Sunday, March 13, 2011

Rice Cooker Steamed Custard, post 6: final

I took this photo about an hour after I turned the cooker to keep warm. I opened up my cooker to see what was happening. Not overly encouraging, not particularly discouraging. My custard will likely remain a little soupy in the center because I tried to make too much at once.Let this serve as a lesson I will leave it on the Keep Warm setting for most of the rest of the day, however, as the moisture will continue to cook off, albeit very slowly, and we will have it for dessert this evening instead. The sides (and, I assume, bottom) are set up really well so at the least we'll eat those parts as dessert tonight and maybe save the rest for an improvised bread pudding type of dessert tomorrow.

A little soupy in the center, but it's still delicious. All-day Keep Warm slow cooking should help solve the excess moisture issue. Please ignore that I forgot to wipe the remains of last night's dinner of pork- and pickled plum-filled rice balls from the inside rim of the cooker base. Sorry. 

And that's the magic of eggs in a custard. Everything goes from sloshy, slimy, eww to gelled, aromatic, ooh. See, eggs are protein and protein does this sort of coagulation thing as it cooks and the protein chains change shape. Think of egg protein in its raw state as little spirals, with tiny connectors holding it in shape. A mental image of DNA would be rather apt here. When the proteins are heated, their connectors stop holding together the spiral shape and the proteins unwind. So now there are all these unwound proteins floating around. Except the connectors still want to connect and hold things together so they grab onto the closest thing they can, another protein chain. This unfurling and reattaching forms a 3D network, making your custard firm. And helping to keep your cakes from falling. The same principles are what make eggs such an important ingredient in many baked goods, both as a binder and structural support.

This custard "guide" is not my favorite way of going about custard. My favorite way, in terms of end product, is with the same number of egg yolks as whole eggs and baked, in containers surrounded by water, in a 325F oven until done. This method is really simple, though, and even if you forget about it, it won't end up being burnt. So if you're like me and frequently wander about forgetting to have set a timer, it's almost foolproof. The texture ends up a little more liquid than baked custards. This can be countered a bit by adding additional egg yolks with the whole eggs or using slightly less milk to begin with. And also by making in smaller batches than my behemoth 6-cups-of-milk version seen here.

I have my materials gathered  for the next installment of real time cooking, but Ive decided to implement a change in reporting. The sheer number of posts I will have sent off to RSS readers today would be enough for me to unsubscribe from reading me if I kept this up. I will be making one single post for the next guide and editing it as I progress, thus limiting my RSS feed postings. This also means, however, that you will have to check back on the post later on your own if you are wanting to see what gets posted as it gets posted as the RSS will not notate that the post has been edited.

The next real time cooking project will be colored Easter eggs.
eggs - somewhere between 6 and 20, which is the most I've ever cooked up in a pot at once
cooking pot - large enough to hold at least 6 eggs for boiling
string, ribbon or strips of fabric - for wrapping and holding vegetal matter against egg shell (if yo uuse fabric strips, those will be colored as well as the eggs)
onion skins - yellow and red for variety's sake, or whichever you happen to have around
various weed leaves from the yard - make sure they're not poisonous weeds, though, and if you have any doubts at all about a plant, please do not use it
flowers - violets, pansies, daffodils (these are not edibles, only use them if you will not be eating the eggs you color with them!), roses (lucky you, if you have roses available to you around Easter time!)
tree leaves - if available; if not, no big deal. oak, apple, birch, hickory/walnut will all leave dye marks. dried works, too, for some, most notably oak and hickory/walnut

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