Maple Crème with Almond Crackle

Custards, Puddings and Soufflés

Yield: 4 to 6 individual crème brûlées
Recipe: 87/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 192

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      Having plenty of cream in my fridge meant that I was going to make a custardy-type dessert, such as this maple crème topped with an almond crackle. It is not a crème brûlée per se because the top has not been coated with sugar that was burnt and caramelized to create the typical hard crust. In its place, a nut crackle is used to create the crunchy feeling usually obtained by the caramelization of the sugar. This is rather a lighter version of the classic dessert as it uses less whipping cream and half-and-half to complement it. I think that I accidentally slightly undercooked this dessert as the consistence of the inside was a bit less firm than I expected. I am still getting used to finding the right “jiggle” for custards and crème brûlées! Nonetheless, the dessert taste great and the addition of maple syrup made it decadent and flavorful.

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cups half-and-half cream
  • ¾ cup milk
  • ⅔ cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 egg
  • Pinch ground cinnamon
  • 1 recipe Nut Crackle (almond)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Arrange four 6-ounce (180 mL) ramekins or other baking dishes in a much larger baking dish that has sides that are at least the height of the ramekins.
  2. Whisk together all the ingredients (except the crackle). Pour them into the prepared ramekins.
  3. Pour boiling water around the ramekins so that the water comes up to about two-thirds of the height of the ramekins.
  4. Bake the crèmes between 35-45 minutes, until they are set around the outside but still jiggle a bit at the centre. Allow the custards to cool in the water-filled pan for 10 minutes, then carefully remove them from the water to cool to room temperature before chilling for at least 4 hours.
  5. The crackle can be prepared while the crèmes are in the oven. To serve, break the crackle into pieces and place the, on top of the crèmes immediately before serving.

Notes from Anna:

  • This is a lighter version of the original crème brûlée since the recipe calls for half-and-half cream as opposed to heavy (whipping) cream.
  • The brûlées can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

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Valerie

Nut Crackle

Frosting, sauces and garnishes

Yield: about ½ cup (enough to garnish 1 cake or tart, or 6 individual desserts)
Recipe: 86/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 321

Needing a garnish for a dessert that I wanted to make, I made this simple yet elegant nut crackle garnish. For my particular dessert I doubled the recipe, and for some reason the “crackle” never really solidified completely, making it difficult to break into pieces. Perhaps I should have kept in a bit longer in the oven to cook the syrup more, but I am not sure if that was the problem. I will keep you posted!

Ingredients:

  • ⅓ cup sliced or chopped nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts or pecans)
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) pure maple syrup

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line an 8-inch square pan with aluminium foil and grease well with butter.
  2. Sprinkle the foil with the nuts, then pour the maple syrup overtop, stirring just slightly.
  3. Bake for about 18 minutes, until the syrup is bubbling vigorously. Let the crackle cool completely and store at room temperature until ready to serve.
  4. To serve, peel the foil away from the crackle and break it into pieces to use. The crackle will keep in an airtight container for up to a week.

Valerie

Cinnamon-Apple Almond Streusel Squares

Cookies, Bars and Biscotti

Yield: one 8-inch square pan, about 20 squares
Recipe: 85/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 72

Cinnamon Apple Streusel Bars

     Surplus of both apples and free time has led me to make these cinnamon-apple almond streusel squares. As Anna writes in her cookbook, this dessert does indeed smell like apple pie in the making, but it takes considerable less effort to make! The taste is as expected: the deliciousness of apples merged with cinnamon and butter. The format of these squares makes them easy to eat and to share!

Ingredients for base:

  • ¾ cup ground almonds
  • ⅔ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup icing sugar, sifted
  • ½ cup cold unsalted butter, cut in pieces

Ingredients for streusel:

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 6 tablespoons (90 mL) cold unsalted butter, cut in pieces
  • 1 ½ cups peeled ad coarsely grated tart apple such as Granny Smith
  • Icing sugar, for dusting

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper so that the paper comes up the sides.
  2. For the base, mix together in a food processor the ground almonds, flour and icing sugar. Add the cold butter and pulse until the mixture is a rough and crumbly texture. Alternatively, you can mix all the ingredients but the butter in a bowl, then cut in the butter using your hands or a fork. Press this mixture into the prepared pan and chill it while preparing the streusel.
  3. For the streusel, stir together the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and baking powder. Cut in the butter by hand until a rough and crumbly mixture is obtained.
  4. Stir in the grated apple until it is coated with the flour and sugar mixture. Gently press this onto the chilled base.
  5. Bake for about 35 minutes, until it just begins to turn golden. Cool completely before slicing, and dust with icing sugar to garnish.

Valerie