Monday, 23 June 2014

Challenge #2 - Vaniljsås (a kind of custard)

For the second challenge - Soups and sauces - I took a very easy route. I initially wanted to make a soup of some kind, but I didn't really have the energy to look for a recipe that seemed doable skill-wise and fitted my, for the moment, very restricted budget. So I settled on a sauce, and a very easy recipe at that. But it was a recipe I hadn't tried before and it came from a cookbook I hadn't used at all yet, so I still felt like I achieved something!

The recipe was for vaniljsås (literally 'vanilla sauce' but basically a custard but with potato starch as a thickening agent) and it came from this lovely 1945 cookbook that I was gifted by a friend last year:

It's called Billig mat ('Cheap food') and was first published in 1913. This is a 1945 edition though, published the same year that WWII ended. Sweden was a neutral country but food (and many other things) very rationed and scarce, but this book doesn't seem to take rationing into account at all. But it is supposed to be a frugal cookbook ('for the simple household', as the title says) and it is interesting to see how some things have shifted over the years: food that used to be regarded as cheap is now expensive, and vice versa.

But - onward to the recipe!

It was a very easy recipe with few ingredients.

Rough translation:
(For 6 persons)
4 dl milk/cream or cream
2 tblsp vanilla sugar
3/4 tblsp potato starch
1-2 egg yolks

Heat milk and sugar to a gentle boil. Mix the potato starch with a little bit of water and add to the milk while stirring. Allow to boil for a short while.
Remove the sauce pan form the stove and stir in the egg yolks, return the sauce to the stove and allow to simmer while stirring briskly until thick enough. Continue to stir until the sauce is completely cool.

I used dl of milk and 2 dl of cream, and three egg yolks because my eggs were very small. The vanilla sugar I used contained 'real' vanilla, not the synthetic kind, but either would have been correct in a 1945 context. 
Milk/cream and vanilla sugar on the stove (vanilla sugar also pictured in the small jar), potato starch + water in the bowl and egg yolks.

It was very quick to put together; the potato starch was a powerful thickening agent and the egg yolks helped as well. It felt like it was done and ready in no time at all!

I wanted to quicken the cooling-off process so I placed the pan in a bowl filled with cold water and continued to stir until the sauce was room tempered.

After some additional chilling in the fridge, I served the sauce to a modern rhubarb crumble, and it was very well received and I was rather pleased myself. I'll add some notes below!

Just the facts

The Challenge: #2 -Soups and sauces

The Recipe: Vaniljsås (a kind of custard) from a 1945 cookbook that I own (recipe can be found above).

The Date/Year and Region: Sweden, 1945.

How Did You Make It: See above!

Time to Complete: 10 minutes tops.

Total Cost: Not very much. I had all of the things already so it was basically 'free'. Should be a very cheap recipe wherever you are.

How Successful Was It?: Very. I really liked it. Before I chilled the sauce in the fridge, I thought it had a too distinct taste of 'warm milk' but it wasn't noticeable afterwards. It was thick and nice, almost a bit on the thick side, at least after a day in the fridge but still totally edible (and it was still yummy even after two days!). It was very rich - you could tell that it contained cream. I think using only cream (as the recipe suggested) would have been too much. I could have used a stronger vanilla flavour, but adding more vanilla sugar would have made it simultaneously sweeter, so next time I might add some extra pure vanilla for a little boost.

How Accurate Is It?: All the way, I guess. Even my gas stove would have been similar in 1945 (my non-stick IKEA pan not so much, on the other hand). 

I'm definitely making this again. In fact, I'm having people over in a few days and I need to serve something sweet, so I think I'll make another crumble with berries or fruits of the season and make this sauce again!

  • Friberg, Elvira (1945). Billig mat: Fullständig kokbok för det enkla hushållet. [Ny uppl.] Stockholm: Bonnier


  1. You should get a widget so that we can follow your posts. The custard looks great!

  2. It sounds really good. What measurement is a dl? In the United States we use cups and tablespoons. I'm horrific at math and converting foreign measurements.

    1. Hi! I use some kind of online calculator when I convert between different systems! This is an example (it's just the first one I got when googling but it should be fine):