Baked Custard

I realized recently that I have not posted a dessert recipe on the blog since this summer. Valentines week seems like the perfect time for a dessert post. Last year I made Vanilla Honey Cut-Out Cookies and pink Sweet Potato Frosting. That winter I also made Flourless Chocolate Cake while Mothers Day brought Sweet Potato Chocolate Truffles. Two years ago I made a pink Beet Pannacotta, so pretty!

Another basic recipe not found on the blog is baked custard. There’s a “boiled” custard (You don’t actually boil it; it’s cooked on the stove), and various recipes that involve a custard base (such as pumpkin pie).

It’s such an easy dish! Milk, eggs, sweetener, and flavorings are whipped together, poured into a dish and baked. You can easily change up the flavors and colors with ingredients local and not (sometimes you just gotta have chocolate!).

It’s also a pretty forgiving dish, to a point. For instance, I accidentally made this batch with only three eggs instead of four. If I had realized my mistake I would have cooked the vanilla batch for a shorter amount of time. It came out a bit overcooked, but it still tasted fine. It was not the least bit photo-worthy, though. I kept an eye on the chocolate batch since I was baking it in a larger dish, and I pulled it out before it was overbaked. The chocolate kept that batch more firm, too.

Even though this is a simple recipe, for Valentines Day or another special occasion you can dress it up. Try some whipped cream on top, serve it with a berry sauce, or add some red beets for a pink color - like in the panna cotta. (See that post for more about coloring food with beets.) The chocolate batch was so firm I was able to cut a heart shape out of it. Any open cookie cutter should work well as long as the pudding is quite firm.

If you cannot eat eggs, a recipe I’ve seen pop up a lot is for blancmange. It’s a cornstarch pudding, but is firm and can be molded, unlike the soft pudding I usually associate with cornstarch puddings. It sounds like it can be made with non-dairy milks as well, making it an option for vegans and those with dairy allergies. Perhaps I’ll try one in the summer with some berries.

Happy Valentines Day!

Photo by Heather Cross

Photo by Heather Cross

Baked Custard

(Bittersweet Chocolate; Maple; Maple-Peach)

From The Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen

Yield: 6 custard cups

Bittersweet Chocolate Custard

2 ½ cups milk

¾ to 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (depending on how chocophilic you are)

½ tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Have ready six ovenproof custard cups and a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.

  2. Place the milk and chocolate chips in a small saucepan. Heat gently, stirring the milk occasionally, until all the chips are melted. Remove from heat and stir until blended. (Note from Heather: you can do this in the microwave, too. Times vary depending on the strength of your microwave.) Allow to cool for about 15 minutes.

  3. Place remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor. Add the milk mixture, scraping in all the wayward clumps of chocolate, and whip until frothy.

  4. Divide the batter among the custard cups. Place them in the baking pan, and half-fill it with water. Bake 40 to 45 minutes, or until the custards are solid in the center when shaken.

  5. Carefully remove the cups from the baking pan. Cool to room temperature, then cover each one tightly with plastic wrap and chill.

Maple Custard

Omit chocolate chips

Add ⅓ cup real maple syrup

Optional: a dash each cinnamon and nutmeg

~Skip Step 2. Blend all ingredients together in Step 3. Bake as directed.

Maple-Peach Custard

1 ½ to 2 cups sliced fresh peaches

~Make maple custard batter. Divide the peaches among the custard cups, pour the custard over the peaches, and bake as directed.


  1. Bake the entire batch of custard in a buttered 1 ½ quart dish (such as a pyrex casserole dish). No need for a water bath. The cooking time and temperature are approximately the same.

  2. Use ¾ cup unsweetened chocolate and ¼ cup honey or maple syrup. Or use another form of chocolate, such as bittersweet.

  3. For a pink maple custard replace ~ 1 tablespoon milk with red beet juice or purée. Or, gently heat the milk with some grated red beet in it, then strain and cool before using.

  4. Other Valentines-worthy options include serving with a berry sauce (thin raspberry, strawberry, or blackberry jam from the market for pink).

  5. Top with whipped cream.

  6. Unmold, flan-style, and serve on a sauce or caramel.

  7. Use fresh fruit, other than peaches, in season.

Printable recipe here