TWD started April with a Banana Cream Pie, moved on to two intense chocolate desserts and, thanks to Kim of Scrumptious Photography, we ended April with a Chocolate Cream Tart. It’s as if we’ve come full circle, really. Okay, maybe that’s pushing it, but sometimes I think it’s funny how the choices each month shake out.
Chocolate pastry cream with whipped cream on top, all in a chocolate crust– oh my word! I went halvsies with this week’s recipe, and had plenty for six individual-sized tarts. These little guys are super-chocolaty and super-good! R and I ate them in contented silence…then neither of us could move to do the dishes afterward! Some thought that all that chocolate was a bit too much, and opted for a plain tart crust instead. Personally, I wouldn’t change a thing. I was quite happy to try out Dorie’s chocolate shortbread crust recipe, and liked it a lot. I did find, though, that when making the dough, it was a little dry. I had to add a couple teaspoons of milk to get it to come together, but then it was pretty easy to work with.
I’m just back from seriously stuffing myself all over London (I’ll try and tell you more later…you will be either impressed or disgusted by what I was able to pack away in only five short days!), but I still say, “more chocolate, please!” My pal Lauren from A Baking Blog (aka Upper East Side Chronicle) has thankfully obliged by choosing Four-Star Chocolate Bread Pudding for TWD this week.
All the restaurants I’ve worked for have had some version of bread pudding on the menu at some point in time, so it should be old hat. Really, though, I’ve had limited success with making bread pudding at home. It’s my own fault…I usually cut corners with the cream and yolks in an effort to make it a little less fattening, but the end result is a tough, dry let-down. This go-around, I stuck to the recipe…my compromise here was to make just a third. Only a few portions, but each one would have the full effect.
Dorie recommends brioche or challah as the base for this bread pudding. Both yummy, but I happen to have a stash old croissants in the freezer (leftovers from work), so I just used a couple of those. Talk about cutting out that fat– ha! That picture up top may not look too appetizing (it’s just so darn brown), but let me assure you that this is good, squidgy stuff…even with the dried cherries, which I wouldn’t normally go for in a chocolate dessert.
I’ve had such a busy week, running all over the city after work and on my days off to get errands done for a trip to the UK. I’ll actually be there by the time you read this (so I might not be able to do much commenting on cream pies, unfortunately). I’m Godmother to a friend’s baby boy. His name is Ian, he lives in London and I had lots of bits and pieces to pick up for the Baptism ceremony, which will be at the end of the week. Not to mention that Friday was my birthday, and on Saturday my husband and I went to see a live broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion, which is currently taping in New York. I’ve listened to the show since I was a kid, so it was fun to see goofy Garrison Keillor do his thing live. And Wynton Marsalis was a guest, so that was a pretty good present, I think.
Of course I still made the time to put together this Banana Cream Pie, Amy’s choice for TWD this week. I’ve said many times before that I don’t like raw bananas, but I like to keep an open mind about trying new things. I’ve never made or even had banana cream pie before, so why not give it a go? I had some homemade pie dough in the freezer anyway (it had been there forever, and I was actually itching to use it up), so the hardest part was already taken care of.
Hey, guess what– I thought this was good (and my husband loved it)! I do have a fondness for cream pies…they are tasty and squidgy, especially fresh, homemade ones. I’m not a banana convert, or anything, so I probably won’t make this one again…raw bananas still are a bit slimy in my book. I did really like the way Dorie uses brown sugar in the custard recipe and sour cream in the whipped cream topping. Yum on both counts there! My personal twist was using a little vanilla bean to flavor both.
Bridget, from the gorgeous blog The Way the Cookie Crumbles, chose Dorie’s Lemon Cup Custard for TWD this week. I opted to go for the lemon-clove “Playing Around” suggestion in the book, and since it is a cup custard, I naturally baked mine in a cup.
I actually don’t have too much to say on this one, but there was a lot of talk (mostly not-so-positive) on the comment board. For group members who didn’t like the recipe, the main problem was the “egginess” of the custard. I happen to love eggy custards. In fact, I chose Dorie’s flan when my turn to pick came around last March (I was worried that if I didn’t, no one would!). These little cups are prepared similarly to flan custard, and their texture and eggy taste did remind me of flan. But without the caramel sauce, they were rather unremarkable. This recipe was not bad by any means, just a bit boring.
Shari, a loyal TWDer who does cool things with classic dishes on Whisk: a food blog, chose Floating Islands (île flottante), a traditional French dessert, for this week’s recipe. I actually would have called this “snow eggs” (oeufs à la neige), but now I realize I don’t know what the difference is, if there really is one (and Googling it didn’t help, as I found different info on each link…too much information sometimes just confuses me).
This dessert makes me smile; it looks kind of goofy, don’t you think? The basic idea is this: a milk-poached meringue sits in a pool of crème anglaise custard. It’s light from the meringue and, at the same time, rich from the custard…and because it’s served chilled, it’s really quite refreshing.
Rather than quenelling smooth, egg-shaped meringues, I tried to make cute, spiky little islands. Unfortunately, my cute spikes flattened as I turned the meringues during the poaching process, and I ended up with deformed blobs. Whatever…looks aren’t everything. I made my meringues first, and so that I wouldn’t waste the poaching milk, I strained and remeasured it and used it as the basis for the custard sauce.
Traditionally, a drizzle of caramel finishes off floating islands, but because caramel doesn’t keep, and I had to take the blog pictures several hours before I’d be eating the dessert, I chose to skip that bit. I didn’t want my islands to look barren though, so in an effort to spruce them up another way, I decided to infuse my anglaise with orange zest and garnish with a few fresh berries. And since this is an old-school dessert, I went with some old-school baby mint sprigs, just for good measure.
Donna of Spatulas, Corkscrews & Suitcases chose Real Butterscotch Pudding for TWD. Delightful, Donna– how did you know butterscotch is one of my favorite flavors (for candy, ice cream sauce, pudding, whatever)?!? I love the brown sugar sweetness and the boozy kick (I used good ol’ JD here) of this old-fashioned treat.
Usually I just make half-batches of the TWD recipes, but butterscotch is worthy of full-batch treatment, I think! I’ve made butterscotch tarts for you before, so this time I just went with my little old-school Pyrex cups. I did go the extra mile, with whipping up cream and toasting some pecans in butter, brown sugar and a sprinkle of salt. The sweet and salty crunch was perfect with the smooth pudding. The only thing I’ll tweak with Dorie’s recipe next time will be to go half and half on light and dark brown sugar, just to boost the color a bit.
Happy holidays, everyone!!
Isabelle of Les gourmandises d’Isa chose Dorie’s Arborio Rice Pudding for this week’s TWD. Cool and creamy, I’m a huge fan of rice pudding…but I don’t make it often, so I was really looking forward to Isa’s pick!
Dorie’s recipe calls for parboiling arborio rice, the type often used in risotto, before cooking it down in sweetened milk. By the way, if you have her book, you will see the cooking time listed as 30 minutes…after some reading some tales of rice soup on the TWD comment board, Dorie herself told our group that this is an error. Cooking time is more like 55 minutes. She only uses 1/4 cup of rice for four servings (and 3 1/4 cups milk). I like my rice pudding, well, ricey, so I doubled the amount of arborio, keeping the milk the same. Doing this cut my cooking time dramatically, as the extra rice absorbed the liquid pretty quickly. The trick to a creamy (instead of stiff) rice pudding is to cut off the heat when you can begin to see the grains of rice peeking through the liquid. The rice won’t have absorbed all the milk…the mixture will still look relatively loose, but as it chills in the fridge, the starch should thicken it up nicely.
My mum puts rum into her rice pudding (ahh…fond childhood memories!). I love it that way, but I haven’t rebuilt my liquor stash just yet. Instead, I steeped two cardamom pods in the milk, and stirred in a healthy dose of vanilla extract and some dried cherries at the end. This was a tasty treat. The arborio held its shape and texture without turning to mush, and the milk thickened into a cardamom-perfumed cream.
Who doesn’t like crème brûlée? At every restaurant I’ve worked in, if brûlée is on the dessert menu, it outsells all the rest. Although I’m not so keen to order it myself (other things always seem much more interesting), I do like it, too. With that crunchy caramelized top, and silky smooth custard, how could I not? It’s Mevrouw Cupcake Mari’s choice for TWD this week.
Dorie’s recipe is unusual, in that, instead of baking the custards in a water bath at about 300°F, they’re baked at a much lower 200°F, without water. I was a little skeptical, but they set up nicely in about 50 minutes. I don’t have proper crème brûlée dishes so I used little teacups instead.
I flavored my brûlées with ground wattleseed, which I steeped in the warm milk and cream (one teaspoon for the two servings I made). The wattleseed gave it a lovely color and taste, much like café au lait. And then of course, there is the sugary top…
This week, Melissa from It’s Melissa’s Kitchen put the TWD spotlight on Dorie’s Chocolate Pudding. It may be from the book Baking: From My Home to Yours, but no baking is required for this one, just a little stovetop work.
I love pudding (I was especially nuts for JELL-O’s pistachio flavored mix growing up), but I have an awkward relationship with it. I can eat pudding that I make, but I cannot eat other people’s pudding. No, no…I am not down with OPP. I can pinpoint the exact reason for this, too, which goes back to a childhood visit to my mum’s Aunt R. Aunt R served me something that was more skin than pudding, and it was all I could do not to gag at the table. I need to know that my pudding will have no trace of skin on it…therefore, I must make it myself.
When I first read the instructions for this recipe, I noticed that a lot of ins and outs of the food processor were required. I thought that sounded like a bit of a pain in the butt, but it was really no big deal. And the using the food processor is the best way to get an uber-smooth pudding. You can bet I pressed plastic on the surface straight away before refrigerating it!
I made mine with low-fat (not skim) milk, instead of whole, and I thought it worked great. The chocolate I used was from a dark chocolate bar infused with mint that I had in the pantry. Sorry George Costanza, no pudding skin singles here…just super-smooth, super-chocolatey, sightly minty, totally delicious pudding!
I may be out of town right now, but I wasn’t about to miss out on my chance to choose the recipe for this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie meet-up– at the rate the group is growing, I probably won’t get another pick! I decided to venture into the “spoon desserts” section near the back of the book, and go with Dorie’s Caramel-Topped Flan.
Flan is simple to prepare…it’s a no-fuss custard that gets baked in a waterbath. What makes it really special is the gorgeous amber-glass layer of caramel that adheres to the custard when you turn it out of the pan. I love the combination of the cold wiggly custard and the bittersweet caramel.
I scaled back the recipe and made a couple of individual flans in ramekins, rather than one large one. I also did the “playing around” variation, using coconut milk instead of heavy cream. I put a little twist on it by infusing the milks with lime zest and using rum instead of vanilla extract.
Caramel-Topped Flan- makes one 8″x2″ flan
adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours
Note: You can make individual servings by using six 6-oz or seven or eight 4-oz ramekins or containers instead of the larger cake pan.
For the caramel:
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons water
squirt of fresh lemon juice
For the flan:
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/4 cups whole milk
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
-Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a roasting pan or 9″x13″ baking pan with a double thickness of paper towels. Fill a teakettle with water and put it on to boil; when the water boils, turn off heat.
-Put a metal 8″x2″ round cake pan– not a nonstick one– in the oven to heat while you prepare the caramel. (If you are using individual molds or ramekins, then skip this step.)
To Make the Caramel:
-Stir the sugar, water and lemon juice together in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan. Put the pan over medium-high heat and cook until the sugar becomes an amber-colored caramel, about 5 minutes-remove the pan from the heat at the first whiff of smoke.
-Remove the cake pan from the oven and, working with oven mitts, pour the caramel into the pan and immediately tilt the pan to spread the caramel evenly over the bottom; set the pan aside.
To Make the Flan:
-Bring the milk and heavy cream just to a boil.
-Meanwhile, in a 2-quart glass measuring cup or in a bowl, whisk together the eggs, yolks and sugar. Whisk vigorously for a minute or two, and then stir in the vanilla. Still whisking, drizzle in about one quarter of the hot liquid-this will temper, or warm, the eggs so they won’t curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remainder of the hot cream and milk. Using a large spoon, skim off the bubbles and foam that you worked up.
-Put the caramel-lined cake pan in the roasting pan. Pour the custard into the cake pan and slide the setup into the oven. Very carefully pour enough hot water from the kettle into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the cake pan. (Don’t worry if this sets the cake pan afloat.) Bake the flan for about 35 minutes, or until the top puffs a bit and is golden here and there. A knife inserted into the center of the flan should come out clean. (Small, individual molds will take less time– start checking for doneness around the 25-minute mark).
-Remove the roasting pan from the oven, transfer the cake pan to a cooking rack and run a knife between the flan and the sides of the pan to loosen it. Let the flan cool to room temperature on the rack, then loosely cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
-When ready to serve, once more, run a knife between the flan and the pan. Choose a rimmed serving platter, place the platter over the cake pan, quickly flip the platter and pan over and remove the cake pan–the flan will shimmy out and the caramel sauce will coat the custard.
Storing: Covered with plastic wrap in its baking pan, the flan will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. However, once unmolded, its best to enjoy it the same day.
Serving: Bring the flan to the table and cut into wedges. Spoon some of the syrup onto each plate.
Playing Around– Caramel-topped coconut flan: For a more tropical flan with a somewhat lighter texture, replace the heavy cream with a 15-oz can of unsweetened coconut milk and reduce the amount of milk to 1 cup.