Happy Christmas Eve eve!! After an indulgent start with a brandade and creamed eggs with salmon roe, a nutritious interlude with the crab salad and spicy lemon dressing, and a pork roast to push the limits of satiety, here’s an easy dessert to round things off.

If you’re looking for a fuss-free dessert that’s easily dressed up or down for the occasion, but won’t take an entire afternoon to prepare, custard is what you’re after. A short bout of mixing, whisking and baking yields a tray’s worth of wobbly jelly, transforming into little orbs of sunshine over the span of an hour. A few more moments of chilling out in the refrigerator and they’re ready to make their entrance on the dinner table, and put a smile on everyone’s face.  They’re an indulgent way to use up egg yolks, and their petite portions would put the most weight-conscious guests at ease.

Besides its simple make-up, the recipe below is really a launching pad for experimenting with flavors and textures. Like infusing the custard base with your favorite tea, or adding a few drops of  poire williams, topped with cubes of poached pear. The possibilities are endless.

Ginger Custard with Chocolate & Hazelnuts (adapted from Classic Stars Desserts by Emily Luchetti)
Serves 6

I like this variation with chocolate and hazelnuts as it’s perfect for winter. The earthy, bitter notes of chocolate and hazelnut interlaced with hints of spicy ginger just make me want to curl up in front of a big fire, all wrapped up, trying to exercise restraint when reaching for another helping. The base can be made 2 days in advance and baked the day before. The chocolate and hazelnuts should be prepared on the same day the custards are to be served.

Custard base:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup milk
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into quarters or grated, if you prefer a more intense flavor
5 large egg yolks
1 large whole egg
4 ounces/ 113 grams granulated sugar
Pinch of salt

Combine the cream, milk and ginger in a saucepan and place over medium heat until small bubbles start to appear around the edges. Remove from heat, cover and let the ginger steep for 10 to 15 minutes.

Prepare an ice bath, then whisk together the egg yolks and egg, sugar and salt. Add the cream mixture to the eggs in a steady stream, whisking continuously. Place the bowl over the ice bath and let it cool to room temperature, giving it the occasional stir. Strain the cooled mixture through a fine-mesh sieve, discard the ginger and set aside.

While the custard base is cooling, preheat the oven to 300F/ 160C and set some water to boil. Place six 5-ounce ramekins in a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with a thin dish towel lining the base of the pan. Fill the ramekins with the custard and cover the pan with aluminium foil, leaving one corner open.

Place the baking tray in the oven and pour in the boiled water so that it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the remaining opened corner and bake the custards for 1 hour, longer if you’re using a gas oven (like me). I ended up baking my custards for an additional 30 minutes.

The custard is ready when the edges are set but an area in the middle still wobbles when tapped. Remove the ramekins to cool, then cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

To serve:
1.5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
1 ounce whole hazelnuts, toasted

At least 2 hours before serving, melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a pot of simmering water, whisking until smooth. With the back of a teaspoon, gently spread the melted chocolate over the top of each custard, then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, for the chocolate to set.

Briefly pulse the hazelnuts in a food processor, then top each chocolate-covered ramekin with a teaspoon of ground nuts just before serving.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this multi-part virtual dinner over the past month as much as I’ve enjoyed preparing each dish! Have a lovely, merry Christmas and holiday with your loved ones!