This past weekend I put together a simple brunch for a family celebrating their son's Bar MItzvah. I recruited my mom to make noodle pudding and strada, a layered bread and egg dish. I made all the desserts - cookies, cupcakes and one of my favorite homey desserts, lemon sponge custard, a classic from the Joy of Cooking. In the above picture, it is the dessert on the bottom left, in the blue Le Creuset casserole.
What makes this dessert great is that in a single dish there is both a sponge cake (on top) and a smooth lemon custard (on the bottom). There's no dignified way to serve it unless you bake it in an individual terrine. One fine dining restaurant where I worked incongruously sold this as a dessert as a gloppy mess, dished out from a large hotel pan onto a dessert plate, until they (finally) invested in a pastry chef.
Days after the brunch, guests were still talking about it. So I decided if it was that good, I better try to make the gluten-free version. The lower fat, dairy-free gluten-free version.
Here's my first and only attempt at the gluten-free, dairy-free version:
- 2 T Coconut Oil
- 2/3 C Rapadura
- 1/8 t Salt
- 3 egg yolks
- 1-1/2 T Tapioca Flour
- 2 T Teff Flour
- 1/4 C Lemon Juice
- Zest of 2 lemons
- 1 C Rice Milk
- 4 egg whites, stiff but still shiny
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Combine first three ingredients. Beat in yolks. Add flours. Beat in juices, followed by milk. Fold in egg whites, pour into greased pan or ramekins. Bake in water bath for 30 minutes or so.
And the results? Uhhh, cognitive dissonance would be an understatement. Butterscotch-colored sponge and custard (thanks to the rapadura) that tasted like lemon with a faint hint of molasses and a stronger hint of coconut. Not bad if you ate it blindfolded, but even blindfolded it wasn't quite right.
Even my mom, the diabetic sweets fan, told me, without prompting, that she would never waste her calories on this particular version.
For a 'healthier' version it wasn't bad. But for a dessert that could cross the GF/CF divide and appeal to a broader spectrum of eaters, this rapadura and coconut oil version wouldn't satisfy.
Back to square one.
So I repeated it, replacing the rapadura with organic sugar (still processed, still not so good), the coconut oil with butter (there goes the dairy-free, casein-free claim), and the rice milk with raw, local, unhomogenized milk (again, bye bye dairy-free, casein-free claim). I used tapioca flour and I found that the starch settled to the bottom and made a slimy crust on the pan. In a batter that is not a complete suspension, tapioca starch - and longer cooking starches like rice flour - should be avoided.
I eliminated the starch and used 100% teff flour. Results? Great!
The color was appealingly lemon yellow. The flavor was bright and clear. It was tasty. And almost identical to the original, thanks to the very low flour content in the Joy of Cooking version.
Here's the final recipe, less healthful, but cognitive dissonance-free:
Lemon Sponge Custard (adapted from the Joy of Cooking)
- 2 T Butter, soft
- 2/3 C Organic Sugar
- Pinch Salt
- 3 egg yolks
- 3T Teff Flour (or the flour of your choice EXCEPT rice or starch)
- 1/4 C + 1 T Lemon Juice
- Zest of 2 lemons
- 1 C Local, grass-fed milk
- 4 egg whites, beaten until stiff but still shiny
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Combine first three ingredients. Beat in yolks. Add flour. Beat in juices, followed by milk. Fold in egg whites, pour into a well-greased pan or ramekins. Bake in water bath for 30 minutes or until no longer jiggly when shaken.