At my neighborhood Indian restaurant I was curious about the dessert of the day
– fruit custard. It turned out to be a cool, refreshing pudding with diced fresh
mango. The dessert was delicious but seemed more like a Europeanstyle pudding
than an Indian sweet.
I asked Indian acquaintances and they assured me
that fruit custard is an Indian specialty. The cook at the restaurant told me
that he makes the dessert from milk and custard powder, which is a blend of
cornstarch and sugar, often with vanilla and food coloring. The product was
first formulated by Alfred Bird in the 1800s because his wife was allergic to
eggs, which are a component of classic European custards.
When I realized
that the Indian custard is eggless, I understood why it is so popular as
Indian dessert, and why I had often seen tins of custard powder in
grocery stores. Eggs are avoided by many people in India, who make their
desserts and even their batter-coated foods without them. The primary
between the Indian and the European custards is the presence or absence
Many Indian home cooks also use custard powder, which is sometimes
called flan powder. The closest substitute is vanilla pudding powder,
prefer to simply mix cornstarch, sugar and vanilla.
Desserts of this type
are called firni, and I enjoyed them also in Afghan and Pakistani
Cookbook author Neelam Batra explained that Indian cooks
often use powdered rice to thicken custards without using eggs. To give
custard a subtle aroma, some cooks grind their own basmati rice to make
Custard powder usually has yellow coloring. To simulate an egg
custard’s golden hue, some people add a pinch of turmeric or a little
their eggless dessert. To color his fruit firni yellow, Jack Santa
of Indian Sweet Cookery
, adds saffron, a popular flavoring for Indian
and dissolves it in hot milk. Other cooks in India, like those in
their custard with vanilla.
These custards are easy to make and, except
for the fruit, resemble American vanilla pudding as well as Middle
mallabi. As desserts go, they can be fairly healthy, especially if you
low-fat milk and add plenty of fruit. To make them parve, substitute
milk, such as soy milk or rice milk. For a luscious result, use whipping
instead of part of the milk or substitute coconut milk.
You can make
fruit custard using egg-enriched European formulas. To keep the taste of
fruit fresh, always add it to the completely cooled custard.
amount of sugar in the custards according to the fruit’s sweetness.MANGO
This custard is made in the Indian style with no eggs. Instead
cornstarch, you can use cream of rice powder used for making hot
Indian cooks use a great variety of diced fruit in their fruit
custard. I’ve had it with peaches, mangoes and even canned mixed fruit.
bananas, diced oranges, pineapple, berries and halved grapes are
choices, and so is dried fruit. Some add diced apples and don’t mind
crunchy texture in the smooth pudding.
From the chefs of Zensoy, makers
of soy puddings, I learned to add banana puree, which adds not only
sweetness to the custard but rich texture as well. In this custard, if
prefer a uniform texture and color, puree the mangoes instead of dicing
If you are adding poached or canned fruit, you can substitute a
little of the poaching liquid for part of the milk.
Nuts are a beloved
Indian addition, especially cashews. If you add them, choose unsalted
people also add cubes of firmly set jello, for an additional element of
6 Tbsp. cornstarch
3 cups milk
4 to 6 Tbsp. sugar, to
50 gr. butter, cut in cubes (optional)
1 to 2 tsp. vanilla sugar
2 mangoes, peeled and diced
1 or 2 Tbsp. chopped
Mix the cornstarch with 1⁄2 cup of the cold milk to a
Heat the remaining milk with the sugar in a heavy saucepan over
medium- high heat, stirring, until the mixture comes just to a boil.
cornstarch mixture again until smooth. Add it to the hot milk, stirring
constantly. Return mixture to a boil, stirring constantly and quickly.
heat to low and cook for about 1 minute, stirring, or until pudding is
Remove from the heat.
Let pudding cool for a minute or two, and, if you
like, add the cubes of butter. Stir in vanilla. Mix well and let cool to
temperature, stirring occasionally. Stir in diced mango.
dessert dishes and refrigerate.
Serve cold, garnished with chopped
Makes 4 to 6 servings PEACH VANILLA CUSTARD
To peel the peaches
for this European- style custard, cook them for 1 minute in a pan of
water to cover, and then transfer them briefly to a bowl of cold water;
with a paring knife. If you don’t mind the skin, leave the peaches
can substitute nectarines, which don’t need peeling.
For a tasty
variation, make peach cinnamon custard, substituting 1 teaspoon ground
for the vanilla.
4 cups milk
2 egg yolks
1⁄2 cup sugar
30 gr. butter (optional)
2 to 4 tsp. vanilla sugar or 2
tsp.pure vanilla extract
2 cups peeled diced peaches or nectarines, plus
1 additional peach for serving
Heat milk in a heavy saucepan until it
comes to a
Whisk the eggs, egg yolks and sugar in a heavy bowl, using a whisk
or hand mixer, until the mixture is smooth and its color lightens. Add
and mix well until smooth. Gradually whisk the hot milk into the egg
Return the egg and milk mixture to the saucepan and cook over
low heat, whisking constantly, until the pudding comes just to a boil.
scrambling the eggs, do not use high heat.
Remove from the heat, pour
immediately into a bowl and stir for 1 minute.
Add the butter and mix
well. Let cool and stir in the vanilla, followed by the peaches.
and refrigerate at least one hour before serving. Serve cold.
Makes 4 to
6 servings.CHOCOLATE BANANA CUSTARD
This rich, English-style custard is
made with both cream and milk. Very little cornstarch is needed, as the
chocolate helps to thicken the dessert.
If your market has fresh
cherries, you can use 1 to 2 cups halved pitted cherries instead of or
addition to the bananas. For an especially festive dessert, spoon
sweetened whipped cream on the custard at serving time and top it with a
grated chocolate, as well as a few banana slices.
225 gr. semisweet
1 cup milk
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
11⁄2 cups whipping
2 large egg yolks
3 Tbsp. sugar, or to taste
1 tsp. pure
2 or 3 bananas
Melt chocolate in 1⁄2 cup milk in a
bowl set above a pan of nearly simmering water over low heat.
smooth. Remove from water; let cool.
Mix cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of
milk in a small cup until dissolved.
Heat cream with remaining milk in a
heavy medium saucepan until bubbles form around edge of pan. Whisk eggs
yolks in a medium bowl. Add sugar; whisk until blended. Whisk in
cornstarch. Gradually whisk in hot cream mixture. Return mixture to
Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, about 5 minutes or until
thickens slightly and reaches 70º on an instantread or candy
thermometer. Do not
boil. Remove from heat. Stir 1 minute.
Let cool, stirring occasionally.
Whisk in chocolate mixture, followed by vanilla.
Cover and refrigerate
for 1 or 2 hours or overnight.
Up to a few hours before serving, stir
custard. Slice 1 or 2 bananas and mix slices gently into custard. Cover
refrigerate until ready to serve.
At serving time slice another banana.
Serve custard garnished with banana slices.
Makes 4 servings.Faye
Levy is the author of
Fresh from France: Dessert Creations and
(the book of desserts
), published by R. Sirkis