Friday, September 16, 2005

Sugar High Friday #12 -- Caramel Custard Mugs in a Dutch Oven

Just incase you’re looking for an excuse to satisfy your sweet tooth -- today inaugurates 'Round the Chuckbox’s partnership with Sugar High Friday, an “international sweet tooth blogging extravaganza.”

September’s theme is Cooking up Custard, hosted by Elise over at Simply Recipes. Childhood memories of custard, tapioca and rice pudding prompted me to bake a Dutch oven caramel custard from Retro Ranch: A Roundup of Classic Cowboy Cookin’ by C.W. “Butch” Welch (Collectors Press: Portland, Oregon, 2005).

Cee Dub’s recipe is essentially the same one that Grandma Bertha Karoly cooked in the 1930s for three growing boys (dad, his brother and their first cousin). Grandma Bert’s copy of Any One Can Bake (Royal Baking Powder Co.: New York City, 1927) is scribed full of recipes, notes and prices from the Depression. (Do you know that a 10-pound bag of granulated sugar cost 53 cents in 1937? That’s an 18 cent increase from 1932!)

Like most older recipes, both cookbooks call for scalded milk. Scalding milk (heating it until just under a boil, about 180 degrees) isn’t necessary today. Scalding serves two purposes: it kills pathogenic bacteria and it destroys enzymes that may affect the way milk performs in a recipe. Modern pasteurization already destroys bacteria and enzymes.

Heating the milk really only serves one purpose: It raises the temperature of the custard mixture to speed cooking. Gently heat the milk to about 110 degrees, just until it’s warm to the touch. There’s no need to heat the milk to a scald.

Just be sure to temper the egg mixture. To temper, slowly drizzle about 1/2-cup of the warm milk into the egg and sugar mixture. This’ll bring the egg mixture up to temperature without cooking the eggs. (Scrambled eggs custard doesn’t appeal to anyone!) The slowly whisk the remaining milk into the egg mixture.

Ubiquitous enamel coffee mugs make the perfect vessel for this camp delight. Use ramekins if you have them. But, honestly, who packs glass or ceramic ramekins in a chuckbox?


The tools needed to transform this old-time favorite into a camp dessert are already in your chuckbox -- a 12-inch deep-style Dutch oven and 6 coffee mugs to bake the custard. You’ll also need a medium saucepan to make the caramel and heat the milk.

1 cup granulated sugar, divided
3 eggs, slightly beaten
Dash salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-1/2 cups milk, warmed
Ground nutmeg

Heat 1/2 cup sugar in a sturdy 1-quart sauce over low heat, stirring constantly, until sugar is melted and golden brown. Divide sugar among 6 metal coffee mugs. Tilt mugs to coat the bottom. Allow syrup to harden in mugs. Place cups in 12-inch deep-style Dutch oven on a baking rack.

Mix eggs, remaining sugar, salt and vanilla. Gradually stir warm milk into egg and sugar mixture. Pour custard into the 6 coffee mugs. Sprinkle with nutmeg. Pour hot water into the pan to the level of the custard. It’ll take 6 to 8 cups of hot water.

Bake at 350 degrees with 8 coals underneath the oven and 16 on the lid. Bake until a knife inserted in the center of the custard comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Remove mugs from the water bath. Chill if desired.

There’s no need to invert the custard onto a plate. Serve it warm or chilled right out of the mug. Just be sure to scoop a spoonful of caramel from the bottom with eat bite.


  1. wow, caramel custard for a camp dessert sounds great. Thanks for sharing.

  2. My first endorsement from Asia. I've been to many countries all throughout the Western Pacific, but never Malaysia. Singapore, Vietnam, Philippines, Taiwan, Japan, Hong Hong ... My fondest memory of Singapore were the food bazaars set up in the downtown parking lots after dark. Chinese, Indian, Malaysia, European food all in one city.

    Stop back often ...

  3. Great entry, Steven. I think I will pack my ramekins on the wagon, though. =)

  4. I was apprehensive about baking the custard in the Coleman camp mugs at first. But everything worked out. However, my photos of the inverted custard didn't turn out as expected!

  5. What a unique entry! You'd never find anything like that here in Manila. :p

  6. Wow - now we can really eat all civilized at the cottage and on camping trips! Thanks so much for this great recipe and for joining in on SHF!

  7. Thanks, Lori and Jennifer.

    Lori: Doesn't the Philipines have a flan-like curstard dish? I was stationed at Cubi Point Air Station in the 70s.

  8. wow, caramel custard for a camp dessert sounds great.