When I moved to Paris, I moved a whole ton of stuff with me. Plus one yellowed scrap of paper. It was a recipe that I tore out of some newspaper eons ago, for Goat Cheese Custard.
I had high hopes for the recipe, enough to schlep it with me across the Atlantic and look at it wistfully every once in a while, guarding it for almost a decade, until I finally got around to making it this week.
Unfortunately, good things don’t always come to those who wait, and the result was little pots of very stiff, leathery cheese, similar in texture to an overbaked cheesecake. I couldn’t imagine anyone liking this. Yet stubborn me loved the idea and thought I could lighten ‘er up enough to make a lovely, simple dessert along the same lines.
Because for reasons unbeknownst to me (sp?), I woke up and found a nearly-full bottle of Bordeaux on my kitchen counter that a group of us hadn’t managed to polish off the night before (how’d that happen?), which I reduced to a syrup for a topping. Once cool, I tossed in some first-of-the-season strawberries for the top of each creamy smooth little custard, which was absolutely delicious.
In France, our first berries come from points too-far south for me to trust. Their chunky girth makes me suspicious of their élevage. However with French berries clocking in at around $10/pound, each berry costs about a buck. I love my blog readers, so I splurged.
But you can also search out blackberries or raspberries, or if you live somewhere that blueberries are plentiful, by all means, use those. (And send me some; blueberries are astronomically expensive here.) When cherry season starts, I’m imagining my my cherry compote would work well, too.
I whizzed up fresh goat cheese from Poitou-Charentes, which is sold in pre-cut logs in French supermarkets, which are as easy as it is to find here as Kraft singles. I don’t normally buy cheese in the supermarket, but this kind of cheese is rarely available at the fromagerie, if at all, so I didn’t feel too guilty when I walked past their shop and waved, with a packet of chèvre tucked in my shopping basket. If you make this recipe, make sure to get a fresh goat cheese that’s creamy-soft, not the kind with a tough rind or dried-out in any way, meaning it’s aged.
If you can’t get fresh goat cheese in your area, or you’re one of those people who finds the taste funny, you may want to give it a spin with cream cheese. But I do urge you to give it a try with the goat cheese—if you like cheesecake, these taste like little pots of sweet, cheesy custard. Topped with berries, it’s one of the simplest summertime desserts that I’ve made.
Goat Cheese Custards with Strawberries in Red Wine Syrup
Makes 4 servings
I tried various permutations; milk, cream, and half-and-half, and either works fine. I bake these in small portions, and since the bulk of dessert is fruit, I feel little guilt indulging in the richness of cream, which, of course, yields the smoothest result. If you use milk, they’ll cook somewhat faster, so keep an eye on them. See note at the end for advice on ensuring a smooth end result.
- 5 ounces (140g) fresh goat cheese, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup (50g) sugar
- 1/2 cup (120ml) milk, cream, or half-and-half
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean paste, or 1/8 teaspoon extract
1. Preheat the oven to 350F (175C).
2. Place four custard cups or ramekins in a deep baking dish or pan.
3. Blend together the goat cheese, sugar, milk (or cream), egg yolks, and vanilla for 30 seconds until very smooth.
4. Divide the mixture into the custard cups; each should be a bit more than half full.
5. Add warm tap water to the baking pan, to make a water bath for baking the custards. The water should reach to about halfway up the side of each custard cup.
6. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 15 to 20-minutes.
7. When done, remove the custards from the water bath and cool completely.
Storage & serving: Custards are best served at room temperature. They can be chilled up to two days in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap, then brought to room temperature prior to serving.
Note: Ovens can vary and custards are notoriously variable in their baking time. Bake them until they just stop quivering loosely when you jiggle the pan. Don’t overbake them; if you’re unsure, remove them from the oven before you think they’re done and let them rest covered with foil. That usually does the trick, and they’ll glide gently into baked-custard perfection.
B>Red Wine Syrup
Makes 4 servings
You could add a speck of cinnamon, black pepper or some seeds from a vanilla bean to this reduction. Just remember that it’s going to cook down, so add a very small amount. This is also a good way to use up leftover poaching liquid from fruit.
1/2 cup (125ml) red wine
3 tablespoons (50g) sugar
1/2 to 1 small basket of strawberries (about 4 ounces, 100g)
1. In a non-reactive skillet, cook the red wine and sugar until the bubbles get thick (see photo above.)
Once the syrup is reduced to half its original quantity (1/4 cup, 60ml), remove from heat and scrape into a bowl to cool completely.
2. Rinse, hull, and slice strawberries. Toss in syrup, let stand for a minute to two, then spoon onto custards.