I didn’t realize until recently how fitting it would be to make custard for Valentine’s Day. Not because it’s insanely delicious (though there’s definitely that) or because you can serve it in cute little dishes (though there’s that too.) But because, to make custard properly, you really need to exhibit some of your best relationship skills.
So, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, here are three relationship skills/lessons told through the experience of making custard. (Okay, I may have a bit of Dear Abby envy. This was way too much fun!)
Skill 1: Patience
Traditional custard is a mixture of milk and eggs, slowly thickened over a low flame. And the key word here is slow. If you get sick of waiting for it to thicken and raise the heat too high, your eggs will start to curdle, which means you’ll get chunks of cooked egg in your custard. The same thing will happen if you add the hot milk to your beaten eggs too aggressively. The trick is patience: add just a little at first; then once the egg has grown accustomed to the presence of the milk, you’ll start to drizzle in the rest. You then get to warm up the mixture – again, gradually and patiently on the stove, making sure to give it lots of love and attention (aka stirring) so nothing curdles.
Relationship Lesson:If you try to make an abrupt change without making sure your partner is on board, the relationship is likely to curdle. Best practice is to make changes and suggest improvements gradually, making sure your partner feels loved and supported (keep stirring that egg mixture!) throughout the process.
Skill 2: Trust
There is usually a point in the custard making process where I’m positive something has gone wrong. Custard sometimes takes its sweet time to thicken, and gives almost zero indication that it will thicken until it does. During those painful minutes when it looks like nothing is going to happen and I’m going to be left with a pot of liquid, remembering that I’ve been in this boat before and always come out on top is key. Otherwise, I might be tempted to self-destructively turn up the heat or just drink the liquid then and there. I have to remember that the custard has always thickened in the end – no matter how much it looks like it won’t – and trust that this time won’t be any different.
Relationship Lesson: In a relationship built on trust, you always give your partner the benefit of the doubt. There will be times when you’ll question whether or not he/she has your back. When this happens, avoid getting worked up before you have all the information, since turning up the heat too fast could trigger exactly what you’re trying to avoid. Instead, trust your partner and give him/her time to explain before losing your cool.
Skill 3: Experimentation
Maybe things do go awry in your custard-making process. The first time I made this matcha custard, it tasted great but had a drab, very unappealing color that just didn’t cut it. I normally outright refuse to put color in anything, but it occurred to me that maybe I could find a natural green food coloring that would work. I ended up finding this recipe, which suggested boiling spinach and then blending until completely smooth. I was a little bit nervous: Would it be too subtle? Too bright? Would it taste spinachy? (The recipe promised it wouldn’t, but I had my doubts.) Thankfully, I took the plunge, and it came out perfectly. No spinach remained after blending – it was completely liquid – and a couple tablespoons yielded the perfect muted green color. Oh, and there was no spinachy taste, whatsoever.
Relationship Lesson: It can be scary to try new things, especially if your relationship is already on the rocks. But sometimes breaking routine can be just what you need to lift you out of the doldrums and into the light. Don’t be afraid to give your relationship that little pop of color it was missing: you’ll be glad you did.
Now that we’ve all learned soooo much, I think we deserve some custard, no?
A couple notes about the recipe:
-This pudding yields 2 1/2 cups. For Low FODMAP, keep your serving to no more than a heaping half cup.
-If your matcha powder is very vibrant, you may not need the natural food coloring. Feel free to add as much or as little as you’d like, until the color is to your liking.
- 1 13.5 oz can full-fat coconut milk
- 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon matcha powder
- 4 large egg yolks
- 3 tablespoons arrowroot starch mixed with 3 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons natural green color (from spinach)
- Raspberries and/or toasted black sesame seeds, for garnish (optional)
Stir 1 tablespoon of the almond milk into the matcha powder and whisk with a fork until well-combined. Place the coconut milk, almond milk and matcha mixture in a saucepan and heat just until steaming, whisking well so there aren’t any matcha clumps. Do not let the mixture boil or bubble.
Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl along with the tablespoon of sugar. Slowly drizzle in a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk mixture, whisking constantly. Then very slowly drizzle in the rest of your milk mixture, continuing to whisk constantly. Return mixture to saucepan and heat over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Add the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar when it gets hot, then keep heating the mixture on low, stirring constantly. Your objective is to keep it at a steam – again, don’t let it boil or bubble, but you do want it to reach a steam and stay there. After about 8 -10 minutes, add the arrowroot mixture. This will thicken the custard pretty quickly. Continue to stir for about 5 more minutes, or until you’ve reached desired consistency. Finally, add the green color.
Turn off the heat, transfer to a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Press the plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the custard (this prevents a skin from forming) and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
**Looking for more Valentine’s Day recipes? Try my Cinnamon Sugar Sandwich Cookies with Chocolate-Whiskey Cream