How to Freeze Custard and Restore It
Freeze custard and restore it in just 5 minutes – it’s so quick and simple! Normally, freezing custard/creme patissiere is an absolute NO-NO in the baking and pastry world. All info online clearly states that you cannot freeze custard/creme patissiere because it splits into oblivion. And it does.
But I’m here to tell you that you can FULLY restore thawed/defrosted watery custard! YAY! 😀
I’ve been developing a recipe for a super exciting brownie (which I will share in the future) which requires creme patissiere. Not knowing how much custard I would need, I made the whole recipe and ended up with about 2,5 cups of it. After using only half a cup for my experimental brownies, I still had 2 cups left!
Of course I wouldn’t let the rest just sit in the fridge and go to waste. Without googling at all (which is quite unlike me) or thinking twice, I just popped the custard in the freezer.
Current Info on Freezing Custard
According to the whole web (cooking.stackexchange.com, thekitchn.com, nigella.com, chowhound.com, forums.egullet.org just to name 5) homemade custard should never be frozen as is and used again later. Apparently the best method to at least avoid waste is to make “frozen custard” aka ice cream! This requires a bit of effort though.
Once in the freezer, you need to whisk the custard every 30 minutes for 3 hours. This aerates the custard and keeps it smooth during the freezing process. The result is beautifully smooth frozen custard.
BUT, they all say you cannot freeze custard, thaw/defrost the custard and then use it again as custard due to the severe separation that cannot be rectified.
Unfortunately I only read all this info after my custard had been in the freezer for 3 weeks already! I left it on the counter to defrost for a few hours. It was a watery MESSSSS. I really did not expect this, but since I hate wasting, I was not going to throw it away.
Although it may not always seem so, I suffer from selective, slightly-above-moderate laziness. I go to extreme and labour intensive measures to achieve a “yum-high” in my cooking and baking, but for some things I just cannot be bothered.
I’m definitely not going to make creme patissiere 3 times a week. I’m also definitely not going to divide a single egg yolk in 3 so that I can make 100 ml of creme pat! There had to be a way to freeze custard and restore it.
My dad has this incredible line I’ve been quoting for years: “If you want to be lazy, you have to be clever.” So I put on my thinking cap…
The Science of Freezing Custard
I did a post a while back on how to fix and prevent chocolate ganache that has split. Both ganache and custard split when frozen. The ingredients are still 100% tasty, but the texture has transmuted completely. In one case it is the fat that separates and in the other case it is water.
Although ganache and custard are completely different, I firmly believed that their restoration processes would be very similar.
I decided to apply the same process I use on thawed ganache. Step one was to heat it on the lowest possible heat in a saucepan while stirring occasionally with a balloon whisk. It became looser, but was still very much grainy with a watery residue.
At that point I realized that custard is typically cooked at a much higher (boiling in fact) temperature. I upped the heat one setting higher. It started looking much better.
Another trick that works to re-emulsify split ganache, is adding warm milk. I heated 1 tablespoon of milk in the microwave and proceeded to whisk it into the warm custard.
After whisking a bit more vigorously (still with a balloon whisk) for about 10-15 seconds it smoothed out TO PERFECTION!!! SO rad! 😀
I got so excited! There was still a big concern that it just looked smooth, but upon tasting it I would end up writing that “the restored custard is 95% smooth!”. Not the case. At all. It is seriously 100% smooth! It tastes, looks and feels freshly made. Can’t believe it!
How to Freeze Custard
>> Put your left over creme patissiere / custard in a freezable cotainer.
>> Place in freezer.
Have some coffee, you’ve worked hard.
How to Thaw/Defrost Custard
>> Remove custard from the freezer and leave out on the counter to defrost for 3-4 hours.
Have some coffee, you’ve worked hard.
I wouldn’t recommend defrosting in a microwave for longer than 2 minutes. You may do that to get it going, but longer than that will start overcooking some parts of the custard. You can also place the sealed container in some warm water to speed up the process if you are in a hurry.
How to RESTORE Thawed/Defrosted Custard
>> Place the split custard in a heavy based saucepan (all of it, including the separated water).
>> Turn on the stove to the lowest possible setting. Stir the custard with a balloon whisk every 30 seconds so that it heats evenly and doesn’t catch on the bottom.
>> When the custard is warm to the touch, turn up the heat a bit more. Stir occasionally for about 2 minutes while it keeps heating up.
>> Heat 1 Tbsp Milk (I used 4,5% fat whole milk) in the microwave for 20 seconds. Use 1 Tbsp Milk for every 200 g of thawed custard.
>> Add the warm milk to the saucepan. Keep whisking the custard on the stove for another minute till it smooths out and comes together again. Take it off the heat before it starts to simmer/boil. Taste a tiny bit to make sure it is fully smooth.
Now you should have coffee AND a pastry covered in your amazing freshly made (thawed) custard 😉
Please let me know if you give this hack a go. Save yourself a mountain of effort and waste! Freeze custard and restore it because now you CAN!
Thanks for reading!