Crème Fraîche

Frosting, sauces and garnishes

Yield: about 1 cup
Recipe: 128/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 320

Crème fraîche

     I had never before done crème fraîche and although I was nervous to make it as I am with all fermented foods, it was pretty straight forward to make. Mine cultured for 36 hours as it is pretty humid here, and the cream thickened quite a lot. Since I was making this to accompany a dessert, I naturally assumed that this cream would be a bit sweet, forgetting of course that it is fermented with buttermilk so it does taste a bit sour. I realize now after trying a few different things that I really do not like anything sour in my desserts, especially not sour cream. However, if you do, this crème fraîche will be perfect for you and you can add little dollops on a variety of desserts. To each our own! 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon buttermilk

Directions:

  1. Stir the whipping cream and buttermilk together, and pour the mixture into a plastic or glass container. Place this container into a bowl and fill the bowl with hot tap water, just to the level of the cream. Place this in a warm, draft-free place to culture for 24 to 48 hours. Time will depend on humidity.
  2. Check the fragrance of the cream for a fresh citrus or sour aroma, and chill the crème fraîche without stirring until set, about 3 hours.
  3. To use, spoon off the crème fraîche and dispose of the liquid whey at the bottom. The crème fraîche will keep in the fridge until the best-before date of the cream.

Valerie

Dulce de Leche Crème Brûlée

Custards, Puddings and Soufflés

Yield: 6-7 individual crème brûlées
Recipe: 79/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 191

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     Considering that I was, to my surprise, fairly successful in making the classic crème brûlées last time, I thought that I would be a little fancy and attempt the dulce de leche crème brûlée. Dulce de leche consists in sweet milk which can be obtained by caramelizing sugar in milk. I made the classic vanilla crème brûlée several months ago and sadly I had forgotten how delicious it was. I dare say, however, that this caramelized version is my favorite of the two. It gives the “burnt cream” a sweet taste that complements the cream well without overwhelming it.

    I have not yet mastered the art of caramelizing the sugar on the surface of the crème brûlée, but I think that I am getting a little better with practice. I followed Anna’s advice from the cookbook and caramelized two (actually three!) thin layers of sugar as opposed to a thick one to favor the formation of a hard surface. Perhaps it is not apparent here, but I assure you that the surface of these little crème brûlées was hard and cracked upon the first spoonful. I brought these at a movie night and let me assure you that they were a great success! Friends told me that this was one of their favorite desserts thus far. A scrumptious, sweet and creamy dessert awaits you if you make this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tin (300 mL) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 ½ cups whipping cream
  • 1 cup 5% half-and-half cream
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Sugar, for torching

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease six or seven 6-once ramekins and place them into a baking dish that is at least as high as the dishes.
  2. Pour the condensed milk into a heavy-bottomed saucepot and whisk in ½ cup of the whipping cream. Constantly stir the condensed milk mixture with a silicone spatula over medium heat until it thickens and caramelizes lightly to a golden brown color, about 13-16 minutes.
  3. Whisk in the remaining 1 cup of whipping cream and the half-and-half cream and bring this to just below a simmer. Make sure to whisk until the caramelized condensed milk mixture (dulce de leche) dissolves into the cream.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, egg and vanilla extract.
  5. Pour the condensed milk mixture into the eggs and whisk until the mixture is homogenous.
  6. Carefully pour this mixture into the ramekins. Pour boiling water around the ramekins so that the water comes at least halfway up the ramekins. Bake the custards for 30-35 minutes, until the custards are set at the edges but still jiggle in the middle. Let them cool in the pan for 20 minutes, then carefully remove to cool at room temperature before chilling for at least 3 hours.
  7. To serve the brûlées, sprinkle the tops of each of the custards with a thin layer of sugar, then melt and caramelize the sugar using a kitchen torch. Add a second layer of sugar and repeat. This technique builds a crunchy top that is less likely to burn than if you put on a thick layer of sugar.

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Valerie

Classic Vanilla Crème Brûlée

Custards, Puddings and Soufflés

Yield: 6 individual crème brûlée
Recipe: 74/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 190

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     A couple of weeks back I made what turned out to be delicious lemon possets, which I brought to work and let my coworkers devour. I think my boss particularly liked them, because a few days later he gave me some crème brûlée ramekins that he had bought me, in a subtle hint to let me know that it would be a good idea for my next dessert, I think. Having never really tasted crème brûlée and evidently having never made them, I was excited for this new challenge. I made them the week later and was pleasantly surprised. I always thought that it was an art form and quite difficult to make this sophisticated dessert, but it wasn’t. No doubt I could have demonstrated better skill when opening the fresh vanilla bean, but it was very fun and relatively rapid to do nonetheless. The delicious scent released by the vanilla beans and pod simmering in the cream was simply wonderful. I particularly enjoyed using my new kitchen torch to make the brûlée part of the crème brûlée. In retrospect, I should have put finer layers of sugar when caramelizing the sugar. I did two layers as suggested by Anna, but the surface was not as hard as I would have like. Nevertheless, this dessert was simply scrumptious and very satisfying! 

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ cups whipping cream
  • 1 vanilla bean (or 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste)
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 6 tablespoons sugar, plus extra for torching

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Place six 6-ounce ramekins into a baking dish that is at least as height as the ramekins. Boil some water for later use.
  2. Heat 2 cups of the cream with the scraped vanilla seeds and the vanilla bean to just below a simmer.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and remaining ½ cup of the cream.
  4. Slowly whisk the hot cream into the yolk mixture until blended. Divide this evenly between the ramekins and remove any air bubble present at the surface by using a paper towel to pop them. We want the surface of the custards to be silky smooth.
  5. Pour boiling water around the ramekins to about halfway up the sides and bake for about 25 minutes, until the outside of the custards are set but the centre is still a little bit jiggly. Cool the custards for 15 minutes in the water bath, then remove them to cool to room temperature before chilling in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
  6. To serve the crème brûlées, sprinkle the tops of each custard with a thin layer of sugar, then carefully melt and caramelize the sugar using a kitchen torch. Add a second thin layer of sugar and repeat the process. This ensures a crunchy and hard top.

Notes from Anna:

  • To scrape the seeds from a vanilla beans, first run a very sharp knife down the length of the bean to open it. Use the dull side of the knife and run it along the inside of the bean to remove the seeds. They will stick to your knife and be easily transferred to your cream to infuse the flavour.

Valerie

Gingerbread Cream Pie

Pies and Tarts

Yield: one 9-inch pie
Recipe: 48/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 95

Gingerbread Cream Pie

     It had been some time since I had made a pie, so I decided to try this recipe for a gingerbread cream pie, mostly because it sounded so scrumptious! I did not have any problems make the dough or the filling and everything seemed to be going as planned. I left the filling to set overnight and prepared the topping only the following day. The filling was delicious and the topping was just as tasty. However, for some reason when I cut the first slice of pie after having let everything set for a couple of hours, the pie essentially collapsed. It’s almost as if the topping was too heavy for the filling, and this led to the filing  becoming more liquid and dispersing everywhere. Perhaps the filling had not set enough or maybe the topping was in fact too dense (I may inadvertently have went a little past the soft peak stage when beating the cream). Although the pie was not very pretty-looking, it was excellent and had a very present yet not overwhelming gingerbread taste. I will definitely attempt this again again to try to have a pie that retains its composition!

Ingredients for filling:

  • 1 recipe Double-Crust Pie Dough
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1  1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup fancy molasses
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1  3/4 cups milk

Ingredients for topping:

  • 1  1/2 cups whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1  1/2 tablespoons instant skim milk powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Pull the chilled dough from the fridge 30 minutes before rolling. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to about 1/8 inch thick and line a 9-inch pie shell with the dough. Trim and pinch the edges and chill the pie shell for 20 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line the pie shell with aluminium foil and weight down with pie weights, rice or dried beans. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and the weights and bake for 10-12 more minutes until the centre of the pie shell is dry and the edges are lightly browned. Allow the pie shell to cool while preparing the filling.
  3. To prepare the filling, heat the butter and brown sugar in a saucepot over medium heat, stirring until bubbling.
  4. Whisk in the whipping cream and the molasses, and stir until just below a simmer.
  5. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, cornstarch, fresh ginger, spices, salt and milk.
  6. Slowly pour the hot cream mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly until homogeneously blended. Return the mixture to the saucepot and whisk over medium heat until thickened and just beginning to bubble, about 4 minutes.
  7. Strain into a bowl and pour into the cooled pie shell. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the filling and chill until set, about 6 hours.
  8. For the topping, whip the cream to soft peaks using a stand or hand mixer. Fold in the sugar, instant skim milk powder, vanilla extract and cinnamon. Spread generously over the gingerbread filling and chill until ready to serve.

Valerie