A simple make-ahead dessert that can be dressed up or down
One of our favourite treats growing up was a creamy vanilla pudding that came from a box. This product, imported from Greece, was one of the only “processed” foods that our parents ever made for us, and we loved it! Whenever we would see the unique blue box with a corn on the cob design on it in the pantry, we got pretty excited. We remember how our parents would mix this pudding powder with milk, cook it while stirring slowly and serve it in shallow bowls. Occasionally they would add a topping of fresh fruit (sliced bananas were a particular favourite) or a spoon sweet they had previously made and preserved. We still see this box of pudding in the Greek grocery store we frequent, and although we have considered picking one up for old times sake, we’re a little worried that our adult taste buds won’t love it as much as we used to. Uncomfortable about disrupting such fond food and family memories, we’ve decided to create something similar, using ingredients we know we love.
If you find that the recipe for this custard looks familiar, that’s because it is. In fact, it is the exact same custard that is used in our bougatsa. The difference here is that instead of wrapping the custard in phyllo and then baking it until crispy and flaky, it is placed in a serving cup, served cold, and then topped with a gorgeous (yes, food can be gorgeous) cherry spoon sweet and some almonds. It may not be imported from Greece, and it may not come out of a blue box with corn drawn on it, but we think that this will do just fine.
We have chosen to top this delicious custard with even more deliciousness, in the form of the cherry spoon sweet we made with Κυρία Βασιλική (Mrs. Vasiliki) during one of our More Kouppes events. If you haven’t already made this amazing cherry recipe, you can head on over to our blog by clicking here. If you don’t have cherry spoon sweet handy, and don’t plan to make any (shame on you), you could use any other type of spoon sweet, either one you made or purchased. The quince spoon sweet we posted is quicker to pull together if you want to give that a try. Otherwise, you can top the custard with your favourite jam or even some fresh fruit.
The type of semolina used in this dessert will affect the outcome, particularly in the colour. Our parents only use the Monastiri brand of fine semolina, a product of Greece. If you can find this where you are, we suggest you use it. If not, then experiment with what you have on hand until you come up with a sweet which you love.
A word about the milk. In the recipe which follows we listed that you use a 2% milk but you can easily use full fat milk, skim milk, or lactose free milk. We have tried all of these at various points, with equal success.
Our parents have used vanilla powder for as long as we can remember, so this is what we use here. If you cannot find vanilla powder, or prefer to use vanilla extract, use the same amount called for in the recipe. Keep in mind that most vanilla extracts are brown in colour and that this may slightly change the colour of your custard. If you don’t want to affect the colour you can purchase clear vanilla extract, usually found at baking supply stores.
We used slivered almonds to dress up this dessert because they add a nice contrasting texture and flavour profile (but more importantly, because this is what we had available). Feel free to use any other nut or seed you like, or have.
If you place this custard in a fancy serving dish, a martini glass or a sorbet cup it can easily cap off a fancy dinner party. The best part is that it can be made in advance, leaving you very last minute prep to do. Enjoy your party!
Mia Kouppa: Custard with cherry spoon sweet
- 1/4 cup melted, unsalted butter (meaning, you should end up with 1/4 cup after it is melted)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 liter 2% milk (you can use lactose free milk if you prefer)
- 1/2 cup fine ground durum wheat semolina
- 3 large eggs
- 1/4 teaspoon powdered vanilla
- 1/2 cup cherry spoon sweet or other spoon sweet or jam
- 1/4 cup slivered almonds or other nuts
- In a large pot, over medium-high heat, combine melted butter and sugar. Mix until combined and then slowly pour in milk. Add semolina and vanilla. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly.
- In a bowl beat together 3 eggs using a fork. Once thoroughly beaten slowly add them to the pot. At this point you must continuously stir the contents of the pot. Continue to cook, stirring continuously, over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes. The custard filling is done when it has the consistency of a pudding. You can get a sense of what it looks like here.
- Place approximately 1/2 cup of custard into serving cups and allow to come to room temperature. Once at room temperature, cool in the refrigerator.
- Before serving, top each serving cup of custard with 2 tablespoons of cherry spoon sweet or other sweet topping and sprinkle on some slivered almonds. Enjoy.