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.

p2: Nougat de Montélimar

The Sweet

Mnougatsom just came back from a business trip to Italy, thought it’d be fun to make some sort of Italianish-French, or at least European, treat as a welcome home gift! And she loves almonds. My first thoughts were Macarons, but since, as with most of my inspirations for what and when to do these recipes has been lately, it was rather last-minute, I couldn’t quite prepare the proper ingredients and recipe in time. That said, my plan for doing a ‘double post’ a-la my Duck yielded to a surprising and craving revelation; see, I was going to stuff the macaron with the French Almond Nougat, which I had thought was that marzipan-y almond paste snack you see all over each country. To my surprise did I find out it was actual nougat, which until now I hadn’t realized is what one of my favorite Christmas-time recipes for Divinity basically was. It would NOT have made a good delicate macaron filling, but damn is it good, has almonds, and is a candy seen in one form or another throughout Europe, especially the Mediterranean.

Nougat on its own has a few interesting points in its history that stood out; did you know that the confection itself, basically the original mixture of heavily whipped egg whites with cooked sugar, started in the Middle East? Which I can sort of see, I can imagine some of the finer cultures, known for many of their sugar/honey sweets mixed with nuts and sesame, mixing big pots of cooked sweet stuff with the nut of choice to be served for royalty. What’s rather cool, in my opinion, was the candy, and as such interest and technique, spread with the Phoenicians, known as tradesmen who traveled all through the Mediterranean. These were the same people who originally spread wine and grape vines to Europe, and now apparently candies.

Then there’s the name; originally, this kind of treat was named ‘Halau,’ a derivative of their word for ‘sweet,’ and further proof it was probably one of, if not THE, first candy techniques ever developed; at least in the Middle East. Nougat came from the Latin term ‘Nux,’ which meant Walnut, a popular and mostly used ingredient at the time. It was only in the 1700’s when a certain agronomist planted Almond trees in France, apparently FOR nougat, that the Nougat de Montelimar was born.

The candy itself is made very much like Marshmallows, but without the Gelatin. Egg whites are beaten until stiff, have a lot of super-hot sugar added in, and continued to whip until it cools down and starts to get hard, in which one adds in nuts and transfers to a pan to set up, to which it gets hard and can be cut in big slices, bite-sized squares, or whatever. Montelimar style, as compared to Italian Torrone or US Divinity, is distinctive in using Honey as a major sugar and flavor source, and sometimes incorporates Pistachios.

Chef’s Overdramatic Self-Centered Lecture Corner

Now, there are two main styles of ‘nougat’ here; there’s a softer, chewier version, sometimes first, but easily breakable that’s often simply termed nougat or nougat de montelimar. And then there’s ‘Nougatine,’ a much harder, cracking version that’s made with caramelized sugar; before I heard the name distinction, I was much debating if I should make it classically hard or soft, but since the latter isn’t pure ‘nougat,’ as I like to seek, it can be held off for another personal fun time.

20150725_104557Another intriguing requirement for this particular candy, in order to fit the regional designations that allow business to certify it as ‘de Montelimar’ Nougat, is Ratios. Not only does it have to use those certain ingredients mentioned, they have to be put in to a certain amount so as to characteristically fit the required bill. If I remember correctly, Honey had to compose 25% of the candy, and 30% had to be the nuts; either 28% Almonds and 2% Pistachio, or all of it Almond, but nothing else. I can’t say the recipe that I chose to base my own off of got these exactly right, though it seemed very close; besides, not many others were that close either, and some of the ones that really talked about it would then include all these other practices that just seem blah to me.

For instance, the use of corn syrup or glucose in with the cooked sugar. Hey, I get the use of that for candies nowadays, the stability is awesome, especially for home use. But this should be a TRADITIONAL recipe, a treat indicative to something made for at least a couple centuries on bright spring days after the honey. This was kept simple, made in an old pot with just a giant mound of sugar, cooked carefully in the way it should have been. So a recipe that only used sugar next to the honey was the way to go.

20150725_215630I did make some adjustments however; firstly, the recipe itself called for just cooking the sugar on its own, dry… which is possible to melt properly in a pan without immediately caramelizing brown, but oh so damn difficult. Better to just add some water and let it dissolve first; we need this clear at the hard ball stage of 285F to get the perfect texture, otherwise it’ll just get too damn tough. That and of course mess with the flavor.

Secondarily, this popular recipe had us start out cooking the honey and sugar separately, as all good recipes do, but then added the hot honey into the sugar to cook them both up to the 285F range together. At first, this seems harmless, rather logical; you know you can make a caramel out of pure honey too right? The issue is, when one cooks honey up to that range, it starts to brown and oxidize/caramelize/other-stuff a LOT sooner, and this reaction apparently speeds up when it’s mixed with regular sugar; or only happens when mixed with regular sugar, can’t remember. Either way, if one did this it would end up creating a nougat that’s distinctly darkened in color, not to mention would skew the final flavors. I don’t like that, so I decided to follow the lead of other recipes which, instead, heated the honey itself to 250F, add that into the whipped egg whites alone first, and then the sugar later. Not only to we preserve this amazing honey flavor without changing the color, but it helps to sort of ‘prime’ the egg whites for the much-hotter sugar syrup.

Speaking of sugar some more, this recipe also had the technique where, along with the nuts and vanilla, one dumps in some powdered sugar at the very end to mix in. God I debated whether or not to do this so long, because on the one hand I know that is not a really ‘traditional’ step, it can’t be. That said, making any kind of changes to sugar content can really mess up what I wanted to make. Luckily, I found an excerpt that explained the results of this, basically the sugar would get in and interrupt the long ‘strands’ of sugar to create a candy that broke easier, almost make it ‘softer’ in a certain sense. I actually preferred the idea of a nougat that would bend more, be chewy. Then I realized that of course it shouldn’t really affect it, since the sugar ‘requirement’ for the exact texture result would be all in the cooked; any powdered sugar added last-minute wouldn’t try ‘bolster’ this. So yah, doy me. And end of the day, another step bites the dust.

Of course I had to get pistachios in here; we had a large handful in the pantry that had still to be consumed, so it was the perfect recipe to toss them in. No I did not measure, but at the end of the day, unless REALLY trying to following the ratios, which one can figure I also had to not be too hung over for once just to make sure I make a proper nougat, having more or less nuts just determines how much more or less crunchy things one has in their whipped-egg-sugar-treat.

One final note, this one of warning. Candy making IS quite the bitch; recipes are simple, but getting the timing an temperatures right takes a lot of focus and staying in the kitchen the whole time, not to mention knowing what you’re doing the whole time. But if anything, you want the right equipment; do not, and I stress do NOT, attempt something like this, at least on your first time, without a decent stand mixer. Hand mixers don’t cover ground properly, whisking by hand is going to hurt like hell and be all but impossible to keep up the speed needed, and both cases take away the use of one hand for most of it, not good.

Now, I’ll say right now I had some not-so-idealistic results in my final candy, so the recipe that follows has been adjusted to something that should have a much better chance of success.

Nougat de Montélimar
500 grams Almonds
50 grams Pistachios
200 grams Honey
275 grams Sugar
2-3 Tb Water
2 Large Egg Whites
1 tsp Vanilla

Directions

  1. Pop Almonds and Pistachios in 400F oven for up to 6 minutes, until lightly toasted. Remove, placing back in a warmed oven when close to fabrication20150725_215658
  2. Prepare desired pan, spraying it evenly with oil before pressing in a lay of Wax paper
  3. Place Honey in one saucepot and the Sugar+Water mixture in another with candy or other suitable thermometers, turning heat to medium/medium-high20150725_220135
  4. Stir often in both until they start to boil; start stirring constantly in honey and remove spoon completely in sugar, brushing the sides of the pan down with cold water if crystals start forming on the sides20150725_220452
  5. Place Egg Whites in stand mixer with the whisk attachment and turn on high, looking to beat to stiff peaks right before the first addition20150725_220522
  6. Once honey has reached 250F, remove and quickly, yet gradually, pour into the egg whites while the machine whips on medium-high. Once half has been added you can start adding in faster20150725_220827
  7. Whip fast until smooth and seems fully incorporated, and turn mixer down to medium speed to ‘stand by’ for the next addition20150725_221311
  8. Watching it carefully the whole time, remove sugar once it has reached 285F, immediately transferring over to mixer to pour a slow, steady stream into egg whites, beating them on high once more20150725_221537
  9. Once every bit of sugar has been added, continue beating egg whites on high speed for a MINIMUM of 6-8 minutes, likely much longer, until the nougat has almost very noticeably cooled and started to get notably thick in the stand mixer20150725_222248
  10. Very quickly add in the Vanilla and nuts, mixing in thoroughly; at this point one may need to fold in by spatula or try to quick transfer to the paddle attachment20150725_222422
  11. Using a rubber spatula that has gotten a quick spray of oil, quickly pour and scoop nougat out and into your prepared pan20150725_222449
  12. Cover with wax paper and attempt to smooth the top out with a rolling pin or other handy item
  13. Let sit at least 3 hours or overnight20150726_150710
  14. Once set, remove onto cutting board and cut into desired sized chunks
  15. Wrap in wax paper or melted chocolate for longer-term storage, or just shove into your mouth and enjoy

20150726_183842

My Thoughts

Okay, the flavor is awesome, and I heavily worry about my daily calorie intake as I work my hardest not to keep eating these nutty-sweet sugar bombs. I absolutely love that you can actually taste the honey, that little undercurrent of distinctively floral-sweet flavor we know and love beneath full-roasted almonds. Sort of makes me want to experiment with getting a really good honey, those ones that taste like different things like molasses or lilac or marshmallow, and seeing what I can create with it.

I did make a boo-boo though. And know, I’m not just talking about the fact that I think I over-toasted the almonds; I mean, not burnt, they were AWESOME, right before that edge of too-dark, me and my mom love them. But I’m sure this recipe wants them still white in the middle, just lightly toasted for some aroma. To be fair, I did turn the oven off at the right time, it just didn’t cool down as fast as I expected… should have taken the nuts out for some time between.

20150726_150137No, my nougat ended up quite sticky, barely firm at all, as you can see in the pic to the right; I had to set it in the fridge for a few hours just to make sure I got a more decent chance at cutting it smooth. And I know where I screwed up. First was when I added the honey in earlier; I still stand behind the reason for it, but I completely looked over the fact that by doing that, I was taking just over half of the sugar source that was going to get cooked to 285F and then mixing it in at a much cooler, softer stage, thus it didn’t have quite near as much hard sugar to form that firm density later. In retrospect, I should have reduced the honey, at least by a little, and added more regular sugar.

Secondly, and I think the true culprit to costing me what would have at least been a really SOFT, but still handle-able, nougat: I under-beat the bastard. After adding in my sugar (which by the way I’ve realized I really need to begin with MORE sugar that what recipes call for, I always lose some that end up hardening up inside/on-the-lip of the pan or the sides of the bowl before integrating), I only whipped until it was notably cooler but still warm, like 8 minutes. I was afraid that if I kept going until really thick, I might not have been able to mix the nuts in well, plus I know how much of a bitch transfer would have been. And if anything, I figured it’ be BETTER to under-beat; less air bubbles, more thick sugar stuff. But it did not occur to me that, despite how much whipping and beating it had taken so far, that ideal sugar-egg-white structure still needed time to develop to a certain stiffness, probably also to stretch those sugar strands thin so they set up in a more fragile and not-bendy thing. Or something like that.

-Sigh- Oh darn, always hope my attempt for these posts can be perfect, but I’m too damn lazy to make a second batch right afterwards. Maybe on the holidays…

P20150728_115524ossible Pairings

Not sure about you, but I just want something honeyed with this; maybe a really good, sweet glass of mead if I can find it. And my first thought towards regional pairings were fully negative, as many of the famous southern France dessert wines are quite port-like, darker renditions; but there IS the Muscat Beaumes de Venice, either in Rhone or Roussillon I forget, which is always nice and classically sweet, nectar-y, perfect for this!

Or some super-nutty, aromatic liqueur like Frangelico, served ice cold. Come to think of it, we got a bottle of special Pistachio-Liqueur in the basement… maybe it’s time we crack it…

p2: Creme Brulee

Image                I do seem to enjoy starting each of my projects with a dish that’s just classically cliché (such as the Coq au Vin), so of course Crème Brulee should be my first adventure here. Not to mention it was a fun V-day Brunch Dessert with strawberries.

The Sweet

THE classic dessert, served in a variety of French cafes and restaurants, fine dining US spots, even brunch buffets. Who knew as simple Custard with Burned Sugar on top would have become so popular?

Maybe most of Western Europe, considering how much they’ve contested ownership rights. It is an interesting bit of history, since no one is TRULY clear as to where the dish properly originated. The earliest Recording seems to have been in the mid-1600’s, in England of all places. Trinity College, Cambridge, the cooks made a simple sugar-topped Custard dish where they burned the College Crest on with a branding iron, and thus their claim to the recipe is born. Which I wouldn’t be too surprised if it turned out true, considering the widespread use and popularity of Custards and other Egg-binded “Puddings” in English dessert cuisine. Then it was known simply as Burnt Cream, or Trinity Cream to honor the college origins.

It’s first appearance in a cookbook came in 1691, in France, the Cuisinier roial et bourgeois, called Crème Brulee; though interesting he changed the name to Crème Anglaise (English Cream) in a later book. Also taking into account that early French versions simply made a disk of caramel on the side beforehand to place on top for service, the argument for French dominance seems a bit weaker and weaker.

The Final, and least likely, originator comes in Catalan (Spain), with crema catalana/cremada(burnt). Same kind of recipe, but with cinnamon and citrus zest added, its first recorded appearance seems to have come sometime in the 17th century.

Though the dates on all these seem to go back and forth; one place said that Cambridge started burning in 1879, another that the French didn’t first list until 1731, it’s all a bit confusing and unclear. And not to mention this is all just based off of records, there’s still no evidence or word of mouth who actually made the first version. But either way, we have this delicious dish of contrasting textures and rich toffee-cream. Who cares when it’s all about indulging?

Chef’s Overdramatic Self-Centered Lecture Corner

SAMSUNGVanilla beans are a pretty pricey thing these days, so I only like using the ones I have when it fulfills two criteria. 1: it’s a special dish/occasion, and 2: the vanilla is able to SHINE, i.e. it’s usually a very, very simply flavored dish with no notably competing/contrasting element, usually custard. Crème brulee is a good dish for this.

But because I so rarely use them, MY vanilla beans seem to have “dried up” ever more than usual; they’ll actually snap if I bend them far SAMSUNGenough. It makes splitting them open not so easy, and a pain in the ass trying to get all the seeds out. Turns out it’s an easy fix when using them to infuse though; just let it soak in the Cream (or other liquid you’re cooking) overnight beforehand. It softens up so nicely, just look!

Seeds are easy to scrape out again, and if anything you just got some extra infusion time for a more in depth flavor.SAMSUNG

As for the custard, my recipe searches have found that nearly all recipes use ONLY Heavy Cream as their dairy of choice; which is usually odd with custard recipes. The main differences come simply in how many yolks are used (my favorite being Alton Brown’s, who uses the minimum 6 for a quart of cream; it keeps it to a really tender and soft pudding) and whether it uses cornstarch or some other binder. Ignore the starch additions, you don’t need them at all, and they only serve to mess up the flavor.

Finally, when it comes to Torching your sugar, I do always suggest using a blowtorch if you have one (the little handheld guy is so fun and a great tool to have); but not everybody does. Fear not, a simple solution presents itself; just turn your Broiler on High and stick it in (after the broiler’s warmed up of course). There are a couple adjustments to how the dish should be treated as you go, and I’ve made a couple notes in the recipe where suited.SAMSUNG

Crème Brulee
1 Vanilla Bean
1 Quart Heavy Cream
Tsp Salt
6 Egg Yolks
½ cup Sugar + Extra for dusting

DirectionsSAMSUNG

  1. Split vanilla bean, thoroughly scraping its insides of the fine seeds with a paring knife.
  2. Transfer both seeds and leftover bean pod to a pot with the Heavy Cream and Salt; warm on Medium heat untilSAMSUNG thoroughly Scalded (skin starts forming on top and the edges are barely simmering).
  3. While warming, whip Yolks thoroughly with a whisk, slowly incorporating the ½ cup of Sugar, until it turns very pale yellow and fluffy.
  4. Slowly pour in a bit of the warmed SAMSUNGcream at a time, “tempering” the delicate yolks to the heat. After about 1/3 of cream is incorporate, simply dump the rest in, whisking to fully mix.
  5. Let cool on counter, cover in plastic wrap (pressing to the top to prevent skin formation), and transfer to fridge for a minimum 2 hours or Overnight.
  6. Strain out vanilla bean and ladle your custard into whatever ramekin or other ramekin-like container you have.
  7. Turn oven to 325F and start boiling a large SAMSUNGsaucepan (2 quarts) of Water.
  8. Transfer ramekins to roasting or other baking pan, carefully filling with the hot water  until it’s just a bit below where the custard level is.
  9. Bake until mostly set and the center still jiggles when you shake, about 40-45 SAMSUNGminutes.                Note: if using a larger baking dish, or Broiling later, then feel free to take out earlier than it may seem. The residual heat, greater than in the small pan, should follow it through further, plus the Broiling heats the custard up a lot.
  10. Move to fridge for overnight, or until chilled completely.SAMSUNG
  11. Remove 1/2 hour before ready to serve. When close to ready, sprinkle on an even, only slightly heavy layer (don’t want it super fine or thin, just a bit more sugar than that) over top, shaking and rotating ramekin to get an even coating.              SAMSUNGNote: if Broiling, I actually DO prefer a finer layer, as it takes longer for the sugar to start cooking, and can get much more spotty than with a torch.
  12. Brulee sugar however desired, whether with blowtorch, broiler, or the classic branding iron.
  13. Let sit 5 minutes after caramelizing and serve, on its own or with fruit.

My Thoughts

SAMSUNGI really like this custard recipe; very nice and creamy, not that rich/heavy with the yolky custardy flavor, simple but developed. The vanilla bean is able to shine through along with the sugar flavor very well. As for the dish, always a classic; crispy, crunchy sugar caramel with a smooth milkfatty pudding. French comfort dessert at its finest.

Possible Pairings

layon-vv-18One of the many French desserts that have lost a sense of belonging to a particular region, being seen all over. Often with those kinds of desserts, they’re usually attributed a bit more towards the Parisian area, so Loire pairings it is.

I think one of the lightly sweet Coteaux du Layon dessert wines made with Chenin Blanc would be delicious, or a Methode Ancien sparkling Loire (also made with Chenin), especially if one could find a Demi-Sec version (half dry, or really half-sweet).

Vouvray_Sparkling_Chenin_blanc_wineCan’t leave out the other countries vying for credit on the burnt cream’s creation. And England has been creating some wonderful Sparkling Wines as of late; with their continental temps, they might even have Ice Wine. Either of those would be a fantastic, simple drink next to this I believe.

As for Catalan in Spain, hmmmm….. I SAMSUNGknow! They make a great lightly sparkling, off-dry Cider in the Basque. It’s sort of musky, but pure and simple, and just a nice little gulp. Would go great with the cinnamon-citrus zest version, and I happen to have a bottle that I used to pair with an upcoming Savory French 44 dish.

IMG_4499And to end on hard alcohol, a glass of Calvados (an apple brandy made in Northern France); it’s on the border of France and England, shares similar flavor profiles with cognac to make it match the burnt sugar of the dessert, not as overpowering when young. But gentle and deep when old, a good drink with complexity to go with the very simple but delightful custard.

And that ends the first of hopefully many “sweet” posts on the subject. Hope those reading enjoyed it, and are able to take some fun things into consideration with their next baking session. I’ll see you all on the next go-round!