Desserts have never been my close kin in the kitchen. I don’t think my mother ever prepared a dessert, and she also wasn’t the kind to keep the freezer stocked with them unless it was summer, and my brother and I begged and squealed for popsicles. Then, we got this nifty popsicle mold that we poured 100% orange juice into and froze. Its handles even had this basin to catch the melting juice, with a straw attached to slurp it up. So it was more or less drinking Tropicana rather than having dessert, but these days I have to hand it to mom, whose cavity-less kids stood testament to her sugar-free principles.
So when I made a simple custard and fresh fruit tart for her birthday last weekend (actually, her birthday was September 11, but for some odd reason, we haven’t celebrated it on the exact day for the past five years), she commented on how sweet the custard was. Put less sugar in it next time, she told me. Unfortunately, it couldn’t be done because I hadn’t added any sugar to it–I was using one 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk mixed with egg yolks and a twist of lemon juice, a concoction that sets as custard and that I didn’t want to mess with. I’ve had plenty of follies with this pie before–baking it too much that it burnt, it never setting so that it was liquid–but I finally came to the method of baking the custard in a pre-made graham cracker pie shell at 325 degrees for twenty minutes, then chilling. Can you add more milk, regular milk, she asked. I had no idea.
This is what led to another disaster with dessert. My unscientific guess was that the eggs were the setting agent, so adding more of them would compensate for more liquid. After all, I’ve always liked flan and other eggy custards. But since more ingredients meant a taller pie, and the pie shell is only so tall, there was a sharp limit on how much I could experiment with these values. I also had a hankering for a passion fruit-flavored tart, and ended up incorporating more liquid from a can of passion fruit juice. It wasn’t tart enough, and probably erased my original intention which was to make a less sweet pie. The experimental 1/4 cup of regular milk I’d added was strangely present in the custard’s taste, which I also hadn’t predicted. With all the extra liquid the pie had to bake five or ten minutes longer and it still came out gloppy. This recipe will need to be revisited, once I’ve gained the wits and strength to explore the world of dessert again.