Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

custard is now deemed a mixture of milk and eggs thickened by heating. It is a basic item of western cooking and occurs in many dishes in either a dominant or subsidiary role. It may be baked (although current British usage will usually distinguish it as ‘baked’) or gently cooked (just short of boiling), but for that see custard sauce, below.

It derives from the French word croustade, denoting an uncovered pastry case or tart which was often, if not invariably, filled with what we call custard. Hence the container gave its name to the filling. Meanwhile, in France, there was the flan, again a pastry case, often filled with a custard base. Here too, the container lent its name to the contained, for the flan beloved of southern French and Spanish restaurants (crème caramel elsewhere) is innocent of pastry.