Crème caramel

Crème caramel
Crème caramel

I’m a big fan of crème brûlée, but for some reason have never warmed to crème caramel which has never made much sense to me.

Both are baked custards but crème caramel, also known as Crème Renversée Au Caramel (literally translated to “reversed cream”), is unmoulded and served upside-down.

The caramel is also poured into the moulds before the custard mixture, which means the dessert is self-saucing and I wonder if this is the issue for me. The crack of breaking into a crème brûlée is part of its appeal whereas the toffee element of a  crème caramel is simply its sauce.

This is a recipe based on Julia Child’s and Neil Perry’s which are pretty much one and the same.

A couple of tips when making crème caramel:

  • You want a tiny amount of bitterness to the caramel, so need to ensure it’s sufficiently coloured before taking it off the heat. Look for golden, about to turn brown and place the saucepan straight into a bowl of cold water to stop the caramel darkening any more.
  • You want to avoid small bubbles forming in the custard, which is usually a sign that the custard has overcooked. The custard should still have a wobble to it, but still be cooked through. Usually you can test this with your finger by touching the top of the custard – it should spring a bit.
  • Before you upturn the cooked custards, run a knife around the outside of the mould to loosen it and gently tap it onto a plate to release.

I looked around for garnishes to serve with the crème caramel, but found that most menus serve it on its own – you could always add a tuille or biscuit, or perhaps some macerated or glazed fruit like strawberries or figs.

I kept mine plain, and although the texture was smooth and silky my preference is still crème brûlée. I’ll be making panna cotta soon, so that will be another set custard to add to the mix.

Crème caramel

1 litre milk
115g caster sugar
1 vanilla bean pod, split lengthways and seeds scraped out
6 eggs
6 egg yolk

For the caramel
225g caster sugar

Start the custard by combining the milk, sugar and vanilla in a saucepan and gently bring to the boil.

Take off the heat then set aside to cool and infuse.

Lightly whisk together the eggs and egg yolks, then pour over the milk mixture and combine well.

Prepare the caramel by bringing the sugar and 125ml water to a gentle simmer. Watch it carefully until it turns a deep caramel colour, then remove from the heat and place the saucepan into a bowl of cold water.

After a few seconds, pour into six metal moulds and swirl to coat the moulds halfway up their sides. The moulds may be hot, so hold by the edges with tongs or a tea towel.

Pour the custard into the moulds so they reach the top, and then place all moulds into a roasting tin and fill halfway with boiling water.

Cover the tin with foil and cook in an oven at 190C for 30 minutes or until set.

If you are serving them warm, leave them to cool for approximately 10 minutes and then unmould onto a plate.

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FRIDAY FLASHBACK – Chocolate melting moments with choc-peanut buttercream

Chocolate melting moments with choc-peanut buttercream
Chocolate melting moments with choc-peanut buttercream

This recipe was inspired by a recent trip to one of my favourite breakfast haunts, where I saw cookie jars filled with chocolate and vanilla melting moments.

The chocolate versions were filled with raspberry cream, and the vanilla biscuits were sandwiching passionfruit cream.

I wanted to try the chocolate version, and paired it with choc-peanut buttercream which sounds pretty sickly but was actually really delicious.

Melting moments are drop biscuits, and suit the Queensland climate really well because you spoon the mixture onto a baking tray rather than attempt to cut shapes before the butter starts to melt.

You can also pipe melting moments for a more refined appearance which I’m keen to try at some point.

This recipe is so simple that there are not too many tips to provide other than the usual – don’t overwork the flour, try not to handle the dough too much and keep an eye on them in the oven so they don’t catch.

Chocolate melting moments

125g butter, at room temperature
115g plain flour
45g pure icing sugar
2 tbsps cornflour
2 tbsps good quality cocoa powder

Choc-peanut buttercream

¼ cup peanut butter
¼ cup butter
¼ cup dark chocolate
¼ cup pure icing sugar

Cream the butter in a stand-up mixer until light and creamy.

Sift together the flour, icing sugar, cornflour and cocoa powder and combine.

Stir in the butter and mix with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together.

Place teaspoonfuls of mixture into your hands and roll into balls, then place onto a baking tray.

Dust a fork with cocoa powder, and then press down on each ball of dough.

Cook in a preheated oven at 160C for 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool for about 20 minutes.

To make the buttercream, melt the chocolate and peanut butter in the microwave until melted. Cream the butter and sugar in a mixer, then pour in the cooled chocolate mix. Mix well, then place in the fridge for 10 minutes before using.

Passionfruit soufflé

Passionfruit soufflé
Passionfruit soufflé

I’ve been bedridden for most of the week with the dreaded lurgy that’s been floating around my office.

So being the geek that I am, I’ve plotted out my Project Pastry curriculum for the rest of the year.

The first group I’m broadly banding together as “Desserts” and will include dishes like soufflé, fondants, crème caramel and panna cotta.

I’ll then move onto “Fruit desserts” and explore baking, poaching and roasting of fruits.

Next is the big kahuna – BREAD!! At the moment, according to my list, this will take me around 4 months of posts which is daunting but also very exciting J

And last, but not least, I’m going to finish up the year with “Entrements” which will hopefully combine all of my learning and show off some amazing celebration desserts in the lead up to Christmas.

I’ve also done a list for Flashback Fridays which will keep my very busy mid-week. Phew!!

So, first up I want to look at the much feared soufflé. I’ve made a couple in the past, both sweet and savoury, and they’ve magically worked out pretty well but I’ve never known how or why.

Julia Child devotes a lot of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” to soufflés in both the entrée and dessert sections.

She talks about three methods for making a soufflé base:

  • A béchamel with its cooked roux
  • A crème pâtissière with its cooked egg yolks
  • A bouille which is milk, sugar and starch boiled for several seconds until thickened.

The bouille is her preferred method for sweet soufflés, and she suggests letting the base cool before adding the flavourings, and then the egg whites. This seems to be the method I used for my soufflé crêpes a few weeks back without realising.

Interestingly she mentions that you can make a soufflé without starch or flour, but says that it lacks something in texture and tenderness.

I had planned making Neil Perry’s famous Rockpool Passionfruit Soufflé which is legendary is Australia, but doesn’t follow any of these formulae. He sticks with egg yolks beaten with sugar until dissolved and creamy, then adding the flavouring added before the egg whites.

He talks in his video about his take on three methods of making soufflés and only one has common ground with Julia – the crème pâtissière. He also talks about making an Italian meringue base, and then this recipe which is just juice and eggs.

I guess I’m just going to have to try out the other methods and recipes in future Flashback Fridays!

Neil Perry’s Passionfruit Soufflé (makes 1)

2 egg yolks
25g+ 25g sugar
30ml strained passionfruit juice
2 egg whites
Pinch of salt

Method:
In a bowl, cream the egg yolks with the first 25g sugar, until pale and the sugar has dissolved. Add the passionfruit juice, mix and set aside.
In a separate clean bowl (copper, if you have), whisk the egg whites with a tiny pinch of salt. When you are ½ way to peaks forming, add ½ the remaining sugar, followed by the rest shortly after. Whisk to firm peaks but be careful not to overbeat them.
Whisk 1/3 of the whites into the yolks then carefully fold through the remaining.
Spoon the mixture into a buttered and sugared soufflé mould (this could also be a tea cup or ramekin).
Bake at 190C for 12 minutes.
Serve immediately with ice cream.

Taken from http://www.rockpool.com/blog/2008/11/passionfruit-souffle/

FLASHBACK FRIDAY – Dessert sauces

In the culinary world, Escoffier’s five mother sauces are used as the base of many “daughter” or “secondary” sauces and are defined by their base ingredient and thickening agent:

Sauce Base Thickening agent Secondary sauce
Bechamel Milk White roux White sauces, cheese sauces, mornays, mustard sauce
Veloute White stock (e.g. veal, fish or chicken) White roux Supreme sauce, Allemande sauce, white wine sauce
Tomat Tomatoes White roux Provençale sauce, Creole sauce
Espagnole  Roasted veal stock Brown roux Demi-glace, red wine reduction, Lyonnaise sauce, Madeira sauce
Hollandaise Egg yolks and butter Emulsification Bearnaise, Dijon sauce, Mousseline sauce

But what about desserts? Are there a set of standard sauces for sweet dishes?

Well, there are a number of basic sauces that can be used to make secondary sauces or as bases for dishes like ice cream, souffles, caramels, etc.

Here’s my attempt at a dessert sauce hit list and some example recipes from previous posts:

Chocolate sauce

  • Comprising chocolate as its base and thickening agent, and cream or melted butter as its liquid.
  • Can be used to make different types of chocolate sauce (e.g. white choc vs dark) and then the base for ganache, truffles and fudge.

Fruit sauce

  • Using the fruit purée as the base and thickening agent, and water or juice as a liquid.
  • Can be used to make coulis and curds, or a base for sorbets and souffles.

Crème Anglaise

Sabayon

  • Using egg yolk as its base and thickening agent, and white wine as a liquid.

Stock syrup

  • Using sugar as the base, and water as the liquid – thickens through reduction.
  • Can be used to make caramel sauce, sorbets and toffee.

What do you think? Have I missed any?

Churros with chocolate dipping sauce

Churros 1

Churros have a high sentimental value for me, so I was always going to make them as part of the batters section for Project Pastry.

I met my husband while travelling in South America, and remember a number of times when we set out together in search of the perfect churros.

I also had a wonderful friend when I lived in Sheffield who loved cooking as much as I, so we used to host dinner parties for our husbands focusing on one particular cuisine – our Spanish night was the first time I cooked churros.

They are an incredibly simple, but equally impressive, dish to cook and I’ve never met anyone who didn’t love them.

The batter is essentially made of flour, salt, water and oil – the main flavour comes from the cinnamon sugar coating and of course the delicious chocolate dipping sauce (although you may prefer dulce de leche).

One interesting tip I saw was that the batter should resemble mashed potato, and churros is even sometimes called “calentitos de papas” which translates to “warm potatoes”.

You’ll also need to have a star nozzle for your piping bag to get the ubiquitous ridged surface to the churro which is perfect for clinging to the sugary coating.

This is the recipe I used with my friend in Sheffield, but I’ve long forgotten whose it is so I apologise in advance for not referencing properly!

Churros with chocolate sauce

Batter
125g plain flour
125g self-raising flour
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp olive oil
450ml boiling water

Coating
90g caster sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon

Chocolate sauce
100g dark chocolate (70%)
1 tbsp golden syrup
150ml cream

1 litre sunflower or canola oil for frying

Make the batter by sifting together the flours and salt in one bowl, and the olive oil and water in another. Slowly pour the liquid into the dry ingredients and mix with a fork until you have a smooth, mashed potato batter. Leave for 10 minutes.

Make the chocolate sauce by combining all ingredients and heating in a saucepan until the chocolate has melted.

Heat the oil to 170C in a large saucepan, then pipe the churros directly into the oil cutting them with scissors when they are the size you want. Don’t pipe for than three at any one time or they will stick together.

Mix together the sugar and the cinnamon and lay out in a flat bowl.

Drain the churros on kitchen paper once they become golden (3-4 minutes), then place them in the sugar mix and coat with a spoon.

Serve warm with the chocolate sauce.

Summer fruit beignets

Fruit beignets
Fruit beignets

The first time I heard of beignets was when visiting New Orleans a few years ago and being told I had to go to Café du Monde.

Light, airy parcels of dough covered in sugar were served alongside chicory coffee to help cut through the sweetness.

They were delicious, and the whole experience was magical especially as I saw icing sugar float around in the air and felt it crunch under your feet in the queue.

However, from doing some more research I’ve found that the New Orleans recipe (made from water, flour, sugar, shortening and sometimes evaporated milk) is different from the original French version.

The word beignet translates to “fritter” and is traditionally a deep fried choux pastry.

But finding a beignet recipe made this way was impossible and almost all were yeast-based batters that were used to coat fruit before deep-frying.

That’s the recipe I’ve used this time with yellow-fleshed nectarines and plums but you can use any berry or stone-fruit really – strawberries, cherries, large blackberries, apricots, etc.

If you prefer savoury, I’m sure this recipe could also be used to make onion rings, oyster beignets or deep fried mushrooms.

The thickness of the batter is the big test here, and you need to ensure it’s thick enough to coat the fruit but not too gluggy.

My first batch was too doughy, so I ended up adding a few tablespoons of extra milk. It’s very warm in my kitchen today so the yeast was probably very active whereas a cooler environment might mean that your batter is spot on.

A good test is to fry one piece of fruit then cut it open to check the ratio of fruit to batter. This means you can adjust your batter early on and not waste too much fruit.

Fruit beignets

7g packet dry yeast
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup beer
3 tbsps melted butter
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups plain flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
Selection of fruit – approx 500g
Canola oil for frying
Icing sugar for serving

Dissolve the yeast in room temperature milk.

Add the other wet ingredients, and combine.

In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients then slowly add the wet to the dry and whisk until you have a smooth batter.

Set aside for 30 minutes at room temperature.

Pour canola oil into a large saucepan until it reaches around 2 inches high. Heat to 350F.

Check on your batter, and if it’s too thick pour in some extra milk – it should be like a thick pancake dough.

Prepare the fruit by cutting into bite size pieces – for example, the stone fruit should be cut into 8ths but the berries can be kept whole.

Dip the fruit into the batter, then into the oil. Fry for two minutes, then place on kitchen paper to drain.

Serve warm, sprinkled with icing sugar or with ice cream.

FRIDAY FLASHBACK – Mastering macarons

Finally - cracked the macaron!!
Finally – cracked the macaron!!

So anyone who has been following this blog for a while knows that macarons have been my pastry nemesis.

I’ve tried a few times now and had total disasters, so my wonderful husband bought me a cooking class for Christmas and I’m chuffed to say that I am now the proud baker of perfect macarons.

I’m sure the recipe has a lot to do with it, and this one was based on Adriano Zumbo’s, removing the egg white powder.

However, some brilliant tips I picked up:

  • Use a recipe which has a sugar syrup base – you’re effectively making an Italian meringue which is always going to hold together better than whipped egg whites.
  • Add your food colouring to the sugar syrup to avoid affecting the consistency too much – use gel form if you can.
  • Stir the mix approximately 40 times to get the right consistency.
  • After piping, leave the macarons to sit for approximately 30 minutes for them to form their feet. This is pretty routine and you’ll find it in all recipes.
  • Note that all ovens are different so no recipe will work for everyone. Start at a low temperature (approx. 130C) and keep returning them to the oven if they are not ready. The first lot I did at this temperature took 36 minutes to bake, but I’ll now refine it and crank up the temperature until I find my perfect setting.
  • To test if they are ready, try lifting one off the baking paper and if it starts breaking away it’s not ready. Don’t discard the broken macaron because it will come back together in the oven.

Macarons

150g almond meal
150g pure icing sugar
75g water
150g caster sugar
2 lots of 55g egg whites

Sift together the almond meal and icing sugar – this forms the tant pour tant (TPT) which translates as “equal amounts”. Pour in one lot of egg whites.

Place the other lot of egg whites in a mixer. Create your sugar syrup by dissolving the caster sugar and water in a saucepan and letting it reach 118C.

Start whipping the egg whites and add the sugar syrup. Continue to whisk until you have a glossy meringue.

Add the meringue to the TPT, then stir approximately 40 times with a spatula. You’re looking for a consistency that is quite wet but eventually falls off the spatula – not in a clump, but kind of a ribbon.

Pipe onto baking trays and leave for 30 minutes to form a crust on top. You can test it with your finger – just make sure it doesn’t stick.

Bake for around 15 minutes at 140C (but as I said, trial your oven at a lower temperature first time you cook it to avoid burning them).

Leave to cool, then fill with flavoured ganache. I used rosewater white chocolate ganache for my pink macarons and passionfruit ganache for my yellow ones, made by folding passionfruit pulp into white chocolate ganache.