A few weeks ago, the nice people at Billington's sent me some sugar to play with. I say play with because it's not really the sort of sugar you'd put in your tea or coffee but is more suited to a baking extravaganza (or possibly sprinkling on your porridge).
Now I've bought Billington's sugar on occasion before, but not for any reason other than the fact that it was what I needed at the time. I mostly bake with golden caster sugar and most bags of muscovado or soft sugars end up at the back of the baking cupboard and rock solid next time a recipe calls for them.
Billington's sugars are unrefined and undergo minimum processing. The sugar cane is cut, shredded and juiced and that juice is then clarified and crystallised. Nothing added and nothing taken away (unlike some brown sugars which are apparently refined white sugar coated to add colour and flavour...).
As luck would have it, the very same week I picked up a copy of the March 2010 edition of Waitrose Food Illustrated which had a feature spread about different types of sugar and their uses, along with a few recipes. This recipe for Muscovado Custards caught my eye as it called for both the dark muscovado and molasses sugar which Billington's had sent.
Although I followed the recipe to the letter (and allowed a little extra cooking time) they didn't set completely. The only thing I can think is that my eggs were a touch on the small side? Despite them not setting, they certainly showed off the sugar to its best. They were rich with a real deep, earthy sweetness. The sort that lingers on the tongue long after the mouthful has gone.
300ml double cream
75g dark muscovado sugar
25g molasses sugar
1/4 tsp salt
4 large egg yolks
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 150C.
Warm cream, both sugars and salt over a medium-low heat in a small heavy based pan until sugar has dissolved. Put to one side.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks and then slowly whisk in the cream mixture and vanilla extract. Strain into a jug and then poor into ramekins. Now, the Waitrose recipe says to pour the mixture into 4 x 120ml ramekins. Given how rich the custards are, you could probably get away with using smaller ramekins and making 6, but would need to adjust the cooking time.
Put the ramekins in a deep roasting tin. Pour boiling water into the tin until it comes to about one third of the way up the sides of the ramekins. Cook for 20-25 minutes until the custards are just set but still wobble slightly in the middle (they will set further on cooling). Remove from the tin and chill for at least 3 hours.
It is this final step where my custards didn't seem to want to play - they needed longer than the 20-25 minutes stated in the Waitrose recipe and then they didn't continue to set when cooling. They set nicely around the edges but two of them simply didn't set in the middle at all. So if I make this recipe again, I'll make sure my large eggs are just that - large - and that I cook them for a little longer, keeping my eye on them for when they set.