Dairy-free Custard Sauce (made with almond milk)

Warming, silky-smooth custard pouring sauce, thickened by egg yolks alone (no cornflour needed). This Dairy-free and Paleo recipe is made with almond milk.

Dairy-free Custard Sauce (made with almond milk)

Custard is a sweet dessert sauce made by whisking hot milk into eggs yolks and sugar, and heating slowly to thicken. When eggs are heated, the proteins coagulate to form a solid mass that acts as a gelling agent. You can see this principle in action when you crack an egg into a hot frying pan, or scramble eggs in a saucepan. It is these coagulating proteins that transform the thin and runny milk base into a viscous and velvety pouring sauce.

However, if you heat the eggs too quickly then they will overcook and curdle, resulting in a lumpy sauce that resembles nothing so much as a suspension of scrambled egg. To stop this from happening, egg-thickened custard needs to be cooked slowly over a gentle heat, with constant stirring to prevent the bits that are over direct heat at the bottom of the pan from overcooking. Unlike cooking sauces such as gravy which actively become thicker the longer you cook them, it is the number of egg yolks that determines the thickness of custard. If you do overcook your custard, then all is not lost; simply blitz in a blender then push through a fine sieve to remove the lumps.

Delicate flower that it is, custard should start to thicken when it reaches 70°C/158°F, but should not be taken above 80°C/176°F.  For this reason, many custard recipes include a starch thickener such as cornflour or arrowroot powder. Starch-thickened custards can be cooked at a higher temperature as the starch helps to stabilise the eggs. Technically speaking these starch-thickened sauces are not true custard, and are instead called pastry cream (or crème pâtissière).

It is also common to flavour custard. Vanilla is the most popular addition, but herbs such as mint and thyme add a nice twist, you can add citrus fruit zest, and any veteran of British school dinners will have a soft spot for stomach-warming chocolate custard. I think an additional flavouring is almost essential when making custard with almond milk, as otherwise the flavour of the milk can dominate.

serves cooking time
4
Dairy-free Custard Sauce (made with almond milk
Ingredients Instructions
  • 300ml almond milk
  • 1 vanilla pod (or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract)
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1-2 tablespoons honey (to taste)
  1. Pour the milk into a saucepan. Slit the vanilla pod in half length ways. Scrape out the seeds with the tip of the knife and add to the milk, along with the pod. Heat slowly over a gentle heat to just below boiling point. Take off the heat. Fish out and discard the vanilla pod.
  2. Whisk the eggs yolks and honey until fully blended. Gradually pour the hot milk over the eggs in a thin stream, whisking constantly to prevent the hot milk from curdling the eggs. Keep whisking until fully blended.
  3. Pour the custard mix back into the pan. Heat slowly over a gentle heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to stop the eggs from curdling. The custard is ready when it has reached the desired thickness – about 10 minutes. Once cooked, take off the heat but carry on whisking for another minute, as the eggs will continue to cook.
  4. Pour into a jug and serve immediately, or keep hot until needed by standing the jug in a pan of hot water and covering snugly with tin foil. Pressing plastic film over the surface will prevent a skin from forming. To save for later, pour into a container, cover the surface with plastic wrap, and transfer to the refrigerator once cool. Custard can be kept for up to 3 days before it starts to break down. Reheat using a bain marie (place the custard in a heatproof bowl, and set over a pan of simmering water. To prevent curdling, make sure the base is not touching the water by using a bowl that has a wider diameter than the pan, or sitting the bowl on top of a steaming basket).

 

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