p2: French Sea Salt Caramels

The Sweet

4293852900_16753e7c6f_oSo my recent job, if I haven’t already mentioned, has kept my schedule notably busier and with less time to devote towards planning and developing the many recipes on my list. Doesn’t mean I’m going to stop trying to do them all, of course, it just may take much longer than I thought… though luckily it should clear up a bit more in a few months. Every now and then I get a chance to go after something small, or something cool that fits a little request… more often than not, it’s been the desserts lately. What can I say, guess I like baking and such. For this past weekend, I took about an hour to make a little bite that Buzzfeed paired with Cheese Souffle: Salted Caramel pieces.

Did you know there’s an actual REASON that Salted Caramel hasn’t been used and popular until our recent 20th century? And no it’s not just because ‘modern chefs are more creative.’ In 1343, a large salt tax was put in place by King Philip VI, making it a luxury that only rich could afford. Thus even simple salted butter couldn’t be used by the masses until Brittany unified with the Kingdom of France. Even then, the ‘staple’ salt, Guerende Sea Salt, was a rather difficult ingredient to obtain [and I’ll admit, I myself just used a simple sea salt that’s in our pantry. We’ve got so many salts as it is, no reason to buy another one]. Thus the overall USE and distinction of it historically as far as pastries are concerned, a craft which focuses a lot on transforming very INexpensive ingredients, would logically take a much longer time to be realized.

In fact, that time came in the later 20th century, with Henri Le Roux, son of one of France’s most legendary pastry chefs. With his continued Swiss educated, he became France’s best chocolatier and caramel maker, ‘inventing’ the little confection midway through the 1900’s. Though it snuck in rather low on our radar, in 1980 salted butter caramel was voted the best candy in France. And now… well, now it’s the over-used dessert addition/focus that some people still use and rave over as if it was 5-8 years ago when the fad seemed to kick in.

That’s not to say it isn’t still delicious; there IS a reason it’s been so popular.

Chef’s Overdramatic Self-Centered Lecture Corner

It is often read with this particular recipe, or really ANY French recipe with such simple components as such, should really be made with the BEST of each ingredient in order for it to come out in that perfect form of buttery-salty-caramel chew. Of course, my idea on making this was rather last minute and I didn’t exactly grab everything that fit that bill. Which I actually don’t mind, since it was my first time attempting the caramel recipe and I don’t want to ruin any awesome ingredients with a minor screwup that masks everything.

20160116_225956That said, I DID have a little bit of leftover Organic Can Sugar that I mixed with my regular sugar, we’ve had plenty fantastic Scottish Butter sitting in our freezer for months now, so I used some of each to help level it up decently.

There’s a rather decent technique I’ve found about for this, one which makes a lot of sense. Let me start off by saying that caramel really IS quite simple; you cook the sugar until it turns color, not too much, and then add in your cream and butter. That said, one usually has to be careful adding in the cream, since he shock in temperature can make the hot liquid sugar seize up and turn solid too fast. It’s fixable, just got to slowly bring it back to temperature, but not condusive and a pain. So, as other recipes have done, one just heats up the cream on the side to a simmer, leave it warm, and add it in like so. This is also a great way to dissolve most of the salt to the mix into the caramel.

Of a quick final note, it’s very important to prepare your pan to pour the caramel in afterwards. Parchment paper works perfectly, though I’ve seen a recipe with aluminum foil too; the main key to it, however, is getting a thin layer of Vegetable Oil brushed along the bottom and sides to ENSURE that no sticking happens. Which is a pain, since with the paper already there it tends to pool. And don’t try to play with different oils unless they’re even MORE neutral in flavor; otherwise you’re getting an olive oil-flavored caramel [which actually doesn’t sound too bad if done right, but not the goal here]. I bring it up mainly since coating the knife or other cutting/handling tools for the finished candy is a great way to keep it clean and easy handling. May just want to pat with some paper towels afterwards to soak up any excess.

Salted Butter Caramels
1¾ cup Sugar
Vegetable Oil
1/3 cup Cream
¾ + tsp Sea Salt
5½ tsp Butter, cubed
1 tsp Vanilla Extract

Directions

  1. Place Sugar in sauce pan, moving over medium heat, stirring very often and NOT leaving the kitchen20160116_230959
  2. While this is initially heating up, quick mix the Cream and ½ tsp of Sea Salt in another pan over low heat, bringing to a simmer before removing. Keep warm20160116_230106
  3. Also, line a square baking pan with parchment paper, lightly brushing the bottom and sides with Vegetable Oil20160116_230528
  4. Stir more often as the sugar melts, making sure not to let it sit too long and burn while others are still crystallized20160116_231132
  5. When most of it’s melted, stick in a candy thermometer, continuing to stir and cook until the sugar reaches 180C [supposedly 356F]20160116_231334
  6. Briefly remove from heat and slowly, carefully add the warm cream mixture, stirring in until fully incorporated20160116_231626
  7. Return to heat until sugar has come back up to 140C [284-ish F]20160116_231944
  8. Remove from heat again, adding in Butter and Vanilla, mixing quickly until it’s thoroughly incorporated and smooth20160116_232220
  9. Pour the caramel into the parchment-lined baking pan, sprinkle the remaining sea salt over the top20160116_232530
  10. Leave to cool for about an hour or more
  11. Upturn onto the cutting board, taking a knife to cut into the desired piece sizes. If still rather sticky, coat the knife blade with some of the vegetable oil every now and then20160116_235716
  12. Transfer to bags, wrap in wax paper if needed/desired, and enjoy20160117_000330

My Thoughts

Of course it didn’t come out as I wanted. I could see even before it was fully cooled that this caramel would be much firmer than what should have been achieved; instead of that soft, stretchy, tender little chew, I got a hard and crunchy-chewy toffee-like creation. Not that I mind in general, it’s still quite delicious to suck on; creamy-buttery richness with that almost-burnt sugar mixed in. Perhaps not in a perfect blend, again not ALL the ingredients were of anything more than average/cheap quality, but it succeeded where needed. Well, it needed more salt, could only taste it IF sucking vs chewing, and then only in the fir half minute. I’m debating if it’s just the result of not using a classic big-grained French sea salt, which may have more compact flavor too, or if the recipe needed more… I blame the recipe.

As for why the sweets didn’t turn out as desired in consistency, I have two main theories. Either I may have cooked the sugar a bit hotter than called for at one or two periods, very possible though I’m pretty sure it didn’t get THAT much higher than the recipe called for, or the recipe really needs to have notably more butter and cream added into it. My money is on a combination of the two.

Possible Pairings

cremant-de-bourgogne-4278-1-2Not the kind of recipe that usually comes with a whole glass of alcohol to ‘pair’ with, but assuming one DOES want to imbibe while chewing on a [properly] soft and salty-creamy piece of cooked sugar heaven, I could think of a few tasty options.

The first thing that comes to mind is Bubbly; just a simple glass of that delightful drink that never really needs to be fully figured out as to why it tastes good with anything. Since there’s no real confining aspect to the candy that requires distinct characteristics in its partnered drink to balance out, besides the sweetness itself [the saltiness is already being handled by its own sugar content], we can revel in the option of that most celebratory of wines. A Champagne or nice Cremant de Loire/Bourgogne/Alsace wouldn’t be out of the question. The beautiful complexities of a good bottle can be easily featured under the simple candy, any toasty/buttery notes compliment the buttery/creamy aspect of the caramel, they’re even paired often with local seafood dishes so it works with the salt aspect on a secondary level. The one thing I WOULD make sure to try and do, if possible, is to get a Demi-Sec [the sweeter styles of French bubbly], just to make sure the balance is right.

B9315771956Z.1_20150107133802_000_GIS9K0B6R.1-0Many a sweet, fortified, and aged wine will shine here, much like the delectable muscat-based creations from the south of France. Though in this category I can’t think of anything better than a properly thick, brown, caramelly ‘Sticky’ from Australia. Or, as they’re technically known as, Tawnies, influenced by aged ports and one of the best things to ever come out of the country in my opinion.

Of final note, any Aged Spirit would also be on my list, a-la Whiskey. The vanilla and caramel flavors picked up from the toasted oak will compliment these flavors greatly, and high-alcohol actually helps pair with various difficult food concerns. Very ‘heavy’ meals, fatty, acidic, but especially SWEET things can be cut or balanced next to a good spirit. If I had to pick one thing, though, I’d definitely have to go for a GOOD quality, special Rum. Aged well and from a proper estate, they’re flavors are amazing and encapsulate the epitome of ‘sugar’ complexities. They even make some in the French Martinique. Just saying.

p3: Banana Caramel Rolls

#15, Caramel Rolls – Anise-spiced Banana version

54e4174ffe09414b2050c1f2b6cf90d7One of the first recipes I remember actually making on my own, and having a very undeserved sense of pride in doing so, was after I learned how to make Cinnamon Rolls in… I wanna say middle school, could have been sooner. I had yet to ever revisit making them, except in college when we made Caramel Rolls or Sticky Buns (however you wanna call it). The recipe stuck out in the book this week, probably since I’m home alone and feeling very much the urge to make sweet and naughty things, so I’ll indulge myself with this yeast-raised sweet bread; Caramel version of course, I don’t understand anyone who thinks it isn’t superior to just plain with frosting.

20150816_154314I’m putting a couple twists on things, however. First, instead of just the Cinnamon-Sugar dusting on the inside, think I’ll use up yet another super-ripe banana in my freezer and make a banana-cinnamon paste, flavored with a bit of star anise for a fun kick; also added some to the caramel. Speaking of which, I’m not using the caramel recipe in the book either; I want to, but I don’t have any corn syrup. Which is fine because, as I’ve found out, our options in the caramel roll world are quite numerous. There are a variety of techniques one can choose; my baking teacher made this sort of brown sugar-butter paste thing that was spread on the bottom. Aside from that, there’s the simplest mixing of brown sugar and melted butter, mixes utilizing corn syrup, or, and I’m thankful for finding this recipe since it was exactly the kind I was looking for, honey and spices mixed with the sugar and butter. It leads for a fun drive to experiment and find your favorite style in the future.

This particular dough recipe is actually a lighter ‘enriched’ style, using only a small amount of eggs and fat for tenderness, as opposed to the ‘rich’ category that brioche usually occupies; basically, super enriched. One can make this with the higher fat contents, in fact that’s what I plan to do next time since I looooooves the idea of a cinnamon or sticky bun with that buttery crisp edge. But for now, to the proper basics and all-around. Oh, and I’m doing the kind with nuts on it too.

Notes before continuing: I’m doing the milk substitute version, since mine decided to curdle and I had plenty of milk powder; if you’d like to use milk, or buttermilk, swap water and powdered for 9-10oz of the liquid.

Banana Caramel Rolls
6½ Tb/3.25oz Sugar
1 tsp/0.25oz Salt
5 ½ Tb/2.75oz Butter or Margarine, room temp
3 Tb/1oz Milk Powder
1 large/1.65oz Egg
1 tsp/0.1oz Vanilla Extract
2tsp/0.22oz Yeast
1 cup/8oz Water, slightly warmed
3½ cups/16oz Bread Flour

F20150816_152202or Filling
1 large Super-ripe Banana
5-6 Tb Sugar
¾ Tb Ground Star Anise
¾ Tb Ground Cinnamon
Pinch of Nutmeg if desired

For Caramel
6 Tb Butter, melted
5/8 cups Brown Sugar, firmly packed
1/6 cup Honey
¼ tsp Salt
1/8 tsp Ground Cinnamon
½ tsp Ground Star Anise
¼ tsp Black Pepper
½ – 1 cup Roasted Nut of your choice, whole or roughly chopped

Directions

  1. Cream together Salt, Sugar, Butter, and Milk Powder with mixer paddle attachment until ‘fluffy’20150816_124826
  2. Add in Egg and Vanilla, scraping down sides, and beat until mixed and smooth20150816_125106
  3. Mix Yeast and Water, leaving for 5 minutes to bloom20150816_122711~2
  4. Transfer to mixing bowl, with Flour, and mix on low-medium speed until everything comes together in a mass20150816_125624
  5. Switch out paddle with dough hook and start mixing on medium speed for 10 minutes, until dough is smooth, tacky, and barely sticky, adding flour as needed. It will still likely stick to the bottom of the bowl, look for it to pass the Windowpane Test20150816_131355
  6. Transfer to lightly oiled bowl, let bulk ferment 2 hours, until doubled in size20150816_152219
  7. While this is happening, make your Filling and Caramel. Combine the ripe Banana and all other ingredients in a bowl, mashing and mixing thoroughly into a consistent paste20150816_152653
  8. Separately, whisk the warm Butter, Brown Sugar, Honey, and Spices until smooth and saucy20150816_154140
  9. Spray counter with light mist of oil, transfer proofed dough to surface20150816_153326
  10. Lightly dust top and rolling pin with flour and roll out to 14”x12” (for larger buns) or 18”x9” (for smaller), the dough should end up 2/3” thick20150816_153720
  11. Spread your banana-spice paste evenly over the surface, stretching to the edges20150816_153938
  12. Roll up into a log, from the short end but really it’s up to you depending on thickness desired20150816_154734
  13. Cut log into 8-12 pieces at 1¾” lengths (for larger size) or 12-16 and 1¼”20150816_154615
  14. Spread Caramel along bottom of your baking pan/s, sprinkle with Toasted Nuts of your choice20150816_154856
  15. Lay rolls spiral-down in pan, leaving space between each, spray top with oil, and cover loosely with plastic to proof, 75-90 minutes, until dough has grown into each other20150816_173035
  16. Preheat oven 350F
  17. Move proofed dough to oven, sans plastic wrap of course, and leave to bake 30-40 minutes until developed an even, deeper golden color on top20150816_180708
  18. Remove and let rest on counter 5-10 minutes
  19. Place a larger pan upside-down on top of rolls, carefully grip edges, and quickly and smoothly flip both pans upside-down so that the still-hot rolls drop out caramel-size up. Spoon any dripping sauce back on top20150816_181512
  20. Pull some of the big suckers apart and enjoy while still warm! So good

What Have I Learned This Time?

Less Cinnamon, more ‘other spices’ required when trying to adjust flavors in something like this noticeably. Note, I’ve already made some adjustments in the recipe that SHOULD work if you wanna try it; otherwise just use all Cinnamon and the sugar.

At times, when not consuming caramel at the same time, I actually WAS able to get the banana, but I think I’d need even MORE just to make it really be a distinctive element.

Caramel Rolls are addicting… I seriously tried eating just HALF of one of these really big-ass buns on two occasions… during the same day… -cough- and both times ended up just consuming the whole thing. I’m pretty sure it’s due to that pull-apart aspect that just leads you going round and round and already eating ¾ before you know it so why not finish with the best part, the center?

Using a wider chef’s knife or something similar actually made for easy, clean cutting of the soft and stretchy dough, as opposed to trying more delicate, long slices.

Apparently caramel rolls are cooked longer than Cinnamon Rolls; I believe it’s because, in reality, the dough itself doesn’t need as much time, but one gives extra to ensure the caramel gets cooked to a certain point. Which I think is a bit bull, because I would rather have a caramel that’s still soft and gooey and running sauce-like over the thing, as opposed to it setting up into that firm almost ‘candied’ structure, though I do understand that’s a personal thing, and it still was quite addictive and good like that! But then again, I did also use a different caramel recipe; perhaps the one with corn syrup really needed some extra time to actually caramelize.

You ever see those absolutely gigantic cinnamon/caramel rolls that some diners serve, perhaps featured on TV? I now realize they’re probably not even that hard to make; just probably need to roll it out a little thicker, with less width and more length so as to roll it out into bigger, gigantic rounds. Now I really want to make one… a good reason to return for a Cinnamon Roll article huh?

Any Thoughts?

20150816_181904Well I was going to use the last part about the ‘giant’ rolls in here, but it fit better for a quick personal learning factor. I will say that having smaller rolls would be also quite beneficial… this batch gave me 8 individual pieces, and after the first day I had… 3 left. One of which I had for breakfast the next morning. So it was probably a good thing I gave the other two away to friends. And now I’m off to making a coconut milk custard to fill my sweet tooth’s incessant demands.

Does the Dough Like Me Yet?

We’re certainly sweeties (yuck yuck yuck), for once it’s the other things that I feel the need to adjust and play with. I almost struggled at one point, pretty sure the dough was too hydrated while it was kneading, but I think I adjusted it with enough flour rather well.

p4: A Study in White – Vanilla Ice Cream (Roasted Banana Style), Milk Caramel, Raw Apple Garnish

What originally brought me back to the interest of the Fat Duck cookbook was in fact a search for an ice cream custard recipe; in particular, one that didn’t use an cream, and ideally had some skim milk powder in sense I’ve got a leftover bag after my Sweet Bread creation. This was mainly prompted by the fact that I finally figured out how to get my ice cream machine cold enough at home (used to use it all the time in the dorm, the freezer there was PERFECTLY cold), so I can now put together some tasty custards and sorbets once again. Before now, I’d always have to use Heston’s trick of pouring crushed-up Dry Ice into a stand mixer with the cream base if I wanted any hope at a properly frozen and churned dessert.

Since I forgot my all-purpose, no-cream recipe that I used before (btw, I don’t use cream because that just means I have to go out and buy this pricier dairy item every time I get a whim; so much easier just to use milk and eggs that are at home); but I remembered attempting the Heston ice cream before, sans milk powder and when the freezer sucked. His Vanilla Bean Ice Cream perfectly fits all my requirements, and I can’t think of any better fun item to start off this project.

20150807_102920I did find two simple toppings to try out as well, both apple themed since 1: I’ve got a few in the fridge, it’s what works best at the moment and 2: the dish this recipe is originally used in is the ‘Cox’s Apple,’ and highly modernized and ultimate version of Heston’s experiments and interest in Tarte Tatin apparently. I actually wanted to do 3, but one of the ones I was dead-set on doing required 14 hours of sous-vide cooking, which I did NOT have the time to reproduce this last-minute; and another sorta-similar-resulting recipe used Pectin, a no-go for me right now too. But I do think I can get some somewhere…

20150807_102940The first is an ‘Apple Milk Caramel,’ a seemingly uncolored ‘caramel’ sauce made mostly from milk that has steeped from leftover apple cores and skins. The other, and yes I feel cheap even mentioning it, is ‘raw apple dice.’ But it’s not just cutting them up and garnishing, you’re supposed to preserve them in an acidified syrup of sorts before plating, but with the limit that it can’t be sit any longer than 2 hours. I’m curious to see if this actually has an effect on the apples and their flavor, or is just a high quality version of letting them sit in lemon-water.

What I’m Doing Wrong

First off, I’m going to go ahead and say it: I’m not using Vanilla Beans in this. As good and delicious as it would be, the fact is these guys are pricey, even if you find some ‘good deals;’ I only use them when I really want to make something special for a good occasion. This would certainly be the kind of recipe I’d do it with though; pure, unadulterated custard that shines on its own. The only effect of leaving this out should just be the lack of the vanilla’s flavor in any case; though it will also mean that I don’t need to perform the long steeping time to infuse the beans into scalded milk.

Counter to this, I’m also gonna use the opportunity to get rid of one of many VERY ripe bananas that I have. I’ve read a recipe on ‘Roasted Banana Ice Cream,’ the base of which is the same as a typical cream, only with the addition of a ripe banana that’s been roasted to develop its flavor, so I figure it shouldn’t negatively impact the final texture; or if it did, in a minor way.

20150807_213454Not like I expect to get a perfect texture either way. At the end of the day, I’m making this in a countertop ice cream machine; the book itself does state ‘churn in your machine until it reaches 23F’ (though I’m just going until it looks complete; I know enough about my machine to avoid ANY chances of interrupting the process and introducing warmth that I don’t ever want to stop it until it’s done), but the only way it can get as super smooth and perfect as his usually does is by either using liquid nitrogen, dry ice, or one of those awesome industrial machines. You know, the ones you see on Chopped and Iron Chef that they can put STEAMING HOT custard from the stove in directly and it freezes it within like, what, ten minutes? Those are just unfair. I HAVE developed at least one technique to ensure that my ice cream has the best chance to turn out without having to worry about the frozen container warming up too much on the counter before it’s frozen my mixture. And that is, of course, actually putting the machine in the freezer AS it’s churning the ice cream; one of the few advantages of having a small, dinky countertop ice cream churner!

Final change in the ice cream comes through the requirement of using ‘Fructose’ as the sugar source. I’m sure Heston has a tub of pure, neutral fructose to use for this; I do not. Instead I go for Honey, which is completely or almost completely fructose anyway, just with some added flavor. It works out well, since along with a banana ice cream I’ve been wanting to do a honey one too since I’ve got quite a bit leftover from my Nougat adventure. (Last minute note, I am now realizing that the fructose used in the book might be an actual powder; in which case, I may have fudged up t he solids-water ratio a tad)

20150807_215330Moving on, I’m also using honey in the ‘syrup’ for the raw apples; also, it calls for Lemon Juice and a bit of Vitamin C. I obviously don’t have the latter, and not going out to get some for just a measly 1 gram, and I can’t believe there’s no lemons in the fridge! No worries, an easy substitute for lemon juice is using ½ as much vinegar, and I just happen to have one from my work made from Calamansi! It’s a citrus fruit from the Philippines, tastes just like lime and tangerine juice, it’s perfect! It’ll help show any distinctive effects that might be ideally present.

By the way, as you’ll see in later pictures, I tried dicing the apples to a couple different sizes, mainly to see if it made any difference (though really because I wasn’t sure exactly how big 5mm was).

I also didn’t have any Malic Acid to use in the caramel, again a measly 1 gram (and note, I’m also reducing the volume on each of these by a lot, so less than that), but I ended up having more apple skins and core than required, so I left it like that in hopes they’d give a bit more flavor and potentially some natural malic acid to fulfill what may be needed by it.

Cool Science-y Stuff

If there’s anything important to ice cream creation, it’s two fiels: Proportion and Freezing. The latter is easy and understandable; the ideal temperature, and apparently the lowest one can get it to anyways, to freeze ice cream is -5C/23F for getting the fats and liquids frozen, keeping it moving constantly so that 1: the ice crystals don’t sit and grow into large structures that often create those ‘icy’ textures, and 2: incorporate some air for texture, the amount of which one gets in and thus increase the volume of the final mix is known as ‘overrun.’ Often the ideal result with most quality frozen custard is ‘100%’ overrun, or about doubling the size, whereas many mass-production frozen products increase this to almost insane degrees, giving you ‘more ice cream’ for the same, now cheap price. But generally, the colder one can get the freezing mechanism, and thus the faster this freezing can get done, while churning as quick as possible, creates the super tiny evenly-distributed crystals while getting SOME of that little moussey and creamy texture. Thus why the best ice creams, and all those in the Fat Duck, are usually frozen with Liquid Nitrogen while being whipped fast in a stand mixer.

20150813_003036But in order to get that ideal final texture, one requires an ice cream base that actual has the right molecular ratios to yield the result; it won’t even freeze if it’s a solution that just plain CAN’T, and when it finally does after certain forcing believe me it won’t be good. When looking into this, the one thing I actually learned, to my surprise, is that the percentages of Milk Solids, Fat, Sugar, and remaining Water/Liquid isn’t quite as strict as I imagined. There’s certainly an acceptable range of course, but different frozen-churned desserts have different proportions that affect the final flavor and consistency, allowing one to actually play around a bit. Milk Solids, which helps with air incorporation an fat droplet stabilization, range between 8-13%; overall solid matter averaging 30-45. Sugars actually help add to the total of solids, other than that the only real effect is flavor; having too much mainly affects the solid balance, which is why it’s harder to freeze in a proper consistency. The ideal range is usually quite narrow, 14-17% of the total but Gelato can go up to 24. Finally, Fat stabilizes, since it melts so slow; that and affecting how rich it gets, though interestingly enough also having an inverse effect on flavor release. It’s slow-starting, but lingers longer, while-as low-fat creams burst their flavor faster and for shorter periods, but consequently melt faster. One’s choice of percentage can range widely for these, from as low as 3 to as high as 20. Note I’ve made no inclusion of figures for Sorbet, Sherbet, or Milkshake ranges in any of these

To give one example, traditional Gelato keeps a Fat% of 3-8, Milk Solids 8-11, and Sugar 14-24, combining (give or take) into a final Sold% of 32-42. The book has an awesome table listing these for different styles of ice cream, along with typical % for commonly used, and Heston’s favorite chemical, ingredients. I took a picture and listed them for reference on the side, hopefully you can see all right. I know in the future I’ll be using this to calculate all my experimental ice cream recipes.

Also learned that different sugars, though using the exact same weight, have different affects on level; pure glucose is actually sweeter than sucrose, table sugar, a mix of glucose and fructose. Of course they also affect flavor.

Heston’s recipe, it should be noted, was crafted after much trial and error to be create a very clean-flavored, low-custardy yet ‘creamy’ result that allows additional flavors to shine, mainly so that it can be served with other food and not overpower it. Thus why it focuses on all milk, improving the texture with milk solids that will increase the dairy flavor and consistency without the strong fatty flavor/feeling.

‘Vanilla’ Ice Cream, Roasted Banana version
20150807_1031521 Banana
(1 Vanilla Pod)
333ml Whole Milk
60g Egg Yolks (about 4)
32g Honey (Fructose)
14g Skimmed Milk Powder
(3 coffee beans)

Directions

  1. (Cut Vanilla pods in half, scrape out seeds. Put pod in pan w/ Milk, simmer gently for 10 minutes, remove and cool to 140F)20150807_111012
  2. Poke Banana, unskinned, with toothpick, and place in 350F oven for 40-60 minutes, depending on ripeness. Peel and reserve20150807_105727
  3. Whisk Yolk and Honey for at least 5 minutes to a pale yellow, foamy consistency20150807_110039
  4. Add in 140F scalded Milk, whisking to combine, followed by the Milk Powder (and Coffee Beans)20150807_110739
  5. Heat to 160F, stirring often, and hold for 10 minutes to pasteurize
  6. Add in banana, mashing and whisking until fully incorporated20150807_111842
  7. Strain custard into a separate bowl, ideally over ice bath, and leave to cool20150807_112646
  8. Transfer to covered container and let mature in fridge 8-24 hours20150807_213359
  9. Churn in desired machine and fashion until 23F, or set and airy. Transfer back to container and move to freezer to store20150807_215759

Apple Milk Caramel
166g Whole Milk
50g Sugar
50+g reserved Apple Cores and Peelings
(1/3g Malic Acid)

Directions

  1. Bring all the ingredients to a simmer, then let sit off heat for 30 minutes to infuse20150809_180850
  2. Strain through a fine sieve into pan, return to hit and bring back to a simmer20150809_184025
  3. Let cook, knowing that it WILL curdle, ‘until refractometer shows that is has reached 74 Brix,’ or until the liquid get to a desired thick consistency when cooled but does NOT brown or color20150809_190227
  4. Strain through fine sieve again into storage container, move to fridge until use20150809_191825

Raw Diced Apple
40g Honey (Fructose)
75g Water
0.5g Salt
3g Calamansi or other Citrus Vinegar (5g Lemon juice+0.5g Vitamin C)
1 Green Apple (Granny Smith ideal actually)

Directions

  1. Combine Honey, Water, and Salt in pan, heating until dissolved20150807_215601
  2. Cool over ice or in fridge, adding in Calamansi Vinegar (or actual Lemon Juice and C)20150809_175737
  3. When ready, peel and dice Apple to 5mm brunoise, adding to sirup for, at most, 2 hours until needed20150809_180026

Results

20150809_193307Really, this sort of ice cream truly does need a fast-freezing method; with its higher milk focus vs eggs, a trait that another blogger prized since they were looking for a less-custardy option (they even thought THIS had too much yolk, crazy person), it still ended up icy with my machine. Still better than my previous ice cream attempts. In my situation, I think next time I’ll use more yolks to improve texture; besides, I much prefer and look for a more custardy ice cream for my all-purpose base. That said, I see the appeal to this mostly-milk formulae, the lack of custard really helps it pick up and express other flavors. That roasted banana came out pure and simple, and I bet that vanilla would have been glorious if used. Can’t wait to use it again, also to actually better see the effect of the milk powder in comparison to something I’m more used to.

20150809_193423Now, onto other things. I will say the flavor of that syrup DID come through a bit with those apple, at least when only briefly drained, and as expected moreso with masses of smaller pieces vs larger, so not a surprise. However, I WAS using some more distinctly flavored ingredients in it, and I expect that, if following the original recipe, those would actually be neutral, the use being to provide a solution for the apples to sit in that is of equal water-sugar-acid ratios to the fruit itself, not diluting or changing its flavor. So at least I know that; oh, and I now have some leftover syrup that I’m sure I can do something tasty with.

I’m pretty sure I didn’t cook the ‘caramel’ as long as I needed; I would have returned it to the pan to keep going too, but I barely had any and there wasn’t much time until my 2 hours on the raw apples were up. Besides, it was saucy enough and the flavor shouldn’t have actually changed anymore, so I still got a solid impression. And overall what I tasted I liked; they were right, very lactic and sweet and nice, like a dulce de leche that hasn’t caramelized… oh wait…

The white chocolate of the milk caramel world, the back of my mind is quite tingled with the idea of introducing this to some other desserts in the future. Problem comes through the fact that it can’t be paired with any strong flavors; after over an hour of cooking, long waiting to end up with only a quarter-ish cup of sauce, I could barely taste it alongside my banana ice cream; then again, that might have been the more icy and distinct results of my frozen attempts. Not to mention that, unless REALLY looking while eating as-is, I couldn’t really tell there was any apple in it. My guess was that being a result of the apple leftovers I used; the greens, which I love eating cuz they’re so crisp, probably don’t have that strong aromatic flavor in their flesh and skins like the best cooking apples do. And maybe if the sauce thickened, perhaps even reduced, a bit more, that may have helped.

But despite my negatives, there are plenty of positive results, and I understand these recipes and how I’d want to apply them in the future, and isn’t that the real goal of trying out new things in the kitchen? I know I can’t wait until my next casual ice cream, just to have more sweet deliciousness in the freezer, and finding an excuse to retry the milk syrup. Apples are apples though, I’ll just cut those up right before I need them next time.

20150809_192031Oh! One extra discovery! After draining out the caramel from the ‘curd,’ I actually tasted some of the solidified milk, and it was quite interesting. It actually tasted and had the texture of fresh cheese, but notably sweet and desserty; which is basically what it was. The texture isn’t super ideal, a little ‘springy’-er than I’d want, but I think I can do something with this, mixed with apples and nuts in a streusel maybe…

p2: Crepes Suzette

Somewhat a continuation of my previous post on savory Crepes.

The Sweet

201110-r-crepes-suzetteIn the crepe’s origins, buckwheat ruled, being mixed into a batter consisting purely of itself, water, and rock salt. Cooked on both sides in a thin layer, this created a very crisp, and often very fragile pastry. As time went on, the interests in southern Brittany and other areas of France learning of this dish started changing their tastes, requiring the ‘pastry’ be filled and stuffed. As it was, these buckwheat crepes would fail this task miserable, breaking in half whenever attempting to fold. Thus those cravings-driven cooks of shops and home began to add eggs, milk, and butter, softening its structure and turning the French flatbread into a French pancake, entering the second step in its evolution towards the foldable street food we love today.

As white flour became steadily more available in the 1900’s, crepe’s structure thoroughly began to change, diverging the styles between an extremely soft, all-flour version and the more traditional dark floured one (which I’ve discussed somewhat Here). This former was particularly celebrated with royalty (likely before its price dropped), and in Paris and Southern France, almost exclusively being used for desserts. It is from here that the epitome of cooking with these pancakes developed, Crepes Suzette.

Like many a classic recipe, the story Suzette’s origins abound with different versions. The most advertised, and also debated, story comes about from a certain Chef Henri Charpentier. While cooking a tableside dessert of crepes cooked in orange juice, sugar, and liqueur for the Prince of Wales, a frequent customer. By accident, the sauce caught fire in the pan, burning into a gentle flambé. With no choice other than complete humiliation either way, he served the ‘ruined’ dish, only to be met with even more love from the Prince. When asked its name, Charpentier told him it was to be called “Crepes Princesse” after the Prince, the dish automatically making it name female. Out of mock ferocity, the Prince demanded that the lady at the table, a daughter of his guest named Suzette, be honored instead.

Though interesting, much contesting has been done. Mainly the fact that, at the year this now-famous chef stated it happened, he would have only been around 14. The main issue comes in the fact that, usually, only the Head Waiter would have served tableside, and he’d be way too young for that. Though potential unique circumstances could have made it possible, especially explaining the screw-up, but it’s not likely. Of interest, it’s also rumored that the young lady may not have been a regular ‘friendly acquaintance’ and more, ummm… paid for.

A similar royal story pits a chef named Jean Reboux, who was supposedly asked to make something by a lovestruck Princess Suzette de Carignan for King Louis XV.

One of the more interesting accounts lie with another chef, named simply Monsieur Joseph, in the presence of the actress Suzanne (Suzette being her nicknamed) Reichenburg; or, as yet another account states, a waitress of the dish’s name that served the play. The chef would generously supply crepes for the cast and, to ensure they stayed warm for the performance, lit them in the fiery sauce.

Of final note, and probably the only set thing that could help explain the origin of this elusively researched dish, is a recipe in Oscar Tschirky’s 1896 New York cookbook for “Pancakes, Casino Style,” basically a complete formulation for Crepes Suzette minus the flambé. Following this in 1907, Auguste Escoffier then describes the complete version of Crepes Suzette in his famous Le Guide Culinaire.

Whatever the origins and methods (psychotic as it is to say, there’s so much more things I could type on this idea), Crepes Suzette came out too much acclaim, truly the harbinger not only of Crepe desserts everywhere but leading the charge for the flambéed dish movement. Truly one of the heights of high French sweet cuisine.

Chef’s Overdramatic Self-Centered Lecture Corner

Finding the truly traditionally composition and technique, basing it on the dish during the height of its fame and not on a singular point of creation or more recent version, has proven to be a very challenging feat. In fact, with the many sources and styles I’ve found, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as One True Version of this; there are in fact multiple choices and slight variations done while still keeping it, in my opinion, ‘classic.’ I’ve thus had to narrow down which ones I prefer in this instance.

20140824_115746Though I should start with my first quandary in my search; see, the one thing I knew I wanted to do, and was very much a classic technique, was this thing I saw Jacque Pepin talk about in the Crepe episode of him+Julia Child. This is where he took sugar cubes and rubbed them on an orange, using them as the sugar base for the ‘classic style’ crepe, while later he also showed a ‘more modern do-at-home version’ where he made a compound butter. The odd, and really frustrating, thing was that, despite my many searches, I could never find his recipe online that included the zest-infused sugar. Only the compound butter. And no video clips of the episode.

Many other searches, both in classic books and traditional recipes, yielded something surprising; this Compound Butter method, where one mixes sugar, zest, and orange juice (with perhaps other ingredients) together, using to very quickly and easily melt in the pan and/or over the crepes before flambé-ing (Jacque melted it in a broiler), it just kept popping up. It wasn’t just something made up in the last couple decades, but perhaps a link to the classic high restaurant style, likely inspired by finishing savory pan gravies for meat with herb-butters.

So our first choice is to do this, or build our own syrup from scratch in the pan, usually achieved by combining orange juice, zest, your sugar, and butter(either in the beginning or later) and reducing down, perhaps with some of the booze. I prefer the latter method, just because it feels like I can develop more flavors, and there’s this calm, classic feeling of building your sauce one bit at a time that I fell in love with when making French cuisine.

At some point we need the crepes to mix and soak with this sauce. But when we flambé, do we leave them in the pan, or are they transferred to a serving dish, and flambé the booze on the side to pour over? Both are seen and done in front of guests to add flare, the former being developed exclusively in restaurants as they cooked the sauce and crepes on a pan in front of customers. As such the flambé would happen in the same pan, to keep things simple, and transferred to plates from there. The latter is just as often seen in recipes, so it was a tough choice for me; ultimately, since I had no restraints like restaurant table-side service, I thought it’d be fun, plus it gives me more of a chance to light all the booze directly and not risk the crepes potentially muddling the fire up in the beginning.

Though that also leads into one quick decision; most of the recipes that call for this have the liquor heated in a separate, empty pan. Which is fine, but after your crepes are soaked and transferred, there’s all this sticky, delicious sauce left in the bottom and edges of your pan. So I just dump it in the same pan while hot to scrape up as much of the remaining, and even more developed, flavor that I can. Then I make a show of it.

Our final method articulation lies in something that I never would have considered until I started actually looking at recipes: Caramel. Seen with Jacque and certain others, there are a few recipes that sprinkle sugar on top of the sauced crepes at the end before the fire, or before broiling, meant to have them caramelize like a crème brulee. Other recipes, however, have started off their sauce making by, instead of just dissolving sugar in orange juice, cooking the sugar as-is until it just browns, then building the sauce. This flavor of caramel, also a tie in to certain aged tastes in the cognac spirit and liqueur, is thus a newly interesting and required component to the final flavor. I of course have to attempt it in the simple and classic sense of brulee, but I would love to try the other method to really get the richer flavor in some other time.

Speaking of liqueur, that is one last thing I want to talk about before ending my tirade. Though something about Grand Marnier just feels right to me, I have seen plenty of excerpts mentioned using Cointreau, another cognac-based orange liqueur. A such I think any Orange Liqueur, just so long as it used COGNAC as the base, is acceptable; but no Triple Sec or Orangecello or whatnot, my apologies but that just isn’t a true and proper Suzette sauce. Following that, whether or not one also adds a bit of Cognac or other decent-quality Brandy to the mix… up to you. I’ve seen many recipes that just use the liqueur, but I do like the flavor developed by mixing the two. Mainly I would suggest, if you want to try it, mixing them beforehand, tasting to get the exact ratio that you like (mine was very Grand Marnier centered with maybe only 30% Cognac in it) before starting to cook your Suzette.

That way everything is just right to start your perfect Suzette recipe.

Crepes Suzette
80 grams (ish) Sugar Cubes
2 Oranges
Tsp Salt
1 Stick Cold Butter
¼ cup + 2 Tb Grand Marnier
3-4 Tb Cognac
4-5 Large or 6-8 Medium-sized Crepes (recipe follows)

Directions

  1. Taking your Sugar Cubes, one at a time, carefully but thoroughly rub each side over the skin of one of the Oranges until it changes color and grabs its aroma.20140824_114257
  2. Crush cubs into grain, also scraping off any sugar that’s stuck to the orange, and reserve your orange-sugar on the side.20140824_124633
  3. Zest the other Orange, and Juice both citrus fruits.
  4. Combine these with Salt, all but 2 Tb of sugar, 2 Tb of Grand Marnier and 1 Tb Cognac in warm sauce pan.20140824_182041
  5. Heat, on medium, to boil, stirring to dissolve and letting cook 5-15 minutes, as needed, until reduced by about half into a syrup.20140824_183130
  6. Remove from heat, roughly chop cold Butter and toss in, stirring until fully melted and emulsified in.20140824_183653
  7. Take your pre-cooked Crepes and lay in pan, one at a time. Let briefly rest, flipping over to coat both sides in the orange sauce.20140824_183558
  8. Fold into quarters, picking and hanging up to let any excess syrup drip, and transfer to a heat proof casserole, broiler, or other such dish.
  9. Repeat with remaining crepes until they’re all used up or almost all syrup has been absorbed, whichever comes first.20140824_184045
  10. Move pan back to stove to start heating up. While this is happening, sprinkle the remaing 1-2 Tb of Sugar over the folded crepes in a thing and even layer.
  11. Once pan is hot, the thin layer of sauce is bubbling, start the flambé process. Very quickly, dump in your remaining alcohol (if using a Gas stove, off-heat), briefly stirring and swirling to pick up and deglaze the leftovers of sauce.20140824_184138
  12. Light with flame (match, blow torch, gas stove, etc) and pour the ignited liquid over the crepes.20140824_184145
  13. Wait until the fire goes down, the edges have browned and sugar is dissolved (and hopefully somewhat caramelized), and serve.20140824_184156
  14. Transfer hot crepes onto plate, spooning extra sauce remaining in pan over the top.20140824_184515
  15. If desired, serve with fresh or candied fruit, ice cream, or whatever desired. Enjoy

Sweet Crepes
1/3 cup Sugar
1 Tb Buckwheat Flour
1 Tb Melted Butter
1/3 cup Water
Tsp Vanilla
2 Tb Grand Marnier
Tsp Salt
Zest of 1 Orange
2 Eggs
1 ¾ cup AP Flour
2 ¼ cup Low-fat Milk

Directions

  1. In a bowl mix Sugar, Buckwheat, Butter, Water, Vanilla, Grand Marnier, Salt, Orange zest, and Eggs together.20140824_130753
  2. Sift flour and add, alternating, with the Milk, mixing well and until smooth.20140824_131209
  3. Let rest for at least an hour and get your crepe-making equipment and station prepped and ready, brushing surface with an oiled paper towel.20140824_131315
  4. Heating your pan, stone, etc to a medium-high-ish heat, scoop a small ladle of batter just outside the center.20140824_170043
  5. Very quickly, spread/swirl the batter around in a thin layer, getting as even a circle as possible.20140824_150110
  6. Once edges start to brown and curl lightly, or it lifts easily and is evenly browned on the bottom layer, lift and quickly flip to its other side.20140824_150142
  7. Let cook until it browned, remove from pan and stack with other crepes between wax or parchment paper for later. Optionally, one can sprinkle with preferred fruit, sauce, jam, or other filling right after flipping, folding or rolling to serve hot.20140824_150157

My Thoughts

The only things of note for the next time I make this is one: a little too boozy, but in the best ways (it by no means ruined the flavor, I just think a little less would allow the orange sauce to shine further); note that I originally used over ½ cup of alcohol when cooking but as you can see pared it down to 1/3-ish for the recipe. And secondly, I’m a bit saddened the sugar on top didn’t caramelize as intended (I doubted it ever would in ANY person’s recipe/attempt, but thought I’d try), but again was still delicious, added a bit extra something. Maybe next time I’ll actually caramelize some of the sugar in the pan I build the orange sauce in?20140824_184150

Besides those slight adjustments, our suzette was simply heavenly. Depth and richness pervaded from the aged cognac-based spirits, with flavors of orange both fresh and developed, hanging around a syrupy sauce that clung to the fully tender and soaked French pancakes. It made me drool as I ate and I licked the plate clean. Something tells me my family will force me to make it again, not that I’d mind.

20140824_184320Possible Pairings

Truly I can’t think of any better partner than pouring yourself a simple, straight up shot of ice-cold Grand Marnier, or whichever cognac-based orange liqueur you used. No need to make cocktails, or get something rare and unique, just let yourself enjoy the deep flavors that actually pervade what is this complicated liqueur, all while appreciating the same flavors and more in your dessert.

Though one could also use it as an excuse, in the same vein, to have a sipper of Cognac, either the same you used here or, ideally, an even better and longer aged beauty, kept at room temperature or a touch lower (no heating your cognac! Bad dog!). Then again, I’ve found Armagnacs (cognac’s not-so-smooth, very aromatically fire-y cousin) that bring a noted nose of oranges to the party, making it a fun substitute if you can find the right bottle.

If we did want to walk outside those alcohols that were used in the recipe, I will admit there’s a part of me that for whatever reason craves an Australian ‘Sticky,’ their richly fruity and caramel-y fortified dessert wines, especially the ones made from Moscato. The syrupiness and richness and alcy body just feel like they’d be a nummy match.untitled2

p2: Tarte Tatin

msb_05_tarttatine_xlThe Sweet

The idea of making an Apple Tart in a caramelized, upside-down fashion isn’t new, featuring in various instances in Northern France recipes. Careme himself mentions “gâteaux renversés” in his 1841 “Patissier Royal Parisien,” glazed and using apples from Rouen. It’s said the actual dish and technique itself is named “Tarte Solognotte,” named after the Sologne region in which it became a specialty.

But its fame never stood out until the late, late 1800’s, when two sisters within that Sologne region opened up a hotel. They may not have officially invented it, but Stephanie and Caroline Tatin’s famous dessert brought the “Tarte Tatin” to the forefront of popularity, even though they never advertised nor released a recipe; the name itself was written by the famous French epicure and auther Curnonsky.

And their “happening” upon the dish is a funny story, depending on who you choose to believe, if anybody. For of course many claim an “accidental creation” by the sisters, and in more ways than one. There have been those who state one of the sisters accidentally put a regular tart in the oven upside-down. While others say that the apples for a pie filling started to burn one day, so they quickly covered in dough and moved to an oven to try and salvage. Whatever the story, and whether any of it is actually true, the fact remains that the sumptuously caramelized dessert vaulted to the forefront of epicurean popularity, especially after the owner of Maxim’s in Paris decided to place it on their menu.

And the rest is history. We now see the Tarte Tatin lauded in various blogs, randomly discussed in Pastry classes, used in classic and modern interpretations throughout wherever, featured in an episode of the Simpsons Ratatouille-Anton-Ego-remeniscent-even-though-the-damn-“flashback where he enjoyed “Tarte Tatin a-la-mode”-was-using-a-slice-of-regular-apple-pie-instead-of-proper-tarte-tatin-the-lazy-and-insulting-bastards… etc.

Chef’s Overdramatic Self-Centered Lecture Corner

How I see it, there are two main ways to make one of these well. The first, and most easily controlled, method is to simply make a caramel in the saucepan, then arrange the apples (cooking a bit more if desired) on top and baking. The second is cooking the sugar, butter, and apples all together until it caramelizes completely. I personally prefer the latter, since it feels a bit more classic, plus I love the idea of all the flavors mingling and developing together at the same time. Though the first method is great for trying out OTHER kinds of tart tatins (pear, peach, mango, etc).

One main note; when cooking the mixture, which will boil quite vigorously (no need to worry, it settles down a lot once taken off the stove), one needs to make sure it’s at a nicely medium-high to high temperature. If it’s too low, the apples will soften to almost mush before it caramelizes (in fact the apple half I was gonna use as my “centerpiece,” which I had put in first, split in half just as I was about finished). Too high isn’t much of an issue though; other recipes say “too low is mush, and too high the apples won’t cook enough,” which is complete bull. I actually replaced my ruined center with two RAW quarters, and those were completely cooked after I took it out of the oven.

Though one should take care to keep the apples moving around when cooking it hot; as you’ll see a couple of mine started to get some burns. Though on the other hand I think that actually stayed stuck to the pan after flipping, leaving just the beautifully smooth and caramelly apple top.

ApplesAs for the apples themselves, the truly French classics are made using a couple varieties called “Reine des Reinettes” (King of the Pippins) and “Calville.” Good luck, if you can find them in the US then a miracle has taken place (and please tell me where and how you did it!). Otherwise, basic baking/pie apples work as a good substitution, such as Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Braeburn, Gala, and Jonathan; I went with Braeburn myself.

In the matter of dough, though quite a few recipes call for and some other pages say you “can use” Puff Pastry, in theoretics it should always be made by some kind of Shortcrust or other flaky Pie dough; if you wanted to stay traditional that is.

Tarte Tatin
5-6 Braeburn, Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Gala or similar apples
4 oz (1 stick) Butter
1 cup Sugar
Tsp Salt
Basic Pie Dough (recipe follows)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375F.SAMSUNG
  2. In a wide-bottomed pan set to Medium-High, melt the Butter.SAMSUNG
  3. Once melted (or close to), sprinkle in your Sugar, stirring to incorporate until the grains dissolve somewhat.SAMSUNG
  4. While waiting for that to happen, quickly peel, quarter, and cut the cores out of your first 3-4 apples.SAMSUNG
  5. Toss them into the pan, turning to coat in the sugary fat.SAMSUNG
  6. As space opens up through cooking, peel and quarter the remaining apples (as needed) to fill the pan in as complete a single layer as possible.SAMSUNG
  7. Let cook for about 20 minutes, or until the bubbling sugar gets well caramelized. Stir every so often to ensure apples don’t burn and caramel is evenly distributed.SAMSUNG
  8. Remove, letting the caramel settle and arranging the apples, cut side up (so the uncut side will be up once flipped), in the pattern desired.SAMSUNG
  9. Prepare the Crust. Flour and roll out the dough in a large enough circle to cover the pan, trimming and cutting around a lid or similarly sized item.SAMSUNG
  10. Fold (or roll over pin, your preference) and move it over the apples to cover completely. Poke a few small holes around the dough to ensure venting.
  11. Place in oven, baking 30-35 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through.SAMSUNG
  12. Remove, letting cool at least 10 minutes for the caramel to set somewhat.SAMSUNG
  13. Place serving plate or other pan over top, quickly and carefully flipping. Fix any apples that may have stuck, slice into wedges, and serve however desired (ice cream with cookies and meringue is good…).SAMSUNG

Basic Pie Dough
2 ½ cup Flour
Tsp Salt
8 oz (2 sticks) Butter, cold
¼-½ cup Iced Water

Directions

  1. Combine Flour and SaltSAMSUNG
  2. Chop the cold Butter into small pieces, adding them in. With your fingertips or in a food processor, start working the butter into the dough, pulsing or kneading it until the flour has a cornmeal-ish AND a good amount of pea-sized butter pieces.SAMSUNG
  3. Slowly drizzle in ¼ cup of Water, mixing it into the dough quickly until it comes together/pulls from the side, adding more water as necessary.SAMSUNG
  4. Divide in half, press into a flat round and wrap in plastic. Move into the fridge for at least an hour before use.SAMSUNG

My Thoughts

What is it about cooked apples and pie crust that makes us so damn insatiable, craving bite after bite until the whole damn baking dish is gone? I blame the butter, mainly in the crust but especially in the caramel for this old dessert. The whole thing was gone before the end of the night.

Really rich, sticky, toffee-like caramel, muSAMSUNGch of which was leftover in the cooking pan to spoon up and chow down as is (look at it hang off that spoon!). The apples were just so soft and sweet and yum, contrast this with the perfectly crispy crunchy crust and this just makes a craveable after-dinner treat. I was actually worried about the crust, too, since as you can see in the pics some caramel had sorta “soaked through” part of it during cooking, but even that was still crispy. Oh, and that was after the raw dough just sat on top of the wet caramel for like half an hour or more (we were supposed to be at a certain point in dinner prep, but certain people were just sloooowwww and didn’t inform me until AFTER getting the pie dough on); so suffice it to say it’s a pretty durable recipe.

End of the day, I liked it and really wanna make it again, maybe with some different fruit.

23Possible Pairings

Deep, richly flavored caramelized apples? Sounds like a job for Calvados to me, the signature apple brandy of Northern France. If you can find an amazingly old, smoothly aged XO or similar quality bottle, that would make for quite the divine experience.

Though a deliciously syrupy glass of dessert wine wouldn’t be too bad either. Despite the regional closeness though, I don’t think any of the Loire dessert wines would work so well, at least not with THIS version of Tarte Tatin. They’re usually of the lighter, medium sweet variety, great with cheeses and lighter desserts. So unless one found a REALLY old, concentrated Quarts de Chaume (like a grand cru of the dessert region) or have a tarte tatin that’s not so deep with caramel, then I say go with another region.

Good quality, deeply colored old Saut24ernes; Selection des Grains Nobles from Alsace; Tokaji Aszu from Hungary, preferably of the higher puttonyo range; the Brown Stickies (Muscats, Tawnies, whatever they call them) from Australia, and, oh, a PX (pedro ximenez) from Sherry. All rich, syrupy, delectably sticky drinks influenced by botrytis, barrel ageing, oxidation, or a combination of all three. There are so many more similar fortified and dessert wines which jump up (god I want a Marsala right now), but this is a good starter list.

Truthfully, those are all probably TOO sweet and heavy for the actual dish, but I just can’t help but craaavveeee them whenever I think of this caramelly caramelly pie. Guess I’ve got a sweet tooth.

Actually, thinking about what would make a more “proper” and technical pairing, a dry Oloroso Sherry. It has those deep and complex flavors, matching oxidized caramelization, and I think the salty levels would juxtapose the sweetness in a fun way. Or maybe an Amontillado, which would still have some yeasty characters, which would pair nicely with the pie crust.25

Huh, a little more chatter with my dessert pairings than I usually try for. Oh well, pie and super-sweet wines gets me excited. Don’t forget to look into beers as well!