This Lemon and Cinnamon custard is smooth and creamy with a depth of flavor.
Total Cooking Time: 30 minutes
I needed a custard to fill my Pastéis de Nata for the Week Six Technical Challenge. While I could easily use a custard that I have made before, I wanted to have a custard that was more traditional to the tart. Or, at least, more faithful to what Paul Hollywood did in the original recipe. And that lead me to making a custard that is unfused with lemon zest and cinnamon.
This recipe contains some classic ingredients that I would associate with custard and some not so classic ingredients as well. What really shocked me about this recipe was the use of seven egg yolks. SEVEN!! That’s so many!
While there were common ingredients like milk and sugar, I did not expect to see flour as the thickening agent. Combining milk and flour together makes me think we’re going to make a roux as the base of a béchamel sauce!
For flavoring, I used lemon zest and a cinnamon stick. Both ingredients will not be in the final custard, but they infuse flavor during the cooking process.
Making the… Roux?
The first step of this process is to whisk the milk and flour together. This will help thicken up the milk to get that custard like texture that I’m after. Once they’re combined, it’s time to start infusing flavor into our custard.
The cinnamon stick requires no preparation before being added. For the lemon flavor, I put in fresh zest to give it a brightness that only a fresh lemon can. I then took the mixture off the stove and let it sit and saturate those flavors.
Making a Syrup
Then I switched to a different pan than contained sugar and water. With this I am attempting to make a simple syrup without going so far as to caramelize the sugar. With the sugar melted, I turned the heat up on the mixture to get that syrup consistency.
I wanted the syrup to reach the range of 223°F-234°F. This is well below the 338°F that sugar would need to caramelize. Once this temperature was achieved, I whisked the sugar syrup into the milk mixture.
Making the Custard
One of the last steps of this process is combining the milk mixture with the final ingredient: eggs. While pour the milk mixture into the eggs, I was whisking constantly. I really wanted to avoid the eggs getting cooked because this would result in my custard turning into sweet, scrambled eggs.
After everything was whisked together, I left the mixture on the counter to cool. This allows it to thicken a bit more and gives the custard more time to absorb those flavors. Before serving, I strained the custard to remove the lemon zest and the cinnamon stick.
I was really surprised how this custard game together. I wasn’t expecting the roux to look so thick, and I wasn’t expecting the bits that came out of mixing the syrup into the roux. But the flavor blew me out of the water. The cinnamon stick brough in such a depth of flavor!
I also wasn’t expecting the lemon and cinnamon to meld well together. They are not two flavors I would normally pair together but the complemented each other wonderfully. Definitely something I wanted to keep eating before I could get them into the Pasteis de Nata.
Why Use Cinnamon Sticks?
Cinnamon powder is a common ingredient that can be found in the kitchen. Cinnamon sticks though? Not as much. These two spice preparations have varying uses and, typically, cinnamon powder is more common in most recipes.
Cinnamon powder is used when the spice wants to be present in the final product. I find that this is often associated with cakes or cookies. You want that cinnamon in every bite and the powder helps spread it throughout your bake.
But sometimes, you want more of a hint of flavor. Something with a deeper taste and a depth of flavor without have the spice directly in the dish. This is when infusing the cinnamon flavor is desired and cinnamon sticks are the way to go. A very common example of this process would be in Biryani.
- 1 ⅔ Cup Whole Milk
- ¼ Cup All-Purpose Flour
- 2 Lemons zested
- 1 Cinnamon Stick
- 1 ¾ Cup Granulated Sugar
- 7 Large Egg Yolks
- Pour the milk into a pan and whisk in the flour.
- After the flour has combined into the milk, add in the lemon zest and cinnamon stick.
- Bring the mixture to a simmer over a low heat, whisking continuously. Cook for about 2 to 3 minutes or until thick. It should be able to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from heat.
- Dissolve the sugar in 3/4 cup water in a smallpan over low heat.
- Once the sugar is dissolved, increase the heat and boil until it reaches 223°F-234°F.
- Gradually whisk the boiling sugar syrup into the milk mixture.
- Place the egg yolks in a barge bowl. Pour the milk mixture over top while continuously whisking to combine.
- Cover the surface with plastic wrap and leave to cool. Strain out the cinnamon stick and lemon zest before serving.