People say that mistakes made in the kitchen lead to great recipes. Don’t they? I feel like they say that. That hasn’t often been true for me, however. Mistakes lead to burns on my arms. But this time, my procrastination and faulty memory combined to make a successful(?) mistake. I forgot to get light rum for this custard recipe and was left with no choice but to use some Sauternes that remained from a previous recipe I’d tested. I’ve made the custard here twice now with rum once, then Sauternes and while both were enjoyable, I’d say Sauternes is definitely the way to go. The sweetness is beautiful but more than that, the flavour of the Sauternes is positively made to be paired with vanilla beans–I will remember this every time I think of one or the other from now on.

Every time I’ve tried my hand at custards and flans for the le sauce baking academy, I see that the rewards are quite worth the effort. No dough to roll out, little more to do than mix and pour, and you end up with a lovely texture (silky throughout or, depending on the custard, a covetable pudding “skin” as seen above). I still don’t know if I’m sure on the difference between custards and flans but you still have time to help me figure it out. As usual, with these baking academy posts, please leave and learning, tips and other comments here and help me figure all of this out–thank you!

La Tarte (Vanilla Custard)*

YS note: This recipe first appeared in Saveur magazine (though I can no longer find it on their site) as Vanilla-Rum Custard. It originally called for rum and a much shorter cooking time. I’ve made it twice, in different ovens each time and with both liquors. I find Sauternes is lovely in place of rum, and that this definitely needs the longer cooking time that’s noted below.

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
4 eggs, beaten
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped and reserved
4 cups heavy cream
5 tbsp. Sauternes

Heat oven to 300°. In a bowl, whisk together sugar, salt, eggs, and vanilla. Whisk in cream and Sauternes. Transfer mixture to a 3-qt. baking dish; set inside a roasting pan. Put pan on oven rack; pour boiling water into pan to come halfway up sides of dish. Bake until slightly loose in center, 60-70 minutes. Remove dish from pan; chill until set.

Serves 8-10