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I made a rhubarb custard pie that turned out nicely; the custard was flavored with orange zest and 2 tablespoons of orange juice and 1 teaspoon of orange flower water.

I wanted a baked custard made of the filling without the crust.

I doubled the recipe and baked it in a souffle dish, using a water bath under the souffle dish. I baked it at 325F. It took almost 2 hours for the knife inserted in the center to come clean.

The custard was a good texture when removed from the oven and cooled, but when I scooped some out, clear sugar fluid accumulated where I scooped.

The fluid tasted only of sugar, not the rhubarb or the orange flavors.

I tilted the souffle dish. Overnight approximately 2/3 cup of fluid accumulated in the space where I had scooped .

My question :

Why did this happen?

What could I do to avoid it happening in the future?

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    What, if any, starch did you use? And please explain how you incorporated it. – Jolenealaska Jul 10 '14 at 5:18
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    I'm suspicious of something so acidic as orange juice with something milk based. I imaging this is what was causing the destabilisation and hence the weeping, but I'm not sure how you might fix it... – Sam Holder Jul 10 '14 at 10:59
  • I didn't use any starch. Just eggs, milk, sugar, fruit and flavoring. I have made plain baked custard like this for years. I use whole eggs and add a extra yolk. This time I used up some whipping cream mixed with 2% milk and removed the equivalent volume of the liquid flavoring : 1 1/3 c milk minus 3 TBS for the OJ and orange flower water – piquet Jul 10 '14 at 18:05
  • Sam Holder: It had worked okay 2 days earlier when I made the pie using the other half of the orange. My technique was to toss the rhubarb with 1/2c sugar 2 TBS OJ and fresh orange zest and a scant TBS orange flower water, let it sit for a while, put in the souffle dish and pour egg/milk/sugar mixture over it – piquet Jul 10 '14 at 18:11
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    @SamHolder there are many fruit custards, including very acidic ones. For example lemon tart filling is one of these. – rumtscho Jul 12 '14 at 11:14
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Why did this happen?

One possibility is that the outside of the custard became overcooked while you were waiting for the middle to set. As eggs cook longer they tighten up more and more, squeezing out liquids that were previously captured by the protein matrix. The cooking process continues for a while even after you remove the custard from the oven, so the overcooking might have happened later than you'd think.

What could I do to avoid it happening in the future?

If the overcooking hypothesis is correct, then any of the following could help:

  • Reduce the cooking time. Most custard recipes that I can think of call for cooking times around an hour, depending on the size of the dish.

  • Use smaller baking dishes. With a smaller dish, you won't have to wait as long for the center to set.

  • Use a shallower baking dish. Same as above -- cooking the custard in a thinner layer should help the whole thing set more quickly.

  • Remove from oven before it's completely done. With some recipes, like cheesecake, you need to remove the item from the oven before it seems to be done. This prevents overcooking at the edges and cracking in the middle. The same idea could work for your custard.

  • Modify the matrix. Many custards contain ingredients like starch or gelatin, which can fortify the protein matrix that gives the custard body.

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Your custard was clearly overbaked, that's why it weeps liquid.

Caleb's advice is good. Beside this, you can

  • Add more sugar. It reduces curdling, because the sugar molecules get in the way of the proteins trying to bind to each other.
  • Don't rely on a "knife comes clean". Use a thermometer. You want a final temperature of about 83 Celsius. If you are using a large dish, allow time for carryover.
  • bake at a much lower temperature. 325 is too high even for a regular amount of custard, a double batch is much worse. Try 280 Fahrenheit. It will take more than 2 hours even for a single batch, but it's worth it.
  • I, too, had this problem. So I read all the tips from other bakers and determined that my baking temp was too high. So instead of 350 deg., I baked my custard at 290 deg. It worked! A very nice non runny custard. Thanks everyone! I also strain my custard before adding nutmeg to get rid of all the egg solids. The result is a very silky custard. – Jeanne Moomaw Sep 20 '17 at 18:06
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I'D SAY GO FOR MORE STARCH AND LOWER COOKING TEMPERATURE. My experience was a corn casserole. I used cornmeal as my starch (however, I may not have used sufficient). I used a dome oven, and I realise my temperature may have been too high, since, although the exterior of the casserole was nicely coloured, next day the casserole wept a bit. Maybe it was the coldness of the fridge. I'm trying a pumpkin casserole next, and will be sure to pay attention to my own advice, too!

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