Bavarian cream and berries can make any low-key dinner feel fancy. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)

Bavarian cream and berries can make any low-key dinner feel fancy. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)

On the strawberry patch: Not-so-wild nights

Bavarian cream and berries offer something special for low-key gatherings

In my Navy days my favorite hobby was party planning, and I excelled at it. I would spend weeks on the details from themes and menus and signature drinks to lighting, décor, and printed invitations for my regular limit of 10 guests per event.

My officemates would chatter for days in advance and would squabble and swap invitations so they could attend this theme or that — even though I knew my friends well and would write my guest lists thoughtfully. We had luaus, Halloween costume parties, Grammys parties (with a red carpet, of course), karaoke night, and my sister’s favorite: the black-tie New Year’s Eve.

The hardest part was writing the invitations because I wanted to invite everyone, and I had so many friends.

These days the guest list is much easier to write (and never changes), the menu always includes goldfish crackers, applesauce and sparkling water, and the party always ends by 10 p.m. Our wild nights now feature cards or board games, hot tea, hushed voices and baby monitors.

I do sometimes miss the glamour, and someday I’ll step back into my tall heels, but until then, I have a 3rd birthday party to plan.

We had my in-laws over for dinner and pinochle this past weekend and, since it was our first time hosting game night in our new house, I wanted to make it a little special with a dessert I knew they would enjoy: Bavarian cream and berries.

Bavarian cream and berries

Ingredients for four servings:

1 cup milk

3 egg yolks

½ cup sugar

Pinch salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¾ cup heavy whipping cream

1 package unflavored gelatin

Directions:

In a large heat-resistant bowl, whisk together your egg yolks, salt and sugar until the mixture has lightened in color and increased in volume slightly. Set aside.

Bloom the gelatin in a small bowl with a few tablespoons of cold water.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan heat your milk over medium heat until just boiling. Be sure to stir constantly to avoid scorching the bottom and watch it diligently — milk boils over the second you turn your back.

Drizzle the hot milk over the egg mixture a few drops at a time, whisking constantly, until all of the milk has been incorporated. Go slow or you will end up with a dessert that tastes like scrambled eggs.

Return to the pan and put over medium-low heat and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens. Keep the heat down and don’t rush. This could take up to 10 minutes but your patience will be rewarded with a smooth, lump-free finished product.

When the mixture is thick enough that you see dry pan for a second when you scrape the bottom, it’s ready.

Turn off the heat and whisk in the bloomed gelatin and vanilla extract.

Pour through a fine-mesh strainer to catch any solid bits of gelatin or egg.

Allow to cool to room temperature either on the counter or in the refrigerator.

Prepare four small serving vessels — ramekins, teacups or cocktail glasses work well.

Distribute the custard into your serving vessels, cover with plastic, and refrigerate for at least two hours until set.

Top with fresh berries and serve cold.

Bavarian cream is delicious eaten as-is but is also often used as a filling for pastries like cream puffs, doughnuts and cakes. For chocolate cream add ¼ cup cocoa powder to the egg yolk and sugar. Try almond extract instead of vanilla and serve with coffee.

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