When it comes to quick, easy and elegant desserts, my St Clements Custard is pretty much top of the list. This citrus scented baked custard makes the perfect ending to any elegant meal and a heart shaped ramekin or bowl makes it just right for Valentine’s Day. Baked custard is basically the crème in crème brûlée but without the brûlée. This dessert reminds me a bit of Panna Cotta as well – without all the hard work!
There’s a very old traditional British nursery rhyme that begins “Oranges and lemons say the bells of St Clement’s”. This led to orange and lemon served together being referred to as “St Clement’s” here in England. St Clement’s Cakes contain both orange and lemon juice and rind. If you order a St Clement’s in a pub, you will be served orange juice mixed with fizzy lemonade. Hence my custard with its refreshing citrus hit. Ordinary oranges work beautifully in St Clements Custards but if blood oranges are in season as they are at the moment they make it extra special.
The reason this dessert is so gorgeous and creamy is the way it is cooked – in a Bain Marie. Don’t be alarmed, you don’t have to buy yet another piece of kitchen equipment – Bain Marie simply refers to a hot water bath created in the oven. You need a large, fairly deep pan (or pans) big enough to hold four to six heat safe ramekins or small bowls. I use roasting dishes. Two of them will fit in my oven at once and I put three heart shaped ramekins in each. Fill the roasting dishes with boiling water to come half way up the ramekins or bowls and then pour the custard mixture into the ramekins. Carefully put the roasting dishes in the oven and bake. Bain Marie is much simpler than it sounds!
My St Clements Custards are incredibly easy but there are some important things to remember.
Make sure the eggs are at room temperature before you begin.
Be sure to use fresh citrus fruit. The rind adds so much flavour – and the juice in those squeezy plastic lemons the grocery stores sell just doesn’t cut it in this recipe.
Don’t over-whip the mixture or the bubbles will cook into the custard. It still tastes good that way but it doesn’t look as elegant.
This recipe will make four large servings or six smaller ones. If you make four servings they will take longer to cook than six.
Make the St Clement’s Custards no more than a couple of hours before you want to serve them and cool to room temperature before serving. Serve at room temperature. You can store leftover custard in the fridge but it doesn’t benefit its appearance. And while St Clement’s Custard does taste nice fridge cold, it is much more delicious at room temperature.
That’s it! It probably took you more time to read this post than it will to mix up my St Clement’s Custards. Twenty minutes in the oven and a half an hour or so to cool and this elegant and delicious dessert can be on your table!
- 6 large fresh eggs (cage free, free range or organic)
- 1⅓ cups white sugar, caster sugar if possible but granulated is fine
- the zest of one lemon and one orange plus more orange rind to garnish if desired
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- ¼ cup fresh orange juice
- 1 cup double (heavy) cream (not whipping cream)
- chocolate and white chocolate curls to garnish (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C).
- Boil the kettle.
- Put the eggs, sugar, lemon juice and zest and the orange juice and zest in a large mixing bowl.
- Beat until well combined but not too bubbly.
- Add the double (heavy) cream and beat in. Again, be careful not to make the mixture too bubbly.
- Set the mixture aside to rest while you prepare the Bain Marie.
- Sit 4 or 6 heat proof ramekins or bowls in a large roasting pan or pans.
- Being very careful not to splash any water into the ramekins, pour the water from the kettle into the larger pan(s) so that it comes half way up the ramekins.
- Pour the custard carefully into the ramekins or bowls.
- Using oven gloves, transfer the roasting pan(s) to the oven, being careful not to splash water into the custards on on yourself.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the custard firms up a bit and the tops just begin to take on a golden tinge. Watch them carefully towards the end of the cooking time or they will burn.
- When the custards are cooked, remove the roasting pans from the oven, being careful not to splash any hot water on yourself or in the custards. Place the roasting pans on a heat proof surface.
- Using oven gloves, remove the ramekins or bowls from the roasting pans, dry the bottoms and place on a heat proof surface to cool to room temperature.
- When cool, garnish with orange rind and chocolate curls if desired.
- Serve at room temperature within a couple of hours if possible.
Why not try my Fruit Brûlée, another easy Valentine’s Day dessert?