1 1/2 cups egg whites (equivalent to 6 eggs)*
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup SPLENDA**
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt, optional
3 cups skim or low-fat milk, heated until very hot
Ground nutmeg or ground cinnamon for garnish, optional
* Packaged egg whites can be found in the dairy case of your local grocery store.
** SPLENDA is a non-calorie sweetener that is made from sugar, so it tastes like sugar. Available at your grocery store.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Adjust oven rack to center position. Lightly butter (or use non-fat vegetable spray) six (6-ounce) custard cups and set them into a large baking dish. If cooking custards in a metal pan, cover the bottom of the pan with a layer of newspaper to ensure an even temperature on the bottom.
In a large bowl, combine egg whites, sugar, Splenda, vanilla extract, and salt; beat until sugar and Splenda are dissolved. Mix in hot milk, a little at a time, until blended. Pour egg mixture into prepared custard cups. Sprinkle with nutmeg or cinnamon.
Bring the water for the water bath to a light simmer on top of the stove; carefully pour hot water into the baking pan to come at least half-way up the sides of the custard cups. The most common mistake people make in baking a custard is not putting enough water in the hot-water bath. The water should come up to the level of the custard inside the cups. You must protect your custard from the heat. Carefully pour hot water into the baking pan to come halfway cup the sides of the custard cups.
Definition of Water Bath or Bain-Marie (bahn mah-REE) - A hot water bath or bain-marie are used to cook custards and baked eggs in the oven without curdling or cracking, and also used to hold sauces and to clarify butter. Water baths are most often used for egg-based dishes. The proteins in the eggs are very heat sensitive and only need to be warmed to cook thoroughly. They will start to get firm at only 145 degrees. Cooking them with a slow, gentle heat keeps the eggs soft and smooth.
Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until set around the edges but still loose in the center. The cooking time will depend largely on the size of the custard cups you are using, but begin checking at a half hour and check back regularly. When the center of the custard is just set, it will jiggle a little when shaken, that is when you can remove it from the oven. If using a digital instant-read thermometer, inserted in the centers, the internal temperature should register approximately 170 to 175 degrees F. Begin checking temperature about 5 minutes before recommended time.
This is the type of cooking and meat thermometer that I prefer and use in my cooking. I get many readers asking what cooking/meat thermometer that I prefer and use in my cooking and baking. I, personally, use the Thermapen Thermometer shown in the photo on the right.
Remove from oven and immediately remove cups from water bath; cool on wire rack until room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.
Makes 6 servings (depending on size of custard cups).