I do love cranberries–they are beautiful, healthful, and TASTY! But for some reason the only thing we ever do with them is make cranberry sauce. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do love me a good cranberry sauce, but this year I wanted to find another way to use cranberries. As with my Sweet Potato Pecan Pie, I dreamt up the dish I wanted but then had to figure out how to get what I wanted. I made several custards over the last couple weeks, trying to get the topping perfect–not too tart, not too sweet, and a little crusty.
This dessert incorporates another neglected dish–custard! I love custards and puddings and well, anything with a nice creamy texture. Custards used to have a much more prominent place on the American table but have been replaced with carb-heavy desserts. Anyhoo, this dish is a great way to use cranberries and its especially easy to put together if you have a food processor.
Cranberry Almond Custard Serves 8-10.
The secret to a good crust on this dish is using toasted almonds. You can toast your almonds on the stove top but with almond pieces, such as is called for here, it can be difficult to get them well-toasted on the stove top before any sides burn. For nut pieces, I suggest toasting them in the oven.
Preheat your oven to 350 and spread you almond slices out on a baking sheet. Toast them for 15-20 minutes, mixing them around every 5-10 minutes, or until they are aromatic, light tan, and releasing their oils. Toasted nuts will continue to cook after removed from heat so pull them from the oven when they are a little less toasted than you want them to be. This is even more important when using whole nuts. (Note that in the pictures of the custard for this post the almonds are not toasted–these pics were from an early attempt but were just so pretty I wanted to use them anyway. The point is, don’t use this picture as a guideline for how toasted your nuts should be. Sorry.)
To make the custard, preheat the oven to 350 and grease a 9-inch round baking dish. Also have ready a larger pan to set the custard in as it bakes.
For the topping you will need:
1 1/2 slightly rounded cups cranberries
1 1/4 c. blanched almonds, toasted
1/2 c. Sugar in the Raw
2 egg whites
Rough chop the cranberries and almonds or pulse them in a food processor to get a similar consistency (not at the same time). Mix with the sugar and egg whites. Set aside.
For the filling, beat together:
6 eggs + 2 egg yolks, beaten
1 1/2 c. milk or cream
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
Pour the filling into the dish. Spoon the topping over the filling.
Fill the large pan with enough hot water so that it is at least 2/3 up the sides of the custard dish when the dish is placed in the pan. Cooking your custard in a water bath like this will ensure that when it is done you have a smooth, creamy custard and not scrambled eggs. I like to first place the pan of water into the oven and then (carefully) set the custard dish inside it. My husband likes to put the custard into the baking dish and carefully pour the water into the empty pan, but then he isn’t as coordinated. Bake for 1 hour or until the custard is set–firm but with a little jiggle to it, like jello.