A fridge-cleanout cheesecake and notes on custard

Today the fridge decided not to work. This was a situation no doubt aided by the fact that the edge of a block of butter had prevented the freezer from closing completely, leading to the fridge’s cold air intake frosting over. After getting all of the perishables into a cooler or onto the balcony — thank you, cold December weather — and the remaining frozen things into the deep-freezer, I realized I hadn’t made room for the eggs or the vanilla-flavoured high-fat Greek-style yogurt I’d accidentally bought last week, mistaking it for the plain variety I can actually stand.

As luck would have it, I happened to have enough ingredients to make a “cheese” cake, so I whipped up the eggs, yogurt, a bit of white sugar, and a few spoonfuls of lemon zest, and poured the mixture into a pre-purchased graham cracker pie crust. It’s now sitting in a 325°F oven for 40 minutes, to be cooled off and stored in the freezer for the next time I’m going to or hosting a dinner party. For those wondering, it was about 27 ounces of strained yogurt, plus 1/3 cup white sugar, plus 4 eggs, plus about 2 tablespoons lemon zest (not sure how many lemons that is; I just keep a container in the freezer for the zests of all lemons whose juice I use in cooking). Oh, and a pinch or two of salt.

This got me thinking of the other times I’ve managed to make up similar foods in a pinch and without a recipe; things like French toast, bread pudding, quiche, and similar egg-based dishes. All of them involve custards, and custards are pretty dead easy to make; you just need to adjust your ratio of egg to liquid depending on what you want to do with the end product:

  • For use in a pie-like crust (quiche): 33% whole egg to 67% liquid (by weight)
  • For a pudding (like crème brûlée or crème anglaise): 15% egg yolk, 85% liquid (by weight)

The more protein or fat you add, the thicker the finished product. I based my cheesecake recipe very loosely on this recipe, but honestly I put very little thought into it. I needed to keep baking it for another 30 minutes to get it to set throughout. Oh well…next time I make a cheesecake, it will very probably not be because my fridge died, so I won’t be in a hurry to make perishable ingredients into something that can be frozen with little damage.

I hope.

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