Egg Custard Recipe

Oeufs au Lait

I don’t really do milk. I don’t drink it, I don’t cook with it, I don’t add it to my cereals, and I like my coffee black, thanks. As a result, I rarely have any in the fridge, and when I do buy a bottle for a recipe, the leftovers usually sit in the fridge and spoil with boredom.

But I hate to toss food as much as the next girl (or perhaps even more than her), and it recently occurred to me that I could salvage leftover milk and make Maxence happy in one easy step by baking œufs au lait (literally, “eggs with milk”, more or less pronounced as “uh-oh-lay”), a sort of flourless vanilla pudding that was one of his favorite childhood treats.

I rang up Maxence’s maternal grandmother for the recipe (the same grandmother who provided the gâteau au yaourt recipe and whose madeleine recipe I’ve been meaning to request) and barely forty minutes later there it stood, my very first batch of œufs au lait cooling on the counter, unphotogenic as can be and proportionally delicious. Silky and innocently sweet beneath a lightly chewy skin, it is the sort of dessert for which you will want to change into your pajamas.

Mini Cookbook of French Tarts

Oeufs au lait did not exist as such in my family when I was growing up, but my mother did make a mean crème renversée, which is essentially the same thing as this, except the bottom of the dish is first coated with a light caramel, and the custard is flipped before serving. And if you can’t be bothered to flip it, you still have a crème caramel.

Endless œufs au lait variations can be obtained by flavoring the milk with cocoa, coffee, syrup, etc., as you heat it. Next time, I may follow this suggestion and steep toasted oats in the hot milk for an hour before straining them out; the poster reports it is a traditional dessert from Loire-Atlantique called pain d’avoine.

Oeufs au Lait

1 liter (4 cups) milk
150 grams (3/4 cup) sugar
1 vanilla bean (or 1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract)
5 eggs

Set a rimmed baking sheet (lèche-frite in French) or a roasting pan in the middle of the oven, and preheat to 180°C (350°F).

Combine the milk and sugar in a medium saucepan. Split the vanilla bean in two, scrape the seeds, and add the seeds and bean to the saucepan. Cover, bring to a simmer, and remove from heat. Let cool for a few minutes.

Crack the eggs in a mixing bowl and whisk them together lightly. Remove the vanilla bean from the saucepan, and pour the milk into the eggs as you whisk. Pour this mixture into a medium (glass or ceramic) baking dish, or in ten ovenproof ramekins of 125ml (1/2 cup) capacity each.

Bring water to a boil in the kettle. Set the baking dish on the baking sheet in the oven, and pour hot water into the rimmed baking sheet until it reaches a depth of about 1 cm or 1/3 inch; this will prevent the custard from boiling.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes (15 to 20 if you’re using ramekins), until the top is golden and dotted with brown. The surface at the center of the dish should feel lightly elastic to the touch. Let cool completely and serve at room temperature, or chilled.

  • Molly

    If you carmelize some sugar on bottom of the pan first, it will probably turn out like a flan, right?

  • Did you enjoy it?

  • MS

    Please, please, PLEASE, Clotilde, not you. Not you! You are French, you cannot do that. What am I talking about? This: “uh-oh-lay.” It’s not even close to the French pronunciation but that’s not why I am asking you to, at least, change it to “uh-oh-leh” even if it still doesn’t come even close to the way it sounds in French.

    The English sound “ay” DOES NOT EXIST in French, Italian, Spanish and any other Latin-based language.

    It is awful to have to listen to Americans butcher French, Italian and Spanish words every time. And it’s not because they can’t make the sound “eh”, they just won’t because they think they sound “too pretentious” if they actually bring themselves to pronounce it closer to the original. Stupid but true.

  • Molly – For me, caramel at the bottom turns this into a crème caramel. I believe it is the addition of flour or cornstarch that would turn it into a flan (edited to specify: a French-style flan pâtissier).

    MS – First of all, may I suggest a cup of tea and a deep breath? My goal here is not to teach French pronunciation in a formal way: if it was, I would use a phonetic alphabet, but then a majority of readers wouldn’t understand.

    My intention here was simply to give non-French speaking readers an idea of what oeufs au lait sounds like, because of the number of mute letters. Oeufs doesn’t sound exactly like “uh” either, I am aware of that, but it’s a start.

    I like your suggestion of “leh” to describe the pronunciation of lait — it is indeed more accurate than “lay” –, I just don’t think it was necessary to all-caps me on this. :)

  • Looks yummy – I am similar to you in that I do not really like milk. Can’t digest it well, either. When I do buy it for a recipe, I end up letting the remainder of the milk go sour in the fridge!

  • pedro

    Mmm…cow juice. How can you people not like milk? Seriously: it comes from the same place filet mignon does (and that place is God’s green grass). :)

    Regarding the “ay” war:
    I’m on MS’ side…I don’t think there’s an “ay” in Spanish. I mean, if I said “leche” as “lay-chay” I’d probably get shot by someone. On the other hand, I still couldn’t give the irreproachable Clotilde the all caps. So maybe I’m not on anyone’s side and there isn’t a war and we should all just enjoy our ramekins of uh-oh-yeah! I know I’ll be doing just that.

  • The thing that strikes me most about this recipe is how utterly French it seems. People often think of French cooking as complicated–well, and sometimes it is. But more often, it is taking a handful of well chosen [and often simple] ingredients and combining them in exactly the right way to make something wonderful.

    There’s a simple, delicious dessert I make that I found in a Parisian cookbook, using only fresh apricots, fresh rosemary, sugar and water. It’s always a crowd pleaser.

  • Has anyone tried this dish with a sugar substitute, such as Splenda, to make this a carb-friendly recipe?

  • This is called Baked Egg Custard in our part of the world. Sounds much more exotic in French.

  • Clotilde,

    Looks delicious, I will have to try it soon. Custards are my favorite dessert, whether crème caramel, crème renversée, crème brûlée, or even Wisconsin Frozen Custard (it’s just ice cream with yolk in it, but it’s yummy.) :)

    Re: the pronunciation issue, I appreciated your description and agree that MS went a bit postal on you. Although I speak fluent french and know how to pronounce it (and have been told by many Parisians that I speak very well–I am a classical musician, so I have an ear for the vowels and accent), your description really tickled my funny bone. I also know that many non-french speakers (or those who are just beginning the journey) could so easily butcher that one.

    Just imagine, if you will, a nasal American beefy football-player type of guy asking for “OOFS Aw Lay-t.” I guarantee you, someone has said it that way! (My Dad insisted on pronouncing “Sacré Coeur” as “Lacray Sur”.” We don’t know where he got that one.)

    Perhaps we should all mail MS some wonderful chocolate and wine so he or she can relax a little?

  • And in all that I completely forgot…

    1. PLEASE request the madeleine recipe. I just got a silicone madeleine pan, and I am dying to try making them.

    2. In bloglines, the Oe doesn’t show up, so it looks like a recipe for “ufs au lait.”


  • prairieportia

    At the risk of being pedantic, neither flour nor cornstarch would make this flan. Your recipe of oeufs au lait is very much like flan minus the caramel and the brandy. I think most flan recipes call for either evaporated or condensed milk. Perhaps this shortens the cooking time and makes for a silkier custard. I think cornstarch is only used in what I think of as a good old American pudding.

  • La Rêveuse – Love your father’s creative pronunciation skills! :)

    Prairieportia – Flan is made in many different ways in many parts of the world: I was referring to the French flan pâtissier, which includes flour or cornstarch and doesn’t have a caramel component.

  • Every time I check your Web site it makes me anticipate your book even more. I am looking forward to May 15. Put me in as another person that wants to try another madeleine recipe. I have many French cook books and all seem to differ in their madeleine recipe a little. So far I have only made one that I like.
    I know it is probably wrong to buy ultra pasteurized milk, but I do because it lasts so long. Otherwise I also end up throwing away a science experiment.

  • Creme Renversee is more known as Leche Flan(milk flan – others call it creme caramel) here in the Philippines, i think we got it from the Spanish times.

    Make it richer and creamier with the use of more yolks than whole eggs. Maybe 5 yolks and 3 whole eggs. Lemon zest for a layer of flavor and to cut through the richness and sweetness.

    I prefer using sweetened condensed milk or evaporated milk, than fresh. No flour or cornstarch or any other thickener.

    It’s great with fresh soy milk too!

  • I’m NOT any of these milk producers, but I think you’re WRONG ;-) Have you ever tried fresh semi-skimmed milk? By fresh, I don’t mean fresh from the cow, but fresh from the non-UHT production (comprenons-nous bien, il s’agit du lait frais pasteurisé, bio de surcroît). I usually drink skimmed milk with my cereals because I don’t like the taste of it, but fresh milk is really a better place in the world (nutty-caramelised taste…)

  • PS

    I, too, am funny about milk — I do occasionally have it in a beverage (I grew up in a former British colony and tea with milk is a staple), but I simply cannot stomach it by itself or with cereal. I am curious, Clotilde, do you eat your cereal with yoghurt, then, or something else? I used to eat mine with orange juice at one point, which many people thought was disgusting, but believe me, it was strangely good. I gave it up only because I was tired of the stares. Now I use soymilk.

    I think there may be something to Stephane’s comment above, though: my mother’s family owned their own cow until she (er, my mother, not the cow) was about 8 years old, and she LOVED fresh milk, straight from the cow, until they were forced to sell the cow during World War II. When they started buying milk they never again (the whole family concurs) found milk that tasted like their cow’s — with fresh farm milk, each cow’s is distinct, I believe, and the flavour depends quite heavily on the cow’s diet. My mother claims their cow’s milk tasted clean and grassy, and all milk she tasted afterwards (she does not consume it at all now, in any form — not in beverages, not in desserts, not even cheese — so more extreme than you, Clotilde!) smells “off.”

    There. Sorry for the rather long comment, but I hope you found it interesting :-).

  • I am Swedish and we are known to drink a lot of milk. Still, I sometimes get leftovers. I put the milk in the freezer and I use this frozen milk making pancakes, baking bread …. for example. It may separate or be slightly grainy when thawed. Works best for cooking, but it’s still okay for drinking within a month.

  • est

    First, thank you clotilde, cause you posted this really nice recipe on my birthday. I agree with stephane, fresh milk (pasteurisé) is the best with cereals (albeit more expensive than regular but bland UHT). Last but not least, I enjoyed the pronunciation controversy very much…

  • Stéphane, PS, and est – It’s nice to try to convert me, but I have tasted fresh milk from good sources, and it’s just not my thing. I don’t *hate* it, I just don’t enjoy it as much as I do all other kinds of dairy products. And to PS, yes, I eat my cereals with yogurt, fermented milk, or fromage blanc.

  • Clotilde,
    I love Œufs au Lait!!! it is soo easy to make – less than 10 minutes of mixing. I just made some this week. Sometimes, I shave some nutmeg before serving – ala custard. maybe you cna infuse the milk with spices? Cardammon and saffron work well to get rid of the *milk* taste. Or use rose water or orange blossom extracts?

  • This looks so simple and delicious, I may have to try it soon.

    And Clotilde you answered MS very nicely. Thank you for being nice to us Americans! I speak French, but I know it must sound badly to native speakers. When I was in Paris, I only spoke French first. I tried really hard with my accent and most people were very nice and spoke slowly or switched to English.

  • Claire

    Désolée d’écrire en français mais mon anglais est trop limité pour un commentaire culinaire!
    Tes oeufs au lait sont une de mes madeleines de Proust, ma grand mère qui nous a quitté il y a peu appelait ça des “petits pots”, et rien que cette appelation laissait planer un mystère sur cette préparation mythique et, of course, délicieuse…Elle n’ajoutait rien hormis de la vanille, et je regrette aujourd’hui de n’avoir jamais préparé des petits pots avec elle pour pouvoir en faire moi-même. Je crois qu’en fait, c’est le seul secret de cuisine qu’elle n’a pas partagé avec moi, donc je la pardonne…Ces petits pots sont liés à un tas de souvenirs, aux vacances, à ma famille, aux disputes de fin de repas pour savoir qui pourrait manger les meilleurs petits pots, ceux préparés dans les pots en terre cuite…Ceux de faïence ne valaient rien à côté: il manquait ce croustillant et un je ne sais quoi indéfinissable!
    Comme toi, ma grand mère détestait le lait…et cette recette était sans doute l’un de ses grands succès de cuisinière…comme quoi! En tous cas bravo pour ton blog que je lit régulièrement, j’apprécie tes précisions, tes choix d’ingrédients triés sur le volet, ta cuisine nouvelle mais jamais snob, bref, vive C&Z. Bonne continuation et merci pour ce petit moment de finesse dans un monde de brutes!

  • This recipe looks quite easy and the result seems very delicious!!

  • Bonnie et Clyde

    Clotilde, you said: “I believe it is the addition of flour or cornstarch that would turn it into a flan.” There may be some flans that require starch, but it is not the sine qua non of flan.

  • Bonnie et Clyde – True, and I also added in another comment, “I was referring to the French flan pâtissier, which includes flour or cornstarch”.

    Would you share your recipe for flan and tell us which part of the world it’s from?

  • I love flan so I will give this simple recipe a try. My husband always wants to buy that milk sitting on shelves full of preservatives which probably glows in the dark, but I hate the taste. It does last longer. I no longer eat cereal in the morning. I miss my old, American milk taste.

  • In response to my own post, I made this recipe with an equal amount of Splenda, rather than sugar, making it suitable for those on even phase 1 of the South Beach diet. It took longer to cook and, even then, did not quite brown properly, but taste was super.

    Thanks for this fantastic recipe!

  • This recipe seems similar to the simple custard recipe my mother would cook for me when I was home sick as a child. For whatever reason, this was her (and my grandmother’s) idea of the ideal meal for invalids. Thanks for reminding me of that, and for your ever-lovely/adorable blog – je l’adore.

  • Debra

    I made this for my family on Friday for the beginning of my husband’s birthday ‘weekend.’ It was lovely and and had an excellent consistency. He also enjoyed it the next day for a little something in the afternoon :)
    Thank you for sharing….

  • Sylvie

    Oeufs au lait was the first recipe my grandmother taught me, but she did put a layer of caramel on the bottom of the dish first. I have always done it that way, and really like the combination. And weirdly enough I don’t like the taste of milk by itself, but love milk-based desserts ! And drink a big cup of very hot chocolate-milk every morning. Tried every possible hot beverage, from tea to coffee, but always came back to my hot chocolate. And when you then ride 8 kms on your bike in a cold winter morning to go to work that hot chocolate helps keep the inner furnace warn !

  • stressqueen

    PLEASE do a traditional madeleine recipe. I live in London and adore them.

    A friend also sent me a madeleine tray and I am desperate to use it, it’s just so hard to find a recipe!

    This is the first time I have ever commented, but am a regular reader. I love your site, and will buy your book for sure.

  • Tim

    Does it really matter how it is pronounced if it tastes as good as it looks? I do not speek French – I just speak ‘yummy yummy’.

  • 1. Re the Splenda question, it will work as a sugar substitute in any cooking technique where the sugar ‘texture’ is not required (i.e. the rich velvety quality in sorbets, or meringues, or ice cream…) I saw recently that Leathams have a product which (possibly) can even address this defect, thus making all desserts possible as low-carb options.
    2. Maybe I’ve misunderstood, but I was alarmed by the use of a jelly roll pan as a bain marie in this recipe. Surely this has only very low sides? I would have though a roasting pan a much better idea if you don’t want third-degree burns on your feet!

  • Chrissa – Funny, I was also thinking that it would be great for when you’re in bed with the flu — the sweet version of chicken soup…

    Debra – I’m delighted it turned out well for you!

    Pomiane – I myself use a jelly roll pan and it has a depth of about 1/2-inch so it works here. But since it can apparently cause some confusion I’ve removed the mention the recipe.

  • This recipe looks delicious. I will probably try it this weekend as every recipe that strikes my fancy from this site always turns out perfectly when I try it. I can’t wait for the C&Z book to come out. Mine is pre-ordered from Amazon!

  • MS

    I’m glad that you think that using “eh” is more accurate than “ay”. It’d be great if you’d use it from now on. :)
    By the way, I didn’t mean to all-caps you at all, sorry you took it that way. The few caps I used were for emphasis, not shouting.

  • I’ve found that the longer the custards sit in my refrigerator, the better they get. Thanks so much!!

  • Keturah

    Funny you should remember that. A dear friend of mine says her mother also used to feed them custard when they were sick. She has continued the tradition in her own home. My friend is over 80 years old, so that would fit with your grandmother’s times and culture. But, as much as I adore custard, I still doesn’t understand WHY they thought it was the ultimate convalescent food.

  • Hi Clotilde,
    this reminds me so much of my childhood. My mother would always make oeufs au lait for me on week ends.
    I just loved it and still do.

    Yours looks delicious (and pretty with all those vanilla seeds and lovely golden colour :)

    – fanny

  • Bonnie et Clyde

    I don’t have any one particular recipe that I use, but to me flan is a Spanish or South American dish. For these cuisines I go straight to either Rick Bayless or Diana Kennedy. Recipes generally call for eggs, sugar, condensed or evaporated milk, and brandy, plus a layer of carmelized sugar.

  • Petroglifa

    In Catalunya we make the “Crema Catalana”, very similar to your “Oeufs au Lait” but with a little of starch (I think that’s the name, aromatized with cinnamon and lemon and with some burned sugar on the top.

  • This sounds delicious. My dad loves anything that has a custard-like consistency, I will have to try it out on him the next time I visit. Thanks for the recipe.

  • Inspiring. 5%Celery is always inspired by you. Always…

  • Katie

    I just made baked custard the other day! Only I made mine with a shot of espresso. I guess that would make it “Oeufs au Cafe au Lait!”

  • Blandine

    One more trick : if you leave in France, use unpasteurised fullfat milk (lait cru), you’ll feel quite a difference !
    It is also the best for custard.

  • marie

    By fermented milk – does she mean what we call “buttermilk” – or is it something else. I am interested. I like (although it is hard to find) pasteurised but unhomogenised milk – the layer of creamy-milk on the top – delicious..

  • Marie – By fermented milk I mean the thin yogurt-like drink that’s popular in North Africa and is sometimes called kefir.

  • Rachel

    the top of my custard doesnt brown! i used ramekins and when i saw they werent browning i extended the cooking time but it is still yellow custard-y color. do you happen to know why?? i followed the recipe just scaled it down ‘cuz i didnt have enough ramekins.

  • Mell

    Pour moi non plus le dessus de mes œufs au lait n’a pas doré et ils sont beaucoup moins photogéniques que les tiens car j’ai utilisé du sucre non raffiné très foncé. Cependant – et c’est le principal : ils sont délicieux, merci pour la recette !

    • Bonjour Mell, si le dessus des oeufs au lait ne dore pas, il est possible que ton four ne soit pas tout à fait assez chaud. Tu pourrais essayer d’augmenter (un peu) la température la prochaine fois. Mais ce détail mis à part, je suis ravie que ce soit bon !

  • I make something very similar. I thought it is called creme caramel.

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