Milk and Honey Custards

I’m fine. I had a health scare last week but I’m fine.

Every year since I was thirty-five, I’ve had a mammogram. The recommendations keep changing on how often is right when it comes to mammograms, but I know enough women whose lives were touched by breast cancer not to take chances. Anyone who has been through the process can tell you there’s always a touch of anxiety that goes with it. Will they find something this year? Until you get the note in the mail saying all is clear, there’s always a bit of uncertainty. This year, instead of an all-clear note, I got a callback. That is, the doctors saw something different so I needed a more sophisticated round of  x-rays. I’ve known enough women who have gotten this second call, as well, and nothing was the matter. Still, for the 48 hours I waited to be seen again, it was hard not to worry. I told very few people—only my husband who worried with me and accompanied me to the hospital―and a few close friends. It was an awful feeling to walk into the hospital that day not knowing if I’d be leaving with a clean bill of health or if this would be the beginning of a new, painful journey. The time I waited for the radiologist to read the x-rays was in reality fifteen minutes, but it felt like an eternity. When she walked into the exam room with a smile on her face, I knew everything was okay. I burst into tears and couldn’t wait to tell my husband.  We hugged in happiness.

At times like these, it’s the bond of friendship and family that sustains us. My husband’s calm strength. The concern and caring of friends. Everything’s felt more intensely  and  reminds me how very lucky I am to live in a community of loving people. I feel the sweetness in the air and the joy of living. Truly.

These last few days have felt like the beginning of summer in New England. With it will come the first berries of the season, and I’m ready. These Milk and Honey Custards are perfect to have on hand all summer  for dessert with your favorite fruits. They’re small and not overly sweet. Their creamy texture is a perfect complement to juicy berries or peaches or even some sliced apples and pears come early fall. We ate ours with the last of our blackberries held in the freezer since last summer. Now, we have room for more.

I look forward to seeing you in my kitchen, gathering flavors and fresh fruits, soon.


Milk and Honey Custard

Yield: 6 Servings


  • 3 cups milk or 2 cups milk and 1 cup cream
  • ½ cup honey
  • Pins of salt
  • 2 star anise
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Fresh, seasonal fruit, for serving


  1. Bring the milk to a boil with the honey, salt, and star anise. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes to reduce the milk. Taste and add more honey if you think it’s needed. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs, taking care not to create too many bubbles.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bring water to a boil for water bath. Take out a large baking dish that is at least 4 inches deep and can hold 6 5-ounce ramekins.
  3. Stir the hot milk into the eggs gradually so as not to scramble the eggs. Pour the mixture through a strainer over a 4 cup liquid measuring cup.  Whisk in the vanilla extract. Set the ramequins in the baking dish and divide the milk mixture among them. Pour the heated water  into the baking dish to come at least an inch up the sides of the ramekins.
  4. Bake in the center of the oven until the custards are set except for a small spot in the center, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and lift the custards out of the water. Allow to cool.
  5. Chill for one hour, then serve garnished with fresh fruit.


  1. This recipe is closely adapted from Seasonal Fruit Desserts by Deborah Madison.
  2. Be sure to wear heat and waterproof protective oven minutes when handling the hot liquids and removing the custards from the oven and the water bath.

One year ago: Crispy Radish Salad

Two years ago: Savory Crepes with Fresh Corn Salsa

Three years ago: Spring Tartlets

Four years ago: Trail Mix Cookies

Dena Testa Bray has been writing Gathering Flavors, a culinary blog, since 2011. She is a trained chef & ran a home based cooking school. Dena now designs websites, focusing on work with creative people. You can see her website work at She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and family.