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09/11/2016

~ Bird's Custard Powder. You make it so special... ~

IMG_0623Custard powder.  These are two words not typically on the tip of the average American foodie's tongue.  That's understandable, because, unless an American cook has some form of culinary ties to the United Kingdom or Australia (via cookbooks, travel or personal friendship), it's not an ingredient that has made its way into our food lover's vocabulary.  Given its popularity "across the pond", I find that hard to understand, because, for me it's a "nifty", time-saving pantry staple.

I learned about custard powder back in the early 1990's.  This was not an ingredient I ever found in my grandmother's or mother's pantry.  As with many recipes I post, I found out about it because my husband was doing business with an Australian company.  I got to be friends with a few of the corporate wives, and, via correspondence done the old-fashioned way, trading recipes and cookbooks via snail-mail across the ocean, I got my "custard powder" education.  

IMG_0588No one likes traditionally-prepared egg custard, custard sauce or pastry cream more than me, and, nothing compares to egg- and vanilla-laced crème anglaise prepared in that manner, but, for those times when I get a craving for a single cup of custard or just need a small amount of custard sauce to drizzle over a quick dessert, I reach for the "Bird's".  In minutes, rather than hours, it is a very tasty alternative.  For others, custard powder is their only choice.  Read on:  

IMG_0608Custard prepared with a powdered mix is generally-speaking less fattening than traditionally-made egg and cream custard, especially if it's prepared with skim milk and a sugar substitute. There's more.  For people who suffer from certain food allergies, and, for those with dietary restrictions (for health or religious reasons), custard powder is a tasty, must-use substitution.

IMG_0586A bit about Bird's custard powder. "Bird's" is the brand name for the original custard powder.  It was formulated by Alfred Bird back in 1837 because his wife was allergic to eggs (the key ingredient in traditionally-prepared egg custard). What it is not is: dried, powdered custard.  What it is, is: a mixture of cornstarch, salt and flavorings (predominately vanilla) which thicken to form a custard-like sauce when mixed with sugar and milk and heated.  There is just enough coloring added (food-safe annatto) to give the custard the appearance of being full of eggs. By adjusting the amount of milk, the consistency of the custard can be adjusted to make a sauce, a spoon dessert, a pastry cream or pie filling. It's so popular in the UK that the general use of the word "custard" more-often-than-not implies "Bird's".

IMG_0628By 1843, Bird's custard powder had become so popular, he formed the company Alfred Bird and Sons, LTD, and began mass-marketing it along with the newly invented baking powder too.  Mr. Bird also had a good eye for advertising, because his company was one of the first users of colorful advertising campaigns, and, in 1929, the "three bird logo" became his trademark. During the World War I years, Bird's custard was supplied to the British armed forces, then, came the World War II era and rationing.  It goes without saying his custard powder became a must-have pantry staple. In more recent history the company was sold to Premier Foods in 2004.

In the UK the word "custard" is synonymous with "Bird's".

IMG_0613When I prepare Bird's custard for just myself and Joe (2, 1/2 cup servings as pictured above), my favorite measurements are: 1 firmly-packed tablespoon custard powder, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 cup milk and 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract.  Complete with a light sprinkling of freshly-ground nutmeg, it's quick and easy to make (done in less than 5 minutes), creamy and delicious, smooth and satisfying.  Enjoy it warm, at room temperature or chilled -- your choice.

It couldn't be simpler to prepare Bird's custard:

IMG_0595For those interested in the nutritional label:

IMG_0604And the trademark information too:

IMG_0598Bird's Custard Powder.  You make it so special:  Recipe yields information about and instructions for preparing custard powder.

Special Equipment List:  appropriately-sized measuring container;  appropriately-sized saucepan; large spoon

6a0120a8551282970b01bb07c51e9c970d 6a0120a8551282970b0148c677d1ed970cCook's Note: To take a closer look at products we American foodies do cook and bake with, click into Category 15 and read my posts ~ Baking Basic: Baking powder & Baking Soda ~ and ~ Baking Basic: Evaporated Milk & Condensed Milk ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)

Comments

Penny -- That's good to know -- Thanks for telling us!

I found it at World Market.

Anna -- Since I live in small town Central, PA (and my selection of ingredients is somewhat limited), I purchase it on Amazon. It is quite inexpensive. Great to hear from you! ~ Mel.

How can we buy a container of the Birds custard powder? I would like to try it.

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