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Custard takes forever

ganesh7676 Jun 18, 2013 05:00 AM

When I make custard for ice cream it takes forever. I use 5 yolks, sugar, and 3 cups of milk. I heat them to about 165 and it takes 2 hours to reduce. If I go over 170 the eggs curdle. What can I do to speed the process?


  1. babette feasts Jun 18, 2013 12:56 PM

    It sounds like maybe you combine all the ingredients and stir them all together over low heat until the mixture comes up to temp. A much faster way is to combine your egg yolks and sugar in a bowl, meanwhile heat your milk/cream to boiling, whisk the hot cream into the yolks/sugar, return it all to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened. Adding the sugar to the yolks seems to insulate them enough that adding hot cream does not immediately over cook them. Once the custard has thickened, pour it back into the bowl and set the bowl in a larger bowl of ice and water to stop the cooking.

    1. ChefJune Jun 18, 2013 10:27 AM

      Are you using a double boiler for your custard? Mine doesn't begin to take that long. And why are you reducing the custard? I always want the fullest amount of finished ice cream possible. Never saw (or wrote) a recipe that called for reducing the custard.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ChefJune
        ttoommyy Jun 18, 2013 10:37 AM

        The OP did say she used the wrong word when she wrote "reduce." I agree with everything else you say. The custard part of making ice cream should be simple: bring milk/cream to a simmer, whisk eggs and sugar together, temper egg mixture with some hot milk/cream, pour this into the rest of the hot milk/cream and heat for about 10 minutes or so until slighly thickened.

      2. t
        treb Jun 18, 2013 07:36 AM

        Do you add a small amount of cornstarch?

        1 Reply
        1. re: treb
          magiesmom Jun 18, 2013 07:52 AM

          It is unnecessary to use cornstarch, which you can always taste IMO . Use a Bain Marie if you are skittish, 12 minutes tops.

        2. g
          ganesh7676 Jun 18, 2013 06:41 AM

          Thanks for the responses. "Reduce" was the wrong word. I use a regular recipe with whole milk. All I want to do is thicken the custard as is normal. I heat it over a direct flame in a pot not in a bain marie. I am afraid to heat it above 170 because it is my understanding that the eggs curdle above that temp. When I read in recipes that it takes 10 - 15 minutes I can't believe it. How is that possible? I have not tried microwaving.

          3 Replies
          1. re: ganesh7676
            nofunlatte Jun 18, 2013 07:44 AM

            If you fear that some curdling may have occurred, just strain the mixture into a bowl using a fine-mesh strainer.

            BTW, I've never used a thermometer for custard--I just use the "coat the back of a [metal, in my case] spoon" method and it's always worked.

            1. re: nofunlatte
              ttoommyy Jun 18, 2013 08:04 AM

              Same here.

            2. re: ganesh7676
              ttoommyy Jun 18, 2013 08:06 AM

              I never use a water bath. Just heat over a low to medium heat until thickened a bit and it coats the back of a spoon. Maybe you are overthinking this? The mixture just had to be slightly thickened; not at all like a thick custard or pudding.

            3. ttoommyy Jun 18, 2013 05:36 AM

              I still think the problem lies in the fact that the OP is trying to "reduce" the mixture when all she needs to do is thicken it.

              1. MidwesternerTT Jun 18, 2013 05:28 AM

                Consider using a microwave and the technique described in this recipe

                Do you start with everything at room temperature?

                Edited to link to a recipe with better instructions.

                1. g
                  gfr1111 Jun 18, 2013 05:26 AM

                  Hi, ganesh7676:

                  Several suggestions: Use a water bath and increase the temperature, per various cookbooks' instructions. This way you can get the water temperature up to around 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Also boil the water before using it in the bath (also called a "bain Marie" or "bano Maria" by chefs). This way you know that the surrounding water to the vessel in which you have your custard mixture will be close to 212 degrees from the start. Plenty of cookbooks describe this procedure in making custard.

                  Another possibility is to use some whole eggs, along with the yolks, but beat them all together in the usual way. For example, try three whole eggs and two yolks in your egg mixture.

                  Another possibility: reduce the amount of milk you are using. Try two cups instead of three.

                  You did not mention the type of milk you were using. It should be whole milk, not skim or some type of less-than-full-fat milk.

                  Another possibility: There are so many custard recipes around. Since this one is not working, try someone else's recipe.

                  I can't imagine that the amount of sugar which you are using is likely to make a difference, but conceivably, you are adding too much sugar and this is inhibiting the formation of a custard--unlikely, if you are following a recipe, but a possibility.

                  i hope that these suggestions help.

                  1. ttoommyy Jun 18, 2013 05:22 AM

                    Why are you trying to reduce the custard? You only want the custard to thicken so it coats the back of a spoon. It shouldn't take more than 10 minutes. 2 hours???

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