Monday, December 3, 2012

Cup Custards for the Lunchbox

These cup custards started with Genevieve in kindergarten; she told us how much she liked the classic book Jam for Frances.  This fall, we finally remembered to check it out of the library and were so charmed by the lunch menu that we recreated "an Albert lunch" for packed lunches one time.  I did take pictures, but at 6:30 am, they were just awful.  The children loved the lunches.

This is Albert's lunch, in his words:

"I have a cream cheese-cucumber-and-tomato sandwich on rye bread," said Albert. "and a pickle to go with it. And a hard-boiled egg and a little cardboard shaker of salt to go with that. And a thermos bottle of milk. And a bunch of grapes and a tangerine. And a cup custard and a spoon to eat it with."

I made the cup custards in tiny little quarter-pint canning jars - they can easily handle the oven heat and when they're cool, you put a lid on them (screw-top or the traditional lid and ring) and there you go:  a cup custard to pack in the lunchbox. 

 I find quarter-pints very handy little containers to have around, but glass custard cups or ceramic ramekins work just fine as well.  Cup custards use pantry staples, are fall-over easy to make, and are quite respectably nutritious.

Baked Cup Custards, adapted slightly from Moosewood

Place in a small saucepan:
1 1/2 cups milk
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate

Stir over low heat until the chocolate chips are melted.  Pour into a blender.

Add to the blender:
1 cup cold milk (be sure to add this first to cool down the hot milk mixture)
4 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla

Buzz until well-mixed and frothy.  Pour the chocolately liquid into oven-proof ramekins, custard cups, or quarter-pint canning jars; have at least 6-8 containers. 

Set the filled cups in a baking pan without touching each other or the side.  Add water around the cups so that the water comes halfway up their sides. 

This is the tricky part!  Carefully, steadily, place the pan of water with the custard cups in it in the oven; bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes, until the custards are firm in the middle when the cup is jiggled. 

Use a jar lifter or tongs to remove the cups from the (now hot) water bath.  When cool, cover and store in the fridge.  Will keep for up to a week. 

Tip: Instead of covering each little ramekin with plastic wrap for storage, put them in a large square or rectangular container that has a lid. Much easier and no waste!

Great served with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream on top (depending on your chocolate, this chocolate custard is not overly sweet - you can add a 1/4 cup more chocolate chips if you wish).

To make maple custard, skip the chocolate chips and the heated milk.  Add 1/3 cup real maple syrup and a dash of nutmeg.


Tracy said...

Genevieve has good taste. The Frances Books are among my favorites. The custards look good, too!

Sew Blessed Maw [Judy] said...

I love the idea of doing the custards in the little canning jars. Such a smart idea..
My grandkids come in looking for snacks at my house, and I just know, they would love the idea of getting the little canning jars..
thanks for sharing.

You Can Call Me Jane said...

When I first saw your picture I thought these were little pumpkin or sweet potato pie custards. They would work, too. I love this idea-especially because I love new ways to to use canning jars, large and small:-).

Lisa said...

Your children's lunches must be the envy of every other child at the school - they will be recruiting you to work in the cafeteria soon.

Thrifty Mom In Boise said...

I love this idea. What a fun treat!

ChatterBlossom said...

Cute AND tasty! Yes!

Margo said...

Lisa, thanks for the compliment. However, I'm afraid the standard at school is stereotypical "kid food" and my overhaul of the cafeteria would not be popular (oh, but it's a very fun daydream!).

Other kids who pack have Lunchables, cans of Pediasure, Little Debbies, and such; I know this because my kids come home asking what these things are when they see them in their classmates' lunches.

jenny_o said...

Oh, thank you for this recipe! Once summer I boarded with a wonderful lady who made the best custard. She gave me the recipe orally but it never, ever turned out for me. Perhaps I misheard or misunderstood her instructions. I'll be trying this one.

And that is one of my very favourite books, discovered only when my kids were teens. I love the food descriptions in it.

Beth said...

Ooooh, I love it!

Polly said...

You are such a genius!

I don't think I've ever eaten custard. Much less packed it adorably in my lunchbox. Now I have a new recipe to try soon!! I also keep the teensy jars on hand. They are so handy for many things. (Right now one is decorative-ly holding baking soda that I use in baking!)

Deanna Beth said...

I could go for one of those right now! My family wants me to me creme brulee for them so I've put a little torch on my Christmas list so that I can put a crust on the little custards...