Photo: Herman Saksono
Gourmands are most familiar with variations of custard based delicacies served in fine dining restaurants, usually desserts that fall under the category of custard cooking whether it is crème brûlée, bread or rice pudding, flan or baked custard.
Some are thickened while being stirred on the stove top while others are baked in a water bath and served with burnt sugar (brûlée), or they are frozen (ice cream or gelato) and served as a side item to melt over a steaming slice of apple pie.
Now, olive oil flavored custards are making their way onto the menus of celebrity chefs and award-winning restaurants where they are served in any course, from an amuse-bouche with an aperitif to the latest addition to the classic seven-course meal — an after-dessert course served with cheese and fortified wine or brandy.
Basic custards and creams, whether crème anglaise, pastry cream or a baked custard, have four ingredients in common; eggs, milk, sugar and a flavoring such as vanilla bean, cinnamon stick or espresso coffee beans. Think ginger ice cream or chocolate pot de crème. But, when the flavoring is your favorite tasting extra virgin olive oil, the once common vanilla custard becomes an uncommon olive oil flavored cream with a velvety finish, such that one would expect from a fine ruby red Cabernet Sauvignon or classic Chianti.
Two of my favorites are olive oil ice cream and lemon flavored olive oil pot de crème. In either case, the quality of the olive oil is important to the finished flavor so choose an extra virgin olive oil that tickles your tongue and pampers your palate. Taste is subjective and flavor is the direct result of aroma. The more aromatic the olive oil, the more impressive the flavor.
The basic custard recipe calls for creaming eggs and sugar, scalding milk or cream, tempering and combining. Flavorings such as vanilla or coffee beans, cinnamon or ginger benefit from the heat of the scalded milk, intensifying the aroma and infusing the flavor. But, olive oil is best introduced into the already combined custard, whisking vigorously or whizzing in an automatic blender, slowly drizzled, in much the same way as one would make a hollandaise or aioli.
Now that baked custard, gelato and Spanish flan made with extra virgin olive oil have earned a place of distinction at the tables of some of the most prestigious restaurants, isn’t it time they also earn a place at yours?