Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Vanilla Bean Custard Bars

Yesterday was the mother-in-law's birthday! Of course, she wants the traditional Red Velvet Cupcakes, but since the rest of the family can't get together until Friday, cupcakes will have to wait until Friday. But it's not someone's birthday without a sweet treat!

Last week, I ran out of flour. This turned out to be a good thing. As I was scouring my baking cupboard for any kind of flour, I found the mother-load of vanilla beans. I bought two 4-packs at Costco in January that I had forgotten about. As any baker will tell you, vanilla beans are the holy grail. It's like that moment on TV or in a movie when the hero/heroine finds the treasure, and there's light emanating from the treasure with that corny music playing in the background. That's what finding the vanilla beans was like for me. I immediately began scheming up a way to use one.

We had the mother-in-law over for dinner last night to celebrate, since we seemed to be the only ones available for her birthday. It worked out well. She's on a low-carb diet right now, so I made BBQ ribs in the crock pot (which, not to brag, were so tender we didn't even use our hands! The meat fell off the bones!), and roasted some broccoli and grape tomatoes. A very low-carb dinner. Until we brought out the cookie bars, that is. The vanilla bean custard is creamy and delicate, and combines deliciously with the chewy sugar cookie base.

Stay tuned for more vanilla bean recipes, because there will be more :)

2 1/4 cups of milk (I used 1%)
1 vanilla bean
2 eggs and 2 egg yolks (that's a total of 4 eggs minus 2 whites)
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cake flour
1/4 cup cornstarch

Cookie Base-
1 3/4 sticks of unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

1. Put milk in a small pot. Cut vanilla bean in half, and scrape seeds from both sides into the milk. Add scraped vanilla bean pod into the milk. Scald the milk over medium-high heat, until small bubbles appear at the edges of the milk. Remove from heat, and let milk sit for 15 minutes. Discard vanilla bean pod.
2. In a large bowl, beat eggs and eggs yolks until combined. Add sugar, and beat mixture until the mixture turns almost white (about 5-7 minutes). Add cake flour and cornstarch, and mix well.
3. Add egg mixture to the milk mixture, and heat over medium-high heat. Constantly whisk until mixture begins to thicken. When the mixture has just begun to thicken, remove pan immediately from heat and continue to whisk until mixture is smooth and creamy. Pour custard into a bowl, and place a piece of plastic wrap onto the top of the custard to keep a skin from forming. Chill in fridge.
4. Pre-heat oven to 350º. Grease a 9x13 dish.
5. In a large mixing bowl, combine butter and sugar. Cream butter and sugar until mixture is pale and creamy. Mix in eggs, and beat well. Mix in vanilla, and beat well.
6. Combine flour through salt in a separate bowl. Whisk to combine.
7. In 3 additions, add flour to butter mixture, mixing completely with each addition.
8. Spread dough evenly in the greased pan. Bake in preheated oven 20-25 minutes, or until edges are browned and toothpick comes out clean. Sit pan on a cooling rack, and let pan cool completely. I would suggest putting the base in the freezer for 30 minutes before moving on to the next step.
9. Spread custard over the cookie base. Place whole pan in the freezer, let chill until the custard is firm to the touch (about 1 hour). Cut the pan into 24 bars. Chill in the fridge before serving. Store bars in the fridge.

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