CURDLED CUSTARD AND WEEPING MERINGUE
When puddings curdle and custards weep, you're likely to cry a bit yourself. No need to cry over spilt milk . . . I mean curdled eggs. You just need to know what not to do next time.
Weeping or curdling occurs when egg mixtures are cooked too fast or too long. The proteins overcoagulate, then separate from each other leaving Miss Muffet's curds and whey. The whey is the liquid you see seeping all over your lovely pie, while the curds are those chewy little white strands adding texture to your pudding. There's a reason recipes state, "stir constantly over low temperatures" or "done when knife inserted near center is clean." It's to keep those proteins in check.
Which cook hasn't increased the temperature to high to get out of the kitchen sooner? Or turned her back on stirring for just a little bit? How many times have you overbaked something because you inserted the knife in the center of the custard instead of just near it? Custards continue to cook when removed from the oven. If left to bake too long, those over-joined proteins will have to divorce and that means tears all over your dessert. In addition to these hints, pudding and custard mixtures should be cooled rapidly to prevent further coagulation. Place the pan over a bowl of ice water and stir for a few more minutes. With a little patience and a dash of persistence, you and your guests will enjoy smooth, dry-eyed custards, pies, and meringues.
* DVO welcomes your kitchen hints and cooking or nutrition questions! Email us and we'll post your hints and Q/A's in upcoming newsletters! *