When I was little, my mother would often make baked custards. They were perfect little creamy desserts, topped with nutmeg. They were especially wonderful when we weren’t feeling well – nutritious, comforting, and easily digestible. So as an adult I learned to make them for myself, and anytime I had a little cold coming on and didn’t like eating too much, I’d whip up a batch of them and be transported back to the comfort of childhood and being taken care of by my mother and these custards!
Then, I changed my diet. I dropped sugar. And for a couple years I didn’t eat custards anymore, because I didn’t think I could make them the same without sugar.
Well, I’m very pleased to say that I was completely wrong about that! I can make custards without sugar! All it takes is adding in a bunch of fruit to make up for the missing sugar. I’ve been playing around with proportions of ingredients for a while until I found the perfect combination. The result is something that’s different (being packed with fruit) but also very familiar. The custard is light and sweet and smooth and comforting, just like I remember. So now custard is back on the menu!
This recipe has 1/4 cup of maple syrup in it, but you could reduce that or even eliminate if you needed to. (The custard won’t be as sweet, but the fruit should compensate for it). I use mashed bananas to add sweetness to the custard, but for some reason these DON’T taste very banana-y. I swear! So don’t let that scare you off!
This dish makes a nice dessert, but also a great breakfast. Or, if you’re feeling unwell and can’t stomach heavier meals, an anytime-food! The fat from the milk, protein from the eggs, and nutrients from the fruit make this a great nourishing dish!
First, put 3 cups of whole milk on the stove to scald. You don’t want to boil or simmer it, just heat it up.
While that’s happening, mash up three very ripe medium bananas until very smooth, no chunks.
And break 8 large eggs into a bowl. Add in 1/4 cup of maple syrup and 2 droppers full (about 30 drops) of liquid stevia extract. The maple syrup can be omitted for a slightly less sweet custard.
(I use Trader Joe’s brand of Stevia extract, and like it the best of anything I’ve tried!)
Add in the mashed bananas and whisk it together completely.
By now the milk should be scalded. Remove it from the heat, and slowly pour it into the eggs, whisking quickly the ENTIRE TIME. And only pour the milk in very slowly. If you just dump in the milk, and don’t whisk, the eggs will cook and you don’t want that!
Here’s an action shot taken by my son. I look VERY SERIOUS in it. I guess I take my whisking seriously? (Someone please remind me to smile next time, okay?)
Okay. Now you have the custard all mixed up. Prepare your pan by buttering an 8×8 glass dish.
And dump in the fruit! I prefer mixed berries (love this frozen mix from Trader Joe’s, and since I always have some in my freezer it’s always handy!). You could use whatever you want though! Try what sounds good to you. Pour in enough to very generously cover the bottom of the entire dish.
Now, pour in the custard…
…and sprinkle nutmeg over the entire top.
Put the 8×8 dish inside a 9×13 dish and place them in the oven preheated to 350. Then pour boiling water into the 9×13 dish as high as you can without spilling it. (This is called a “water bath,” and the purpose is to make sure the custard cooks evenly and comes out smooth without as much risk for curdling.)
Set the timer for 65 minutes. When the timer goes off, check it. It should be slightly jiggly, but set in the middle (not liquidy at all). Like a pumpkin pie. If it’s still liquidy in the middle then leave it in for another 5 minutes or so and check again. When it’s done it’ll look like this!
You’ll want to dig in. You’ve been waiting so long, after all. But, trust me, it won’t taste nearly as good hot as it does cold. Also, if you dig into it while it’s hot it’ll release a lot of liquid and won’t look as pretty. So, stick it in the refrigerator and wait until it’s cooled.
And THEN you can dig in!
(If you want to make pretty individual custards instead of one large one, you can instead butter and put fruit in the bottom of custard dishes or ramekins. (The Pyrex bowl in the above picture could be used for this perfectly well.) I never feel like fussing with the individual bowls anymore and so I just go with the 8×8 dish to keep it simple. But if you wanted to do that it would be perfectly fine! You’d have to reduce the cooking time to closer to 45 minutes, though.)
- 3 cups whole milk
- 8 large eggs
- 3 medium, very-ripe bananas
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- 2 droppers full (about 30 drops) liquid Stevia extract (I prefer Trader Joe's brand)
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 1-2 cups mixed fruit of choice (I prefer berries)
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Pour the 3 cups of milk into a saucepan and heat it over medium heat until scalded. It should be very hot, but do NOT let it boil!!
- While the milk is scalding, mash up the bananas until very smooth. Whisk together the eggs, stevia extract, and maple syrup in a large bowl, and then add in the bananas and mix thoroughly.
- Butter an 8x8 baking dish and cover the bottom generously with fruit.
- Very gradually pour the scalded milk into the egg mixture, whisking briskly the entire time. If you add the milk too quickly, or don't whisk while you pour it, you'll end up cooking the eggs, so take your time!
- Stir in the vanilla extract.
- Pour the egg and milk mixture on top of the fruit in the 8x8 dish, and then sprinkle the top evenly with grated nutmeg.
- Place the 8x8 dish inside a 9x13 dish, and set it on the middle rack of the preheated oven. Pour boiling water into the 9x13 dish until full but not in danger of spilling over.
- Bake for 65-75 minutes. The center should be set but slightly jiggly, like a pumpkin pie when just removed from the oven. It should not be liquidy at all. (it will firm up completely as it cools).
- Let it cool in the refrigerator before eating.