Mastering the art of custard opens up the home cook's repertoire to many recipes. The velvety texture is the result of the gelling effect of the egg, which when blended with cream or milk and gently heated becomes neither solid nor liquid but somewhere in between.
The key to it all is combining the ingredients carefully. Most custards use either whole eggs or just the yolks, combined with sugar, milk, cream, and flavorings such as vanilla or citrus.
Typically, the eggs are beaten, and the milk or cream heated. Then comes the delicate part -- tempering the eggs. The reason for tempering is to slowly warm the eggs so they don't cook and form curds. Once the egg mixture is warmed, you can add it to the rest of the hot milk and cook gently, stirring until thick. As a precaution, straining the egg mixture is advised. The result, a custard as smooth as silk.