Leite Creme – Portuguese Custard

My Leite Creme resembled pigswill rather than custard - what went wrong?
My Leite Creme resembled pigswill not custard - what went wrong?

This traditional Portuguese custard is usually served on its own, or with cake or fruit. My original intention was to serve the Leite Creme (custard) with my Rhubarb Crumble. Unfortunately, my oven conspired against me and refused to work so my uncooked crumble was subsequently banished to the freezer until my oven is mended.

6 egg yolks
1 pint milk
8oz sugar
A few drops vanilla essence
2 teaspoons flour
Ground cinnamon (to decorate)

Put egg yolks, milk and a few drops of vanilla essence in a bowl and beat together. Add the flour and sugar to egg and milk mixture and mix until smooth. Place mixture in a saucepan and gradually bring to boil on a low heat. Stir continually to prevent the custard from becoming lumpy and sticking to the bottom of the pan. The custard should gradually thicken to a thick smooth sauce without lumps.

Once cool pour into glass dessert dishes and sprinkle with cinnamon.

I’ve ordered this dessert in Portuguese restaurants on several occasions and it was delicious!

The above recipe was the theory, but in practice my Leite Crème turned to a curdled mess – I even added some more flour in an attempt to “uncurdle” the eggs. That idea failed miserably and it looked so disgusting even Mr. Piglet hesitated momentarily before he ate it.

To my eyes it resembled “pigswill” rather than custard.

I “chickened” out.

I eat with my eyes!

I would like to try the recipe again, but before I do, any suggestions to prevent the mixture curdling again would be gratefully received…
Related posts:Broken.
Portuguese Recipes


35 thoughts on “Leite Creme – Portuguese Custard

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  1. My mother-in-law makes this dessert for Christmas, I love it. I believe she first heats the milk, vanilla and sugar then in a seperate bowl she mixes the flour with a little of the milk before adding to the sauce pan so it doesn’t lump. The eggs are whisked in but she takes the pan off the stove so they don’t cook or scramble. This is similar to the way arroz doce is made. mmmmm 🙂


  2. I think you must have heated it too quickly. I always have more success whisking all the ingredients together cold and then bringing up to a simmer, very slowly over low flame, whisking constantly. Another thing, the recipe I use for Leite-creme calls for 6 yolks but a whole litre (just under 2 UK pints) of milk. Perhaps there was too much egg to milk and you heated too quickly? If you heat the milk separately and add it to the yolks, it is actually quite easy to scramble the yolks if you aren’t whisking furiously. Whatever you do, don’t let one poor result keep you from trying again. (And, by the way, so long as even a flopped custard tastes ok–if it’s not burnt–you can always put it in the blender and whir out some of the ugly lumps.)


    1. Hi Josh and welcome!
      Thanks for your encouragement. Perhaps as you say there were too many yolks to the quantity of milk. I will try again as I love custard but really want to cut out all the e-colours of the instant custard powders.


  3. My grandmother use to make this quite often without fail. She would cook the milk and the lemon rind and add the sugar after the milk had boiled. She would have the cornstarch dissolved in a little milk ready to add to the hot milk and sugar. Once that had thickened she would have the beaten egg yolks in a bowl and would temper them with a bit of the hot mixture then add the yolks mixture to the hot mixture and she would mix it very rapidly so the eggs would not scramble. Then she would pour it onto a large platter and let it cool and then sprinkle it with sugar. The final step would be to use the iron on it t caramelize the sugar or as my grandmother did, she would shove it under the broiler for a moment. I choose to use a brulee torch. Perfection every time. I’ll be happy to get the ingredient and proportions for you. Good luck!


  4. Oh, but “in theory” this dessert looks amazing. I can’t offer any good custard advise: these are skills beyond me and I submit to real cooks for custard cooking. I do love how basic recipes (custard!) pop up in cultures all over the world with the slightest differences to make them so interesting. Blessings on the frozen crumble, though!


    1. Can’t get much more basic than custard so it’s back to the stove and try again.
      You’ve just reminded me to defrost the crumble for tonights dinner. The engineer mad a temp fix on the oven while he is waiting for the part to come in.


  5. I agree with sawedoff that your cook the milk and slowly beat the eggs as you add the cooked mixture bit by bit to prevent it from curdling.
    Don’t worry. I had the same problem with flan last week. I tried to a make a tasty Spanish orange flan and it was good except the sugar and water mixture (to coat the bottom) was a hot mess. I was supposed to heat the sugar first to carmelize and brown it and then add the water slowly.


    1. Hi Patty – it’s so frustrating when this happens! Still, a friend who was in catering has just told me I should have been whisking it, with an electric hand wisk the whole time it was heating up. We will see!


  6. Sometimes what does not look so good tastes really delicious. That has been a good thing around my place when it comes to desserts. I am not a very good dessert maker and they always look a mess but taste pretty good.. I love custard. Sorry your custard curdled. Hugs


    1. Hi Mumsy,
      I adore desserts! I’ve never tried to make custard before and when I saw this Portuguese recipe I thought I would give it a go 🙂 I don’t know what I done but it not only looked awful but tasted awful 🙂


  7. I’m going to preface this by owning the fact that I almost never cook! But I’m wondering if you stirred “continually” like the recipe said. It looks like the eggs cooked on their own. My other suggestion might be to try a double boiler. This would put some distance between your mixture and the flame. Don’t listen to me though! You’ve been warned.


    570ml/1 pint milk
    55ml/2fl oz single cream
    1 vanilla pod or ½ tsp vanilla extract
    4 eggs, yolks only
    30g/1oz caster sugar
    2 level tsp cornflour
    Preparation method
    Bring the milk, cream and vanilla pod to simmering point slowly over a low heat.
    Remove the vanilla pod (wash the vanilla pod, dry and store in jar with caster sugar to make vanilla sugar).
    Whisk the yolks, sugar and cornflour together in a bowl until well blended.
    Pour the hot milk and cream on to the eggs and sugar, whisking all the time with a balloon whisk.
    Return to the pan, (add vanilla extract if using) and over a low heat gently stir with a wooden spatula until thickened.
    Pour the custard into a jug and serve at once.
    To keep hot, stand the jug in a pan of hot water and cover the top with cling film to prevent skin forming.


  9. You’re right it is rough looking, but I bet it tasted quite good. I’m like you in the appearance of a food sometimes will stop me cold from trying it.
    I’ve never made custard, but I may try this recipe, it sounds easy and worth a shot. I hope someone makes a suggestion to avoid the curdling. 🙂


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