore you to death with semantics) but were you to on occasion serve custard the way you would pudding, I don’t think you’d regret it at all.

an odd number of tiny custards
vanilla bean custards

So this year, at last, my sister gets her way. I made little bowls of vanilla bean custard and topped them with briefly roasted blueberries. I know, I know, the blueberries weren’t requested but they’re really wonderful right now and their tartness, which is amplified slightly by a lemon juice finish, plays off the dense richness of the chilled custards underneath perfectly. I just had to. I couldn’t leave well enough alone. I suspect she wouldn’t expect it any other way.

vanilla custards + roasted blueberries

One year ago: Peach Butter
Two years ago: Peach Shortbread
Three years ago: Nectarine Galette
Four years ago: Cold Brewed Iced Coffee and Bourbon Peach Hand Pies
Five years ago: White Bean Roasted Red Pepper Dip

Vanilla Custards with Roasted Blueberries

This is my go-to custard recipe these days, adapted over the years (using less thickener and a range of butter amounts) from Julia Child. It can be used as the base for a fresh fruit tart in the yield listed below. It doesn’t make a terrible lot, just about 1ish cups of custard. I divided them into five tiny cups and we enjoyed our tiny desserts, but for a crowd or people with more than teacup tastes in dessert, definitely double it.

Vanilla beans can get expensive, I know, but one thing I don’t think enough recipes tell you is that you don’t need to use all or even half of a vanilla bean to get a clear vanilla flavor. I went ahead and used half a bean here, but I also think you can get great vanilla flavor from even a quarter bean. Heck, I’ve even used 1-inch segments of a bean before in a small yield of a dessert. Use what you’re comfortable with. And if you don’t have a fresh bean, just extract, stir in a teaspoon at the end (I’ll tell you when).

About the butter: Julia Child would suggest that you use 1 tablespoon of butter for this yield of pastry cream. Dorie Greenspan would suggest 3 tablespoons; I’ve seen recipes that suggest up to 4 tablespoons and some that suggest none (gasp!). I’d suggest using 1 to 2 tablespoons, and only adding more if you want your pastry cream really, really luxe. But who would want a thing like that?

Serves 4, petitely

1 cup whole milk
Seeds from 1/4 to 1/2 vanilla bean (see Note) or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 to 2 tablespoons (see Note) unsalted butter

1 cup blueberries
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
Juice from a wedge lemon, or to taste

In a small saucepan, combine your milk and vanilla bean flecks (if using extract instead, don’t add it yet). Heat the mixture until it is warm, then set aside. You can also do this in a microwave. If your saucepan or microwave dish has a small spout, even better.

In the bottom of a small saucepan, off the heat, beat or whisk your egg yolks and 1/4 cup sugar together vigorously, until it pales in color and a ribbon of batter falls off your whisk when you lift it from the bowl; this will take a few minutes by hand, and likely just one minute with an electric mixer. Whisk in the flour until fully incorporated.

Whisking the whole time, drizzle the warm vanilla-milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture, just a tiny bit at a time at first. Once you’ve added about 1/4 of the milk, you can add the rest in a thin stream, whisking constantly.

Bring the saucepan to your stove and heat it over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until it begins to bubble. Once bubbling, whisk it for 1 to 2 more minutes, then remove it from the heat. Immediately stir in vanilla extract (if using) and butter until combined. [Updated to add] As a final step for a perfectly smooth and silky custard, you can press the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer. You can also skip this step if you’re not terribly concerned about an imperfect custard.

To cool your custard quickly, place the saucepan in a larger bowl of ice water that will go halfway up the sides of the saucepan (i.e. water should not spill in) and stir the custard until lukewarm, then divide among serving dishes or ramekins. You can also pour it into serving dishes or ramekins still hot, but you should then press a film of plastic wrap against each custard in the fridge so it doesn’t form a pudding skin. Custards keep in fridge for up to 4 days.

To serve: Preheat oven to 450°F. Place blueberries in a heatproof, shallow roasting dish and sprinkle with 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar. Roast in oven for 12 to 15 minutes, rolling around once or twice during cooking time to ensure they roast evenly. The goal is not to let the blueberries fully slump or turn to sauce; you just want a little trickle of juices puddled across in the bottom. Squeeze a bit of lemon juice over berries the second they come out of the oven and roll them back and forth to evenly incorporate it. Spoon hot roasted blueberries and some of their juices over each custard. Eat immediately, passing any extra roasted blueberries alongside.

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207 comments on vanilla custards with roasted blueberries

  1. Megan

    I can’t believe I have a chance at being the first comment. And though I’m the oldest sister, I do prefer vanilla custard to cake. AND I can’t wait for your preordered cookbook to arrive…SOON. I love you Deb!!!

  2. Sally

    Love this! Just went peach picking today – would be amazing with roasted peaches (or grilled peaches) on top… I LOVE vanilla custard. We just had a cake with vanilla custard as the filling, and it may be that I just ate the filling :)

  3. Hannah

    Just made pastry cream for eclairs at culinary school. Can’t wait to try this recipe and compare! (Especially with the blueberries, this recipe will win in a long shot)

  4. Jamie

    Just the other night I attempted to explain the complexities of what a custard really is to a friend of mine, and failed to find the right definition until reading this. It looks wonderful, Deb, and I can’t wait to try the recipe and report back — I have just the perfect vanilla bean waiting for the job. Thanks!

  5. Looks amazing! This recipe would go really well with currants, too. Did you sister just love it? I like to cook for my sister, too – we’re identical twins with similar tastes, so it’s pretty easy.

  6. Val

    I love love love a good custard. I order it every time I’m in a fancy restaurant. Surprisingly few do it well. I often take one bite and I know. Custard over cake, anytime. My favorite French restaurant near me makes a pana cotta with a Greek yogurt base. It is to die for, just tart enough.

    This weekend I am making your custard, especially since I have two cartoons of blueberries staring at me. Why do I buy so much? Happy birthday to your sister. Mine is on Tuesday and if I had anyone to cook for me that day, custard would be it.

  7. Nicole

    How timely! I am planning a special birthday cake for my mother’s birthday. Do you think this custard thick enough to fill a cake, or should I go for a cornstarch-thickened pastry cream instead?

  8. Rachel

    You are shocked at a custard with out butter: I’m shocked at a custard without cream (that has butter with it). Also for me pastry cream is half custard half cream. Interesting how different cultures mean different things with the same word.

    My current go to recipe for custard is: bring 300ml milk, 300ml cream to just below the boil. Whisk 6 egg yolks, some sugar, vanilla and a little bit of corn flour. Add milk/cream to eggs, put it all back into the saucepan until thick.

  9. As a bratty younger sister/daughter, I understand. My mom proclaims anything other than vanilla poundcake as too rich. (How the poundcake doesn’t qualify is beyond me). My sister requested “something chocolate-y” that I translated into a kahlua pudding cake. She ate it straight out of the pan. That being said, I would eat all of those pretty jars and lick the bowl.

  10. Oh thank you. Thank you for this custard recipe. Custard is without a doubt my absolute favorite dessert, and nothing I’ve tried on your blog has ever done me wrong. I am making this tomorrow.

  11. I only recently discovered the real beauty of Vanilla (bean) Custard…It tastes nothing like any other dessert, and it does deserve it’s own spotlight! I have a quick question about the vanilla bean – I like the idea of using only 1/2 a bean- but how should I store the rest? It’s humid where I live, so I don’t want to leave it outside.

  12. Thay looks totally delicious, but I agree with you. Cakes make for great celebration desserts. The whole birthday candles and cake cutting tradition. Maybe I’ll make a cake and fill it with pastry cream and roasted blueberries…

  13. Amy P

    You made this pregnant woman crave chocolate pudding. However, I needed instant gratification so it came out of a box. What can I say? My craving would be over by the time I cooked this, no matter how good it looks right now! Not to mention I need calories NOW, stupid nausea has left me hungry and dizzy for over three weeks now. So thanks for inspiring some eating around here, regardless of quality :P

  14. Laurie

    My son turned 18 today! I cannot believe my baby is all grown up. It’s very bittersweet, just like the chocolate I used in the fudge frosting that topped his two-layer yellow cake. I’ve never had anyone request something other than cake. Happy Birthday to your sis! 

  15. Sharon

    Can you make this with lactose free milk? I discovered that you CAN’T make homemade ice cream with it because of… the sugars? Or something? Just curious, since my daughter and I can only have lactose-free milk.

  16. Oh! (Said in my smallest, slightly petulant voice that says how perfect is this?) You must love your sister and surely she loves you like crazy for making this for her. I’m even imagining it with a little sponge cake in a trifle-like variation. You never cease to amaze me.

  17. Your photos pop. Your custard is spectacular in its simplicity. I also adore the skinny sister to custard — creme anglaise. Skinny only in texture, naturally. May I offer a tip for a fabulous substitute to the vanilla bean? When I want a custard or other dish to look and taste as if I’ve taken the trouble and effort to use a vanilla bean (and don’t happen to have one on hand), I often use a dab of Nielsen-Massey vanilla bean paste. I love this stuff, and it lasts forever since I only use it when I want the terrific flavor and flecks from the ground seeds, not for everyday vanilla use.

  18. Well, I suppose I have to thank your sister for having convinced you to make this, because those little cups of custard look just too yummy! And you had such a great idea to top them off with slightly roasted berries! Now I know how to use the basket of blueberries I bought a couple of days ago at the farmers’ market…I was going to bake a tart but this looks way better :)
    Thanks, Dab, as always!

    xo, Elisa

  19. I’m with your sister on this one: custard should have their place in the sun or at least their 15 minutes of celebrity!
    But, on the other hand, I have to agree with you. A birthday needs a cake, it’s like a Thanksgiving without a turkey…

  20. Honestly, when looking on your photos I totally understand your sister. This looks sooo delicious. I am a big fan of fruity desserts, yum. On the other hand, I also understand you, as I also enjoy baking cakes for birthdays.

  21. Last year my birthday request was vanilla custard made by one of my best friends – it was delicious! I’m quite happy she and her family can go away with my partner and I for my birthday weekend this year as I am quite keen to have custard for my birthday breakfast!

  22. JaanL

    YES! Some who agrees with me. Puddings and custards are different and why oh why do they think pudding is a custard. Irritates the heck out of me. But, as for your custard, well, it sounds just divine and can’t wait to give it a whorl since I’m a custard gal at heart.

  23. sometimes there is nothing better than a good custard. I’m usually a cake/cookie/brownie person but once in awhile nothing quite hits the spot like a tiny portion of something rich and custard-y. I can’t not wait for the birthday cakes in the cookbook! Here’s hoping it gets to me in India in time for fall baking!!

  24. Ingrid

    Looks pretty yummy! Can I just double or triple the recipe? This extremely petite batch will not do as a full dessert for my family… Txs.

  25. Carolyn

    You know, my friend LOVES nanaimo bars, and I just can’t swallow recipes in which its middle layer comes from a box (vanilla pudding mix !!). I couldn’t find ANY that did it from scratch, and I think this custard is the key to homemade nanaimo bars!
    Thanks, Deb :)

  26. bhw

    I purchase my vanilla beans on ebay and they are super affordable. I just checked out their site and you can get a dozen vanilla beans for five bucks (and free shipping). That’s a great deal I think!

  27. You can make me a cake any time you need a baking outlet. But I would also want a huge bowl of custard too, I love the stuff. Just throwing that out there should you ever visit the UK!

  28. SarahB1313

    Looks fab!
    I have never used flour, usually only eggs or eggs with cornstarch. I will have to try. I totally agree with the sister thing… I too am the birthday cake maker for friends, family, and co-workers. It’s been written in stone. Geesh.

    But, the one thing that after decades of cooking custard, I finally acquiesced to is straining my custard…. What happened? I hate extra steps, but after trying it recently and seeing the little globbies that were removed I think I am now converted!

    Why did you leave this step out?

  29. Gerri

    A great birthday cake recipe was the reason I found your site over two years ago (chocolate peanut butter cake — omg) and I’m so glad I did. But it turns out the boyfriend likes things like lemon pudding or German cheesecake (ugh) for his birthday, so this is a keeper too!

  30. Dawn

    Thank you for another beautiful post! How do you store the remaining vanilla bean and, how long would you guess it will keep?

  31. I’m with sabine #34. Good quality vanilla bean paste is a great substitute for fresh vanilla pods. The flavor is superior to vanilla extract and closer to the real thing, plus you get the vanilla seeds that are oh so beautiful to look at in a custard. And it smells fantastic as well.
    Happy birthday to your sister, Deb!

  32. No one around here wants cakes. I’m used to making apple cobblers and cherry pies for birthdays. The mistake is when someone insists on candles in the “cake’ and you forget that putting candles in something that was in the oven ten minutes ago… isn’t going to work. We’ve eaten wax more than once.

  33. mmmm. I just had a wonderful version of this dessert at Butter Restaurant in NYC…where we celebrated our 19th anniversary. So, I’m making this pronto. I just wrote about the meal and tried to duplicate another great dish from that night…the scallops with corn nage, shitakes and sage…and I think I did!

  34. While I do love cake, I’m totally with your sister on the whole custard-as-dessert thing. I love love love custard! The roasted blueberries look amazing, I’ll definitely have to give that a try.

  35. Katie

    I stumbled on your blog looking for a recipe a few weeks ago. Gotta love Google! Now I return just to read your blog! I’ve never laughed so much reading about cooking. Thanks for the fun writing!

  36. Susan

    Mmmmmm… I was just dreaming of a fruit tart with custard and awoke to this post! But I have a dilemma…is there a way to make a pareve custard filling (I know it probably defeats the purpose…probably should just make a pareve cake instead)? For kosher purposes, I could not serve this as a dessert after a meat meal but really would love to find a way to do it. Thanks!

  37. What a simple, lovely way to use up some of that late summer fruit! I have a feeling I’ll be making this with my stash of frozen berries sometime in January when the winter blues start to set in and I’m already dreaming of summer.

  38. I just split and used my first vanilla bean in some vanilla bean peach butter and so I’m all primed and salivating to make these gorgeous custards, maybe even tonight to welcome my husband home from hunting.
    Gorgeous! Thank you!

  39. Oooh, this looks lovely. light and delicious. Mind you, I like my desserts to leave me groaning with over-indulgence, so I’d pair this with some lemon short-bread biscuits, or madeleines. Or just eat three bowls.
    In the meantime, can I suggest this for your sister’s next birthday (or Christmas, or just-for-the-hell-of-it) present. It’s the Kraft mac’n’cheese of custards (but actually surprisingly yummy, despite being made from cornstarch…). No English trifle is complete without it (that’s almost a cake, right?) Available from Mayers of Keswick in the West Village, at a no doubt ridiculously inflated price.

  40. Rhonda

    I am with your sister and mom too. Love custard, cool creamy vanilla custard. My sister made a berry custard tart for the 4th and I really, really wanted to just take a spoon to the custard.

  41. Sandra B

    Taking my wee daughter to hang with mom for Labor Day weekend…I think I know what I’m making as a treat for us all! Thank you, you rock, and you are evil (but in the very best way!)
    Can’t wait to buy your book :)

  42. Another chiming in with the wonders of vanilla paste. I get big bottles of the stuff now and it lasts me a year. It adds sweetness along with a punch of vanilla flavour, so best to decrease the sugar amount a bit to avoid it becoming too sweet.

  43. I made a pastry cream similar to this for a pie this past weekend (which I need to make again, because perfecting the pie is on my list of things to do). I will have to make yours all lactose free and all (and subbing tapioca starch for my gf friends).

  44. Dinnc

    My mother always scalded the vanilla bean in the milk to get vanilla flavor. What do you do with the bean once you’ve removed the seeds to get the flecks? This custard sounds and looks delicious although for me custard is the eggier kind you bake in a water bath in the oven. Btw, can you please take out the apostrophe from its (I know you are usually careful about apostrophizing only the contraction of it is). Next time I have to bring a dessert somewhere I think this will be the one.

  45. Tina

    Deb – first, LOVE your blog! You’re a breath of fresh air. :) Second, I read in this post that your sister’s b-day is Aug 30? This happens to also be my b-day! :) Well, I hope your sister enjoyed her delicious looking vanilla custard. (I would have opted for one of your cakes!) As a matter of fact…my hubby made me the Double Chocolate Layer Cake, so good!

  46. Haha I feel the same way! I’m like, what you don’t want me to try one of the nine million new cake recipes that I’ve been wanting to try for your birthday? You mean you want that same old chocolate cake that Mom’s been making for years? Hmph. ;)

  47. KrisM

    I would go for custard over cake almost any day. I’m only sad that the recipe that included roasted blueberries shows up the day before I leave the northeast. The berries in the southwest just aren’t the same. What do you think about using frozen blueberries? Maybe roasted strawberries?

  48. Amanda

    After many years of deliberating (I love all varieties of well-crafted sweets) I finally decided that custards and crisps were my two favorites. This looks like a beautiful combo of the two!

  49. Courtney

    I can’t beleive that I just discovered your blog! I love they way you describe each recipe with your thoughts and memories before actually including the directions! Your experiences give me the urge to get in the kitchen and start whipping up some of my own. Thank you and I can’t wait to continue reading :)

  50. shari

    Anytime I make custard for eclairs, I always set aside a small bowl of it for my husband. I also use custard for banana cream pies. It really is wonderful, so thank you for giving me the idea (duh) of letting the custard shine all on its own. And BTW, your stovetop is so very clean! I just can’t seem to keep my stove top in such a sparkling clean condition.

  51. Custard either hot or cold has always been one of my favourite desserts. If you want to embellish it I have to agree that fresh fruit especially berries are ideal but if you are in a pinch and just want to try something different I have used Marachino cherries right out of the jar along with some of the juice and toasted sliced almonds on top. These are food items that one usually has in their pantry and it is quite tasty. Give it a whirl! Thanks for the recipe ;-)

  52. Agi

    Custard is the Best comfort food! Love the blueberries on top too. I know what you mean about the vanilla beans, they are expensive alright! Here’s a tip to make them last a little longer: When you’re done removing the seeds, stick the pod into a tall, skinny jar and fill with sugar. You’ll have what my mother always used instead of vanilla: vanilla sugar. Each time you use some, fill it back up with sugar. Great for sprinkling on top of things like muffins and scones.

    1. deb

      Custard cups — They’re actually glasses from Duralex, tiny ones from their Gigoogne line. I bought mine at the charming Brook Farm General Store in Williamsburg (the 5 3/4 ounce size) but I am sure if you Google around, you can find them elsewhere. I bought them so Jacob could have little glasses to drink from that fit perfectly in his squishy hands but it didn’t work for long; he doesn’t appreciate getting his water in a different glass from everyone else at the table so they’ve been relegated to puddings and other pretty things.

      Jina — Actually, I bought them in Paris at G. Detou. I don’t know if they still sell them there (I bet they do) but both times I’ve been I’ve brought home one of these vials of 10 long, squishy, gorgeous (my husband always says it sounds like I’m describing earthworms; I’m sorry for sharing that) vanilla beans for (I think) 10 Euro, which I think is a fantastic price. They’re quite big and I definitely use them only in halves and quarters, thus, they last forever. Anyone going to Paris or know someone that is? I highly encourage you to get/get them to bring back this and other such wonders for you from G. Detou.

      Kris — I think you could use strawberries or frozen berries.

      Dinnc — You can stick your emptied vanilla beans in a jar of sugar. It makes for a strong, wonderful vanilla sugar that you can use in other desserts or coffee or anything you like.

      Manda — I’ve used cornstarch in the past but I tend to default to flour. I always have it around and it’s what’s called for in the oldest recipes (i.e. Julia used it).

      SarahB — Actually (whispers) I forgot! I will add that in now. I will never, ever, ever put a post up at 10 p.m. again because there were so many typos! Past my bedtime, clearly.

      Sharon — Sadly, I’ve never worked with it. I bet someone else will jump in and let us know.

  53. Patryce

    I just received in the mail a one pound bag of vanilla beans from The beans cost $19.95, plus $14 and change for shipping. They threw in a free 2 oz bottle of vanilla extract. I haven’t opened the bag yet, but it smells good. The website says there are 100-110 beans per pound of the variety I ordered, so less than 35c per bean, even with shipping. The site says to store beans tightly wrapped at room temp, not refrigerated or frozen. I also add my scraped beans to a jar of sugar, even if the bean has been steeped in custard or chai concentrate, just wipe it off.

    I made some peach-fig jam recently and used vanilla sugar for about half the total sugar, plus cooked a split bean with the fruit. That is one tasty jam!! I had never thought to add vanilla to jam before, but I will certainly do it again.

    Custard is a favorite of mine too. My mom would make eggy custard in ramekins and cook them over boiling water on the stove, or on reduced power in the microwave. Sprinkled with nutmeg, delicious hot or cold. Proper banana pudding is just custard, almost the same as this one, just one yolk less and without the butter, with bananas and vanilla wafer. or gingersnaps, even better.

  54. I wholeheartedly share your views on making fantastic cakes for someone else’s birthday and on being disappointed/almost indignant when they request something simpler than I want to make. My boyfriend wants regular old brownies (I’m making him your favorite brownies soon!) and I am begging him to let me try a new recipe for some awesome layer cake with this-and-that added in. Oh the difficulties! But I’ve been longing for some creamy desserts recently and your custard looks perfect. Thanks!

  55. Leslie

    I literally just finished making this for my 15-month old son, and it turned out PERFECT! I’ve made pastry creams before, but I’ve never had one this easy turn out so smooth. It in no way needed to be strained, as it was perfectly smooth. I’m not sure what it was about the technique for yours that was different, but it’s great. And for this portion, half a vanilla bean was perfect. Thanks! This will be my go to recipe for custard now!

  56. Kat

    Rarely do I give custard the privilege of its own presentation – usually, as you mentioned, it finds a home in another, grander dessert. Or you know, out of the bowl it was cooked in, into a spoon and directly into my belly. Unceremonious but delicious.

    I will have to try this with every iteration of berry my slowly shrinking produce delivery sends me.

  57. I often feel the need to explain to people that I prefer “plain” desserts. Most often these take the form of some sort of vanilla/egg/milk-based dish, and vanilla custard is right up there. Just a week ago I stopped in a small ice cream shop on a beach in Maine and while everyone else ordered their crazy flavors, I ordered the sweet cream ice cream. It tasted of the best cream you can get, slightly sweetened and then frozen and churned. It was — and this is not hyperbole — the very best ice cream to exist on the planet. In history. I’ll take desserts like these over a multi-layered chocolate concoction any day.

  58. Ella


    I have made pastry creams and custards many times with lactose free milk. Just be sure you are using whole milk. If you want additional richness, you can use some coconut milk.

    I have heard of one lactose free ice cream shop, though the results were apparently subpar. My impression is that, like the evolution of gluten free foods, they just hadn’t figured out commercial lactose free ice cream because of lack of demand. While there is something going on with how the sugars influence the size of the ice crystals, there is a more important factor. To make good ice cream, you need to use cream. The fat content in the mix definitely prevents the churned result from freezing into a rock in the freezer, and keeps the ice crystals small.

    Sadly, lactose free cream is not commercially available. Come to think of it, that may have been the problem with that ice cream shop.

    The solution is to use coconut milk instead of cream. It needs to be from the cans. The recently available cartons of coconut milk have a much lower fat content. It creates a lovely flavor with minimal coconut taste.

    Even better, coconut milk ice cream from the store is just as good as regular ice cream. Or you could make homemade coconut milk ice cream.

    The only times I can’t get around lactose free requirements is with cheeses (daiya is ok) and whipped cream (cool whip used to be ok before they added milk, and cashew cream is a lot of work).

  59. I made this tonight! i’ve never made a custard before – it turned into a big giant lump when I added the flour, and the custard turned out lumpy – but very very yummy!

    I used almond milk and Splenda and gluten-free flour.

  60. Anna

    Hi Deb!

    I love your beautiful blog! I have a (hopefully not too personal) question for you – what inspires you to cook living in NYC? I mean, with restaurants galore on every corner and a hundred bakeries, what inspires the motivation to go through the work of cooking and cleaning? Do you find it difficult to share food with others in such a food-centric city?

    I really admire your recipes and gorgeous photos!

  61. Lauren

    Hey! So, I live in Rural Kenya and it’s always a fun challenge to see how I can adapt your recipes using ingredients I can find here. I saw this recipe published as I made my way to Bungoma in Western Kenya to visit some friends, who had just informed me the previous day that they had vanilla beans from the Seychelles and blueberries from Nairobi! I feel like this post was meant for me — naturally, we made it last night and it was phenomenal! The best part was I didn’t even have to modify the recipe – we miraculously had all the ingredients! The rural Kenya crew thanks you for keeping us well fed with gourmet food!

  62. Just another Anna

    I love custards too! The best French Toast I’ve ever made? I used Creme Anglaise to soak the bread. So, so good. The only real problem is having a supply of Creme Anglaise large enough to survive til time to make the French Toast.

  63. Aha, that explains the lack of cake around here for the past few Augusts and September! I was getting worried. Can’t wait to see your creations in the book. A question- what happened to the six years ago link? I love reading older posts!

  64. Elaine Shannon

    I just bought a bottle/jar of vanilla bean paste. I did use it in my vanilla scones and it was good. I was disappointed when I opened it to find it was not a thick rich past, but rather a sugary sweet liquid infused with vanilla bean specks. It was a good brand. nielsen massey vanilla paste. I am going to try the custard with this. Do you or have you used a different kind of vanilla past?

  65. Supriya

    Thanks for this recipe, tried it today and finally was able to make a nice custard. Topped it with some oozy cranberries as well. However my version was a bit thick and not as creamy as yours from the pic. So was wondering if the recipe calls for 3tsps or 3 tbsp of flour. Since I wanted to make it GF I used 3tbsps of cornflour not flour. Could that have affected the texture?

  66. Omar

    This is definitely the best custard I have ever tasted! It got very thick, very quick which had me worried. Thankfully it turned perfectly. I strained it as I usually have a lump or two in my puddings.. no need to! Nothing stayed behind. Used Tristar strawberries (oddly tart this year) for the sauce… Oh, and I get my vanilla beans at Fairway, I want to say 3 come in each vial and at $3.49 I can’t imagine why people wouldn’t always have them in their pantry.

  67. julia

    My sister loves your cream cheese pound cake. I’ve been known to bake it into a loaf pan and mail it to her in a fast, flat-rate boxes. [I save the other loaf for myself, of course!]

    I read your post on Friday at lunch, headed into the kitchen and pulled out a less than satisfactory frozen fruit bar. I made the custard Saturday night (super easy, no straining and no lumps!) for dinner. I used frozen blueberries which roasted nicely.

    1. deb

      Hi Nancy — You halve the bean lengthwise and then use a knife to scrape across the inside of the bean to remove the seeds. I like to use the back side of a knife, so I don’t scrape up parts of the bean pod itself, which gives a woodier texture. Here’s an old picture I took of the process.

      Supriya — Actually, this custard is on the thick side for a pudding. This makes it good as filling and pasty layers. You can also drop the flour by 1 tablespoon to 2 tablespoons (yes, the tablespoon measurement is correct) for a softer custard.

      Elaine — Personally, I’m not terribly fond of vanilla paste. I just don’t find it’s intensity to be much stronger than vanilla extract, but it’s so expensive. I’d rather use 1 inch of a fresh vanilla bean at a time than a teaspoon of expensive paste, but I know many people that love it (including my sister!) so it may not be a popular a opinion.

      Stephanie — The lack of cakes might have more to do with a lack of desire to turn on the oven in August. :) I haven’t started the 6 years ago link but I will this week. Although I started posting recipes in the summer of 2006, I always consider the official launch date of the site the first week of September. I did that because I don’t think you should launch a site (and tell people about it) until you have a handful of articles up. I wanted people to have more than one thing to read when I told them to check out my site. Just to be confusing, of course.

      Lena — In baking and pastry-making, room temperature eggs are always best. In theory. That said, I make custard with cold eggs all of the time and it’s not an issue. Room temperature eggs tend to whip better (for cakes and stuff) but I don’t find a difference when you’re warming them anyway for custard.

      Anna — Well, I definitely cook much less than most people outside NYC. You’re right; you don’t need to cook to eat fantastically around here. But I still prefer tomato sauce my way, and custards my way, and I think cakes are more meaningful and delicious when you’ve baked them yourself. So, in short, I just like to cook. And when you make something exactly the way you like it, no restaurant can match that.

  68. I love this. But I think I love your family even more…”To wit: Custard, or pastry cream, is a pretty big deal in my family.” A family that eats custard together, stays together.

  69. RachelB

    Thanks so much, Deb– this is beautiful. And as I am in your sister’s camp, preferring custards, pastry cream, and pudding to all other desserts, I’ll be making it soon. I bet it would be lovely with stone fruit.

  70. Susan

    I’m glad (or should I say sorry?) to hear you say that you thought the vanilla bean paste wasn’t anything special; that it tasted like vanilla extract. I splurged last November and bought some and was so disappointed by the lack of flavor. I thought it was weaker than the extract actually or, worse, that maybe it was me..or a bad jar. I used it, but always felt like I needed to add some vanilla extract to pump up the flavor. Vanilla beans from here on out..

  71. Margret

    I took David Lebovitz’s advice and stuck my vanilla bean pod in some sugar after i’d scraped the seeds out. Then, I used the sugar to make vanilla ice cream. Excellent!

  72. Hi Deb – You have such a lovely blog. I made your wonderful dessert tonight for few friends. It was a big hit! I always make creme patissiere for my eclairs and religieuses but had never thought of serving it with only baked berries. It was DELICIOUS and just lovely. Thank you for the idea.

  73. Lynn

    made these last night, I always love telling people, “it’s from Smitten Kitchen!” I used vanilla because we didn’t have vanilla bean, and bean definitely gives a better flavor.

  74. Erin

    I’ve never thought of roasting berries, but those blueberries look fabulous! This is a great alternative to a traditional birthday cake–and I bet its something that you could tweak to be pretty healthy as well!

  75. CarrynM

    I’ve got this chilling in the fridge right now. And because I couldn’t leave well enough alone, each of the 4 ramekins is topped with chocolate ganache. I will probably end up with a stomachache, but it’s so totally worth it. Thanks Deb!

  76. Marina

    Am I lucky or what?! I’m going to Paris tomorrow for the first time in my life and I happened to read the comments of this recipe in the best moment possible! I am definitely going to G. Detou!

  77. Ana

    I just made this after coming from school, took all of ten minutes and tastes delicious. Also I used Lactaid Milk instead of whole milk because I am intolerant and it still worked great!!

  78. Emily

    I learned to make pastry cream at my first bakery job. We made big batches and mixed it with whipped cream to fill cream puffs. I can still picture the handwritten recipe card with the instructions: whisk continuously and forever…

  79. Custard with roasted blueberries… it sounds and looks so delicious. Deb, you come up with the most interesting combinations. Thank you for being a constant source of inspiration.

  80. Honestly, I think I am with your sister on this one. Cake? Kind of just ok with cake. But a beautiful custard?? Oh my heavens. When I was studying abroad in Spain, the bakeries called to me daily with their custard-filled beauties. I think I may have to make this just to relive that glory.

  81. Keri

    I’ve been reading (and cooking with) your blog since you were just Smitten, and I have yet to make a recipe of yours that I didn’t like (with a variation here and there…I can’t leave well enough alone either)! I’m all about cakes as well, and I bet this will make a fantastic filling in the next one I make!

  82. I’m kind of with you on the cake thing. I’d rather make a fun cake for my family members than a boring old custard. Though, to be fair, this custard looks anything but boring! This is exactly the sort of thing my husband would ask for his birthday “cake!”

  83. Leah

    I just had something similar the other day for breakfast. Instead of custard, I had silken tofu. It was topped with blueberries sweetened with a little honey and cooked on the stove (not roasted — will try that next time).

  84. Alex

    I loved it so much that I made it 2x in 2 days !!!!! It was absolutely decadent!! I was dreaming of layering it in a key lime pie!!! Thank you so much for your amazing blog!! Its so inspiring and beautiful !!!!

  85. That’s such a nice thing to do for family!! The custard looks simply delish with the smooth creamy texture and the bluberries..Perfect!!Happy Birthday lucky Sis

  86. Beverly

    I loved this dessert. The texture of the custard was divine! Since I didn’t want to have to roast the blueberries at the time of dessert, I prepared the blueberries earlier in the day and served them cold – it was fabulous. Can’t wait to make it again.

  87. Sam

    I made a GF version of this last night – YUM. My only advice is that if you’re going to substitute GF flours, cut back a bit. I did the 3 Tbsp as shown in the recipe and it was suuuuper thick and a tad floury tasting. Maybe 2 Tbsp would be enough?

  88. Shannon

    DELICIOUS! I made this last weekend for my family and the blueberries were esp. divine. I’ll be making this again. Thanks for sharing.

  89. Andrea

    I made this a couple of weeks ago, because it looked so amazing. I am normally not a custard fan, but I thought I would give it a try. I liked the vanilla taste, but I must have added too much butter for my tastes, I could barely eat one spoonful. Sad. Next time, I will add only minimal butter and hope that works better. Thanks for the recipe though and the occasion to try to make a custard.

  90. Kate

    Wait, you said ‘cake carrier’? I scoured the site for photos of your cake carrier but found none. Please share! I am always looking for the perfect cake carrier.

  91. I’m so excited to try this! The photos look fantastic. I always get antsy about picking blueberries from the store though… I never know if they’re going to be sour or sweet!

  92. Ana

    I am going to have to agree with your mother and sister; I too love custards! There is something about its silky coolness that really appeals to me. I feel overwhelmingly compelled to make a batch right now; but that’s how I feel whenever I read one of your posts! I am fairly new to the blogging scene and your site continues to inspire me on a regular basis. Thanks for the excellent reading and spectacular recipes!

  93. paula

    OMG! I love Custard! as a cake filling, as a side for crumble, pies…and just the custard itself, Alone, lovely . And it’s not that weird here in Spain. One of our traditional and typical desserts is Natillas(A very light custard)with a hint of cinnamon or lemon. It’s one of our favorite desserts. Light, sweet..decadent! You can also whipp some egg whites with sugar( so, making meringue) and topped the natillas woth this meringue and just put it in the grill until light brown…amazing!!! So ..your sister knows about good things!!hehe..By the way, I really enjoy all your recipes and posts and congratulations your are a great cook! Thanks for sharing!Paula

  94. serious about the ”keep whisking” part… gah, i need a proper double bottom sauce pot for this sort of thing.

    but, success!! and, oh my, if this isn’t the closest thing in taste to resemble Haagen-dazs “Five” Vanilla Bean ice cream.. in pudding form. My mother always made it with potato starch, so I was curious how it would taste with flour. And.. mm.. yes…!

  95. Cristina

    I had to laugh when I read this post because I have often felt slighted in the same way around the birthdays of people I love. Birthday=cake. Everybody knows that. What do you mean you don’t want cake?! But this does look rather delicious. I also must say, with the off chance that you’ll actually read my comment considering how many people post on here, that I was pleasantly surprised to see your article “Brownie Bites” in my latest Martha magazine. What a surprise to turn to the last page and read your delightful writing! I felt a little twinge of “I knew her before she was famous,” despite the fact that I’ve only been reading your blog for only 3-4 years, not six, and that I don’t actually know you. But, thanks Deb for your wonderful recipes and for the joy of reading your writing!

  96. Dana

    Three cheers for your sister!!! This is the best recipe for custard EVER. And so fast and easy. With the temperature falling, we have made this a Saturday night tradition. My kids love adding the ingredients while I whisk (continuously) and they even take turns whisking too. We like it warm and my kids like to pick their own toppings: strawberries, cooked apples, raising, even cranberries — and sometimes, chocolate chips!!

  97. Mia

    I also am not a fan of vanilla bean paste, as it is mostly sugar with bits of vanilla suspended in it. I used to use vanilla beans until I discovered powdered vanilla–not the artificially-flavored white powder, but the dark brown powder that is actually whole ground vanilla beans. The aroma and flavor is superb and I find that it rivals using a scraped vanilla bean itself. You get the wonderful flecks with the ease of using a ground spice. Other spices are commonly ground and powdered, so why not vanilla? I order mine on Ebay from India.

  98. Shari Gass

    How come I ended up with my flour still waiting to be added after everything else was done? I reread the recipe a few times and either I have flour blindness or I don’t see when to put it in? I added at the end and got out the mixer. It tastes just fine. oops.

  99. Crystal M.

    I was wondering if I could do this recipe in a double boiler for a smoother texture without straining through the mesh strainer?

  100. AGS

    Hi there,

    I used this custard as a filling for my vanilla cupcakes. I would like to know if these cupcakes can be stored at room temperature for a day or do they have to be refrigerated?

    Thanks for the recipe!

  101. Alli

    Is there a difference between the vanilla custards and vanilla bean pudding? Is it the texture? I’m having a hard time figuring out which one I want to make. I’m having a midnight craving.

  102. berks

    Loved this custard recipe! Swapped out the whole milk with almond milk since I try to avoid dairy products. Turned out to be delicious, not too heavy and fairly easy to make. Instead of roasted blueberries, I sautéed a sliced banana in butter and brown sugar and topped it with cinnamon. Soooooo delish. Thanks for posting this! xo

  103. Mia

    Hi Deb, greetings from Paris where I am enjoying your fabulous book!

    Quick question regarding a sort of custard recipe, although not the one above (White Choc pudding with blackberry curd from your book – but didn’t know where to publish the comment… sorry!).

    In your cookbook it says something that I’m confused about (paraphrased below):

    ‘combine ‘ingredients’ in a heavy saucepan and incorporate milk before turning on heat. Place over gently simmering water and stir occasionally’

    I’m confused about the water part :) Am I combining in a bain marie and then placing that over simmering water, or in a saucepan and over a direct flame? Or is there some saucepan over another saucepan of water trick that I have not understood?

    Thanks for any assistance and am sure G Detou sends their best!


  104. Farmer Jan

    Just made this for Memorial Day dessert with steamed Copper River Salmon with sorrel & beurre blanc. I used the Julia recipe for Patissierie cream (which calls for milk). So nice to know there are so many custard fans out there. I made a batch one year for a Christmas Party. People looked at me as if I were an EBT and no one touched it. Can’t think of a better use for those lovely eggs my hens lay. The blueberry garnish is brilliant.

  105. Simone

    Deb, this custard is amazing. Definitely my new go-to for custard!! So quick and easy compared to some other recipes I’ve tried. As always, thanks for sharing and inspiring :)

  106. Mira

    Hi Deb! Quick question, do you think this would work as a chocolate custard if I mixed in some cooled, melted chocolate at the end? Or do you have another chocolate custard recipe you could recommend?

  107. Masha

    Made this custard with whole lactaid milk this past weekend and it came out fabulously. I also replaced the tablespoon of butter with a tablespoon of virgin unrefined coconut oil which gave it a subtle coconutty flavor, delicious! I filled crepes with the custard and fresh blueberries and raspberries and it could not have paired more beautifully. Thanks!

  108. Ana

    I made these custards but skipped the roasted blueberries, instead topping them simply with a strawberry topping I made. They were just a lovely finish to dinner. I can’t say enough positive things about these custards. They were silky in texture and delicate in flavor and just a really pleasant dessert. Thank you very much:)

  109. Dan

    I made the custard for an office party, so ended up increasing it 8-fold–half a gallon milk, 2 dozen egg yolks, half a cup of vanilla, etc.

    Everything went fine until I tried to bring it to a boil on the stove. I guess it ended up taking too long, and it tried to set up right there–ended up being very lumpy, and me with no fine-mesh strainer at 9:00 PM the night before the party. I panicked a little, but then thought that if all was lost anyway, I might as well try the blender (one of the high-powered super-blenders). It smoothed out the custard beautifully.

    It seemed to be rather soft set, but very smooth and creamy, and it disappeared like magic at the party, with rave reviews (I used it to make a fresh berry parfait).

    Anyway, two points:

    1. When significantly expanding the size of the recipe, there are unforeseen pitfalls.

    2. There’s almost always a way to salvage a dish, even when it looks like you have utter disaster.

    Thanks for your fantastic blog!

    1. I did, and it came out very similar (used Bob’s Red Mill 1-for-1 baking flour). I’d maybe use cornstarch though, because that particular flour blend gave the end product a bit of a grainy texture. Hope this helps!

  110. Pietila

    I made this yesterday and the result was amazing, smooth and so tasty!
    Now I am craving for it again, got only TWO eggs left in the fridge and since we are leaving for holidays tomorrow and wouldn’t want to buy anything at this point, here is a question: could it have 2 egg yolks instead of 3? would that work anyway? please say yes!

    Thank you for an awesome recipe!

  111. deb

    Hm, I like the way you think. I’ve only made custard with milk. I am sure it would be delicious, but you might find it thicker than milk. Maybe you can try it with 2 tablespoons flour to be safe.

  112. Angi

    I’m 38 weeks pregnant and supposed to stay off my feet, but I HAD to have this today! I forgot the butter (preggo brain?) but it is still so delicious. Can’t imagine what it would taste like with the added richness of butter. It was easy and quick to make.

    My in-laws are coming over today and I’m serving the custard with Angel food cake and fresh strawberries.

  113. Alissa

    These were super thick, rich and tasty! I ended up doubling my quality vanilla extract and only added 1 tbsp butter. I thought maybe a pinch of salt would help and I think thr blueberries would be perfect- on its own my tongue was craving something sour to cut the sweet. Also we love desserts around here and 1/4 of the recipe was more than enough for me!

  114. Sheila

    This sounds so good. I love puddings and custard and panna cotta. I have your marvelous biscuits in the freezer.,going to make this custard. Serve on the biscuits, and top with roasted strawberries for a very different strawberry shortcake. It will be wonderful!
    Thanks so much for the biscuit recipe! My husband loves them and I’ve always loathed them…such a nasty greasy mouthfeel. I made yours because I knew they would be delicious and they were! Thanks for a biscuit I can enjoy, too!

  115. Made this with GF flour – it came out great, super easy to put together, but the texture of the pudding was a little grainy, probably due to the choice of flour. I’ll try it with cornstarch next time! Thanks for this!

  116. Kelly Anderson

    I made this for MY birthday today as my family were sick but I wanted a dessert! I got really lazy and dinner crazy hour was fast approaching and stick blended the eggs, milk, flour and sugar together to make a perfectly smooth liquid and then brought that to the boil. No lumps!! I’m convinced custard lumps often come from little strands of egg white that go hard when cooked or little lumps of flour or cornflour so blended first disperses these. Yum! A great recipe! Thanks Deb.