Tags: dessert, holiday
I’ve never gotten super excited (or super upset, either) about Valentine’s Day. It’s kind of a non-event, but I do like to use it as an excuse to make my sweetie something luxe and a little girly for dessert….coeur à la crème seems quite appropriate, non?
If you’ve never had coeur à la crème, it’s kind of a cross between a mousse and a cheesecake filling. It’s a soft cheese and cream mixture that’s not cooked, so it’s very fresh…it’s also a little tangy and barley sweet. It belongs to that group of traditional French desserts that is so elegant yet so unfussy. Several years back, I found some individual coeur à la crème molds on the post-Valentine’s Day clearance shelf at a local kitchenware shop, and even though (or maybe especially becasue) they’re kind of uni-taskers, I’ve made it a point to use them many times since. Although they are cute, you don’t even need the molds to make this dessert…a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl will work fine (but you will give up the traditional heart-shape). Cheesecloth is important here, though, since the excess liquid needs to drain from the mixture so it’s as thick and creamy as it should be. That also means that resting time is necessary…you’ll need to chill and drain your cream hearts for several hours…I do it overnight.
I like to make my base with a soft, fresh cheese called fromage blanc. Vermont Butter & Cheese makes a nice (non-fat!) one that I can find at several shops, but if you don’t have access to fromage blanc, I think a combo of cream cheese and sour cream could approximate it. The creaminess and gentle tang of this dessert calls out for fresh fruit. Fresh berries or even a berry coulis would be great in summer, but here I used blood oranges, both becasue they are in season and becasue a heart with blood seemed fitting in a twisted sort of way.
Happy Valentine’s Day! xoxo
Coeur à la Crème– makes four servings
Steph’s Note: If you don’t have individual coeur à la crème molds, you can use a larger mold or a fine mesh sieve set over a bowl. You may, however, need to make a 1.5x or 2x batch of the coeur mixture, depending on the size. If you can’t find fromage blanc, try substituing with 6 oz of soft cream cheese plus 2 oz of sour cream.
8 oz fromage blanc
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
squeeze fresh lemon juice
seeds of a quarter of a vanilla bean or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 oz heavy cream
fresh fruit or fruit coulis to serve
-Cut four squares of cheesecloth (about 8-inch squares). Rinse each square of cheesecloth under water and squeeze until just damp. Line each of four 4-inch coeur à la crème molds with one square of cheesecloth.
-In a food processor (or with a whisk or hand-held mixer) process the fromage blanc, powdered sugar, lemon juice and vanilla until very smooth. In another bowl, whisk the cream until medium-soft peaks form. Gently fold the cream into the fromage blanc mixture until evenly combined.
-Place molds on a rimmed baking sheet or in a shallow baking dish. Spoon the mixture into the prepared molds and fold the corners of cheesecloth up and over the top.
-Chill for several hours or overnight to allow the mixture to drain.
-To serve, unwrap the molds and invert onto plates. Garnish with fruit.
Tags: baking, cake, dessert
It’s hard to believe, but TWD is coming close to the end of the book! There are two recipes a week from now till the end of the year, but I think I’ll only be able to choose one because I can’t do much baking at home during the work week. This week, I’m making the Far Breton, chosen by Nicole of Cookies on Friday (Jeannette of The Whimsical Cupcake chose Honey Nut Scones as the other recipe). I’ve been intrigued by this one for a long time…just the name sounds so classy. And there are Armagnac-soaked prunes–yum! Falling somewhere between custard and cake, it’s made from a no-brainer batter that gets whizzed up in the blender, crêpe-style. The finished dessert actually reminded me a lot of an unmolded clafoutis. I like eggy desserts, so this was just the ticket. I also like easy desserts that are totally dinner party worthy, and this one fits that bill, too. Next time I’ll add a splash more booze.
Tags: baking, custard, dessert
Remember those ultra-luxe little custards called “Pots de Crème“? Lucky for my taste buds, we are making them again, but instead of chocolate, this time I have Caramel Pots de Crème. I like to take my caramel fairly dark, so it’s not too sweet and has a just a hint of a bitter edge.
It was only after I baked these that I realized the recipe doesn’t include any salt. I solved that by sprinkling a little of my precious Aussie pink salt over the whipped cream I heaped on top (as though there wasn’t enough cream in the custards!). I fired up the oven to bake these off a few weeks ago, when it was still relatively cool out…but if I were making them in the mid-80s humidity-a-thon we in the middle of now, I think pots de ice cream à la Mike would be the ticket.
Pots de Crème are baked custards…like pudding, but with the richness dialed up. Lots of cream and yolks means a little portion can go a long way (although I’m confident I could consume a couple of these babies if I really wanted to). First you make a tempered egg custard… Dorie didn’t mention straining it, but I did because the thought of those little white egg squigglies gives me shivers…and then you stir in ganache. After you portion the mix into your little “pots” you bake them in a covered water bath (Dorie says you can bake it covered with plastic wrap, but I used foil instead because I’m suspicious of hot plastics). Let them chill, and you have quite a luxurious treat. I don’t see why you couldn’t mess around by adding some flavors that play well with chocolate, like a dash vanilla extract, a sprinkle of espresso powder or a wee bit of booze.
Tags: baking, dessert, pudding
My husband has been out of town for the last few days at a work conference. This was the first time in many years that I have not had to endure the Super Bowl (although apparently I missed a good rendition of the anthem). I spent Sunday night with four hours of “Emma” on Masterpiece Theater instead (dorky, but so good!) and this big fat slice of Bourbon Bread Pudding. Hellooooo alone time!
Dorie has taught me how to make bread pudding at home. You need lots of the good stuff (cream and egg yolks) for it to come out lush and soft. Now, here’s where I admit to you that I did cut back on the cream by a third (and upped the milk by a third in its place)…but not to worry, there was still plenty of cream and yolks in there. And I used challah bread, which is pretty rich in itself. You can see that I added almonds and dried cherries to mine. You can’t see that I quadrupled the bourbon, but trust me on that. My custard base tasted like eggnog! This was a mighty fine bread pudding, not to mention a most amiable television companion.
I’ve gobbled down so many fresh cherries this summer, my fingertips might be permanently tinged pink. I do want to be sure to squeeze in at least a little baking with them, though, before their short season is over. Clafoutis is an easy place to start (especially if the batter’s whizzed up in a blender), and it’s one of my husbands favorites.
If you’ve never had a clafoutis, it’s a classic French country dessert. You start by pouring a pancake- or crêpe-like batter over whole cherries. The batter soufflés and then settles into something that’s more like a sliceable, semi-firm custard. It’s delicious slightly warm or at room temperature, and a little whipped cream doesn’t hurt, either.
As coincidence would have it, today is Bastille Day– a perfect way to celebrate!
Cherry Clafoutis- makes 6-8 servings
Steph’s Note: Traditionally the cherries for clafoutis are not pitted, but in the interest of keeping my smile intact, I pit mine…the choice is yours. You can also make this with other types of sliced stonefruit, apples, pears or even berries.
1 lb whole dark sweet cherries, pitted or not
4 large eggs
1/2 c sugar
1/4 t salt
1 c whole milk
1 T kirsch or brandy (optional)
2 t vanilla extract
3/4 c all-purpose flour
Confectioners sugar, for dusting
-Preheat oven to 350ºF with rack in middle. Generously butter a 9- or 10-inch deep-dish pie pan.
-Place cherries in an even layer over the bottom of the pie pan. If you have pitted your cherries, and they’ve released any juice, pour the juice into a blender. Add eggs to the blender, along with the sugar, salt, milk, kirsch or brandy (if using) and vanilla and blend to combine. Add the flour and blend just until combined.
- Pour batter over the cherries and place the pie pan on a baking sheet. Bake until puffed and just set in center, about 35-45 minutes. Cool at least 20 minutes (it will fall and settle as it cools), then dust with confectioners sugar.
Elizabeth of Cake or Death? chose Apple-Apple Bread Pudding for TWD this week, but I actually baked this baby back in October. I’m not really sure anymore why I made it then…probably some combination of warm apple desserts sounding good to me at the time and having a couple of orphaned yolks to use up. Whatever…what’s important is that I remember how good it was. Caramelized apples and custard-soaked bread (or…umm…croissant). So squidgy and good. A little caramel sauce might have been gilding the lily, but I recommend it anyway.
A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by a publicist about a new cookbook called DamGoodSweet: Desserts to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth New Orleans Style by David Guas and Raquel Pelzel. She showed me a couple of recipes…this book is chock full of classic New Orleans sweets (think beignets and pralines), with stories and gorgeous photos to boot. I was drawn to a recipe for Banana Pudding with Vanilla Wafer Crumble…odd, since I’m not usually that into bananas, but I am a “selective appreciator,” and the husband loves nursery desserts.
This is definitely a high-class version of the dessert I remember as kid– all the traditional bits are there, but they’ve been optimized. With five yolks, it is a rich and delicious pudding, and with a nice glug of booze, I made mine decidedly not-child-friendly. Frankly, I wouldn’t use anything but Nilla Wafers in banana pudding, and the crumble is an easy way to jazz them up and keep them crispy. Whether you live in New Orleans or in New York, I think you’ll like this recipe!
BTW, book author David Guas will be hosting a live chat every Sunday morning (starting today!), November 1- December 20, from 9:30-10:30 am. Chatters can log on and ask Chef Guas dessert questions or get advice. If you’re interested, go to his website and click on the Red Velvet Cake.
Banana Pudding- makes 6 servings
from DamGoodSweet by David Guas and Raquel Pelzel (Taunton Press, 2009)
For the pudding:
5 large egg yolks
1⁄2 cup sugar
1⁄4 cup cornstarch
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
2 cups whole milk
3 tablespoons banana liqueur (or 1 teaspoon banana flavoring)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 ripe bananas
For the crumble:
1 cup vanilla wafers (about 15 cookies)
2 teaspoons sugar
1⁄4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
-To make the pudding: Whisk the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside. Bring the milk to a boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from the heat and whisk a little at a time into the egg mixture. Once the bottom of the bowl is warm, slowly whisk in the remaining hot milk. Pour the mixture back into a clean medium saucepan (cleaning the saucepan prevents the pudding from scorching), add the banana liqueur, and whisk over medium-low heat until it thickens, about 2 minutes. Cook while constantly whisking until the pudding is glossy and quite thick, 11/2 to 2 minutes longer. Transfer the pudding to a clean bowl.
Add the vanilla and butter and gently whisk until the butter is completely melted and incorporated. Press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for 4 hours.
-To make the crumble: While the pudding sets, heat the oven to 325°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Place the wafers in a resealable plastic bag and seal (make sure there is no air in the bag prior to sealing). Using a rolling pin or a flat-bottomed saucepan or pot, crush the vanilla wafers until they’re coarsely ground. Transfer them to a small bowl and stir in the sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Use a spoon to evenly stir in the melted butter, transfer to the prepared baking sheet, and toast in the oven until brown and fragrant, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. (The crumbs can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days at room temperature or frozen for up to 2 months; re-crisp in a 325°F oven for 6 to 7 minutes if necessary.)
-To serve: Slice the bananas in half crosswise and then slice in half lengthwise so you have 4 quarters. Slice the banana quarters crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces and divide between 6 custard cups or martini glasses (sprinkle with a squeeze of lemon juice if you like—this helps prevent browning). Whisk the pudding until it is soft and smooth, about 30 seconds, and then divide it between the custard cups. Top with the vanilla wafer mixture and serve. (If not served immediately, the pudding will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, with plastic wrap intact. Sprinkle the crumbs on just before serving.)
Did you see the news about Gourmet? I am sad. I need something to make me smile. Something like pudding. Maybe coffee pudding. Some chocolate would be good, too.
Oh, ya know– I have just the thing in the fridge right now, since Garrett of Flavor of Vanilla picked Split Level Pudding for TWD this week. Pudding on top, bittersweet ganache on the bottom. This is just the thing to make me feel a little better. Excuse this short post, but now I’m off to make you something from the pages of Gourmet.
I wonder if the bankers in the building across the street ever notice me taking photos of my food on the windowsill. I can see them clearly, so maybe they see me, too? If they do, I’m sure they were jealous that on a Wednesday afternoon, while they were sitting in their offices or in the conference room with the red walls and heinous artwork, I was enjoying a chocolate soufflé with hazelnut crème anglaise. This is all thanks to Susan of She’s Becoming DoughMessTic, who chose chocolate soufflés for TWD this week.
At every restaurant I’ve worked in, there’s been a soufflé on the menu at some point. Every pastry chef seems to make them a little differently, but I’ve picked up a few universal tips along the way. Use soft butter to coat your ramekins well (one chef had us do two coats). Use room temperature whites and whip them until they “look like shaving cream.” (I prefer to whip my whites by hand, if the amount is manageable.) Fill individual molds right to the top, level them off, and clean off any batter that may have slopped on the rims. Most importantly, get your soufflés to the table straight away (in a restaurant, this is actually the hardest part, because when a soufflé comes out of the oven, inevitably there are no waiters to be found!).
I made a few individual soufflés, rather than the larger one Dorie suggests. The principles are the same, but the baking time is shorter. I had mine in the oven for somewhere between 15 and 20 minutes…I like them a little puddingy and creamy inside. They were really very chocolatey, light and delicious….and a little pot of chilled hazelnut crème anglaise served alongside didn’t hurt matters any.