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“What,” you ask, “is cream custard?”

Cream custard is several things: Rich, weird to look at, a star turn for nutmeg and a perfect comfort dessert. It’s also economical: In her notes, Grammy connects this recipe with Cordon Bleu basic cake so cooks can use up the egg whites the cake recipe kicks off.

I don’t remember eating Titusville Cream Custard. When I made in a few weeks ago during my mother’s visit, however, she greeted it like an old friend. Someone familiar, not seen for a long time.

That’s one of the great things about family recipes and foods. Food memories — and recipes — can skip generations, or float in the subconscious, or land with great dramatic effect. Things I remember eating as a child may not even have registered with my cousins. Recipes last made three decades ago can resurface at just the right moment. And a comfort dish to one child can be anathema to a sibling. (Which, by the way, works out pretty well if you’re sitting at the same table. Ask my brothers about calves’ liver.)

Titusville Cream Custard, "Baking Family," Garside Group LLCBack to cream custard. The roots of this dish remain vague. Titusville is a town in Pennsylvania; why it is known for its cream custard is a mystery. Did the town have a bustling ice-cream business in summer and wanted a winter alternative? Because that’s what this is: Warm, nutmeg-scented ice cream in the form of soft custard. The “weird to look at” part is how unappealing this dish looks going into the oven. You begin with a pallid, foamy pool freckled with nutmeg. The slow bake transforms the ugly duckling: Nutmeg melds into a crunchy top as the anemic pool morphs into a creamy ivory pudding.

As with Lemon Sponge, this would be worth putting into separate containers for a fancy dinner party. If you’re gathering around the kitchen table, though, just put the pudding dish in the center, dig in, and see if this reminds you of a dish from way back when.

Titusville Cream Custard, "Baking Family," copyright Garside Group LLC

Titusville Cream Custard

Serves 6-8

  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 300°F.

In a large bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. In a smaller bowl, combine sugar, salt, milk and cream; stir until sugar dissolves. Pour cream mixture down the inside of the larger bowl, then fold egg whites and cream mixture together.

Pour mix into a two-quart souffle dish; sprinkle top generously with ground nutmeg. Place the souffle dish into a larger dish and fill outer dish about half full with warm water. Bake custard for an hour and fifteen minutes. Test with a silver knife; when it comes out clean custard is done.

Photos and recipe copyright 2010 Garside Group LLC

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