Cooks Corner

Lifelong Miami resident shares recipe for her signature egg custard

Well-indexed recipes: Bonnie Massey of Miami keeps all of her recipes on index cards for easy reference and to share with friends and family.
Well-indexed recipes: Bonnie Massey of Miami keeps all of her recipes on index cards for easy reference and to share with friends and family. Bonnie Massey

Bonnie Massey is “pushing 92” but has little time for reminiscing about the changes she has seen in her lifetime as a native of Miami.

I caught her after a tea party she threw for a group of friends, before she was about to take some of her signature egg custards to an under-the-weather neighbor in her East Ridge Retirement Village. She has banana-cranberry bread to bake for a newcomer (“I like to take one to every new resident”) and wants to try a recipe she has clipped from the newspaper, so she needs to do some shopping. This is not a woman who stands still.

She is tickled, though, that her granddaughter Kim has written me with a Mother’s Day request:

“I’m in hopes that you can run my Grandmother’s custard recipe in your Cook’s Corner column. She . . . has a dream of having her special custard recipe featured in the Miami Herald. She feels she has a unique twist on the recipe that other readers would enjoy. My Grandmother has made and shared thousands of her custards (as well as breads and cookies) with family and friends who she makes feel like family. It’s very yummy and a comforting and constant memory of my visits to Miami over the past 43 years.”

The egg custard is a method Bonnie Massey invented long ago, she says, when she was trying to find something to tempt the finicky appetite of an invalid. The key is that she uses dry milk powder at twice the strength to give it more nutrition and does slow beating to get a smooth, silky texture.

I admit to being skeptical about the taste of anything made with dry milk, and Massey tells me I must be remembering old times, when the reconstituted milk came out “kind of blue” and had an unappealing aroma.

“Even then when you baked it up in the custard you couldn’t tell the difference” from fresh milk, she says. She’s right. I tried out the custard and it was grand. I am happy to pass this along so many more custard lovers can enjoy.

“Some people might want to add nutmeg or cinnamon, but I like it to stand on its own,” she says. Does she have any other advice? She tells me to remind readers to write down their recipes to pass on to succeeding generations. She painstakingly typed all her recipes out on index cards to keep those taste memories going.

Restaurant recipe

I have a secret vice: I love sugary kids’ cereals. Give me a handful of Corn Pops or Smacks, a toss of Apple Jacks or Cinnamon Toast Crunch and I’m happier than I’d be with a spoonful of caviar or a Kobe steak. So this Mother’s Day, you can be sure I’ll ask my son to fix me a griddle full of quirky restaurateur and executive chef Julia Ning’s playful take on French Toast, made with Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

Ning’s Station 5 Table & Bar in South Miami restaurant is known for its lobster empanadas and duck and foie rilettes, but lest you think the menu too high-brow, there’s also the braised short ribs with Cheetos. I could get lost in the dessert list (labeled Kitchen Candy), with the brownie sundae with Fluffer Nutter or the apple pie in a jar.

This French toast is absurdly good — and playfully perfect to bring to breakfast in bed. Ning suggests you add a glass of orange juice or a mimosa.

Reader request

Q. I was wondering if you have the recipe for the salad dressing that was made at the Studio Restaurant on 32nd Avenue, south of Coral Way. We used to go there most every Sunday, and Freddie was so nice to my sons. They were asking me if I had the recipe and I don’t. I know that you have published some of his recipes, but don’t know about this one.

Liz Gibson

A. We have his house salad, which I hope is what you’re remembering. Gottfried “Fredd” Jossi, for those who did not have the chance to meet him, was a classically trained Swiss chef who came to the United States in the 1950s. He died at age 78 in 2005. The Studio was off Coral Way in Coconut Grove, and people used to line up around the block waiting for a table.

The salad recipe includes cottonseed oil, which restaurants used for its light taste in decades past. You can find it online, but any mildly flavored oil can be substituted.

Send questions and responses to LindaCiceroCooks@aol.com or Food, The Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172.

Pan de Francais with Cinnamon Toast Crunch

1 baguette

1 cup of Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, divided

6 eggs, beaten

1/3 cup of heavy cream

3 tablespoons of brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

To cook and serve:

1 stick butter, divided

Powdered sugar

100 percent real maple syrup

Take a baking sheet, line it with aluminum foil, and lightly coat with vegetable oil spray. Set aside. Cut baguette on the bias (at a 45-degree angle) into 1/2-inch-thick strips. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the eggs, cream, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and salt in a large mixing bowl with either an immersion hand blender or regular hand blender, and beat until batter is smooth. Heat a large skillet to medium-low. Melt about half the butter in the pan. Take the baguette slices and submerge them in the batter, coating all sides. Wait one minute, letting the bread soak up the batter. Take baguettes out of the batter and place on the medium-low skillet.

Take a handful of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and lightly crush between hands, breaking apart slightly. As the bottom sides cook, sprinkle the tops with the crushed cereal. Once the bottom of the baguettes are lightly browned (1-2 minutes), remove from skillet and place on prepared baking sheet, browned side down, cereal-crusted side up.

Put baking sheet with baguettes in the oven at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes, allowing the other side of the baguettes to toast up. Remove from oven and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Plate the baguettes, 2 to 3 slices to a serving. Sprinkle with more Cinnamon Toast Crunch on top. Add a pad of butter and drizzle with real maple syrup. Serve while hot! Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 413 calories (62 percent from fat), 28.6 g fat (16.1 g saturated, 8.6 g monounsaturated), 252 mg cholesterol, 9.1 g protein, 30 g carbohydrate, 0.7 g fiber, 604 mg sodium.

Source: Julia Ning, Station 5 Table & Bar.

The Studio’s House Salad

2/3 cup cottonseed oil or light vegetable oil

1/3 cup cider vinegar

1 tablespoon yellow mustard

About 1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese

1 garlic clove, peeled

1 head Romaine lettuce

1/4 cup garlic-flavored croutons

Salt and pepper

Whisk together the oil, vinegar and mustard. Stir in the oregano and cheese. Smash the garlic clove with the flat of a knife and rub the bottom of a wooden salad bowl with it. Tear the lettuce into the bowl. Stir the dressing again and drizzle over lettuce as desired. Toss with croutons, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes about 1 1/4 cups dressing; salad serves 4, but you will have additional dressing which can be refrigerated for later use.

Per serving: 296 calories (90 percent from fat), 31 g fat (3.6 g saturated, 18.9 g monounsaturated), 5.8 mg cholesterol, 2.9 g protein, 4.7 g carbohydrate, 1.7 g fiber, 162 mg sodium.

Source: Cook’s Corner archives.

Bonnie Massey’s Egg Custard

3 eggs

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 (quart-size) envelope dry skim milk powder

2 cups boiling water

Have 4 large or 5 medium custard cups ready in a pan with water coming an inch up the sides. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Beat the eggs with the sugar, vanilla, salt and dry skim milk powder with the beaters turned off. With beaters on high gradually pour the boiling water into the egg mixture. (It is important to pour all of the boiling water into the egg mixture while it is being mixed on high. This is a little tricky as you are holding the beater with one hand and pouring with the other. I always use a 2-cup measuring cup so as to be able to keep on pouring until the end).

Beat until well mixed. Pour custard mixture slowly into cups a little at a time, as it is frothy; you may want to skim some of the froth off. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes. Remove from pan and allow to cool. Makes 4 to 5 servings.

Per serving: 185 calories (18 percent from fat), 3.7 g fat (1.3 g saturated, 1.4 g monounsaturated), 144 mg cholesterol, 12.7 g protein, 24.8 g carbohydrate, 0 g fiber, 323 mg sodium.

Source: Bonnie Massey.

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