custard in a white bowl

How to flavor a custard

Custards are very versatile in the pastry and baking world. 

They can be used in ice creams, baked, plated in dishes but they always express their best as a filling for classical pastries like tartlets, choux and similar products.

A good custard is a game changer and it’s important to learn how to flavor it properly to avoid a dull egg taste.

The most common ingredients used in custards are the following:

  • Vanilla
  • Citrus fruits
  • Coffee
  • Caramel
  • Cinnamon
  • Pistachio Hazelnut paste
  • Praliné
  • Liquors
  • Chocolate


Depending on the kind and quality of Vanilla you have available  I suggest at least 1 scratched bean per liter of milk.

Seen that fresh milk has an enzyme that retrogrades the strength of vanilla (by 40%), in order to avoid this problem you can either:

  • Boil the milk for 10 mins with slow heat to get rid of this enzyme
  • Use UHT milk to realize your preparation or the infusion 

Citrus fruit:

Grate the skin of your citrus fruit with a microplane making sure to avoid the white bitter part right under the outer layer.

The most common fruits to use are lemons and oranges.

Grate at least 2 of them per liter of milk.


If you are planning to use soluble coffee I suggest 20g per liter of milk.
For a complex flavor it is always advisable to use coffee grains with the following procedure:

  1. Roast the beans for 15 minutes at 130º
  2. Cool them down on a rack
  3. Blend slightly to crack them open
  4. Let infuse in the milk for 15 minutes
  5. Filter the milk and start your custard recipe


Usually one part of the sugar is used to realize a dry caramel, then you add heated whipping cream or milk very slowly to realize a caramel sauce and you mix it with your custard while still hot.


Do not use powdered cinnamon otherwise you might have a sandy feeling on your palate. Always infuse the full cinnamon sticks for at least 15 minutes (15-25g of cinnamon sticks per liter of milk. Remember that there are many qualities of cinnamon!)

Pistachio or Hazelnut paste:

If the paste is pure 100% (so it doesn’t have added sugars) add 150g every liter of milk. Remember to add it when the custard is cold or the fat in the paste will split.
Depending on the quality and roasting level of your paste you might need more or less grams per liter of milk, make sure to try on a small batch. An intensive taste of pistachio or hazelnut is always pleasant but it might get quite expensive to realize your recipe. 


There are many ways to make praliné (which is a blended paste of nuts and sugars). The nuts can be roasted or not, the sugar can be caramelized or left raw. Usually I suggest 200-300g of praliné 70/30 (so with 70% nuts and 30% sugar) per kg of cold custard.
Remember to add the praliné at room temperature and mix it to the custard with a whisk.



Each liquor is different so you will add it and whisk it to a custard when cold according to taste (as alcohol evaporates fast at 78º Celsius).


It gets added to a custard when the preparation has been realized and still hot. To homogenize the mix you can use a hand blender while the custard is still very hot, or a mixer with a paddle or whisk attachment. 


These are the most common pairings for custards and the same principles apply with other spices, herbs etc.

Soon I will make a blog post about common herbal infusions, both cold and warm. 

Stay tuned.

Flavio de Stefano

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