Archive | February, 2017

Creme Brulee

27 Feb

What is your favorite dessert? I am not much of a sweets person, but I really do love me some creme brulee. And I was shocked to find that I hadn’t yet shared my award-winning creme brulee recipe here.

creme brulee

A number of years ago, I was talking to my colleague and fellow foodie friend, Randy about the creme brulee they had at Kincaids and I told him that *I* could make a better creme brulee than they do. I think their proportion of custard to topping is not quite right and their topping still has crystallized sugar bits in it. He claimed that he could also make a better one than theirs and then challenged me to a creme brulee-off. So we, along with quite a few other colleagues, had a creme brulee contest at work. There was quite a bit of excitement around the contest and while Randy had some technical difficulties in making his creme brulee, the two of us came in first and second.

I took first place in the contest.

This is something that I remind Randy of every once in awhile…because he’s an amazing cook and would beat me at anything else, if I ever chose to challenge him. But just this one time, I won. While we were talking about the problems which led to him losing to me, he told me which recipe he uses. It’s this one right here – the same recipe I used. But his special secrets were to use vanilla bean and superfine sugar. And those just so happen to be the same two things I always make sure to use. So, while we worked independently of each other, we both used the exact same recipe with the exact same “secrets”. Take that as the highest endorsement for THE BEST creme brulee recipe.

ingredients

Here’s the reason for the superfine sugar – it dissolves very quickly and completely, making for a creamy dessert, with great texture and without any crystallization in the custard. It also melts very well when making the burnt sugar topping so you get the great contrast of a cool, creamy custard and the crunchy, brittle burnt topping.

And the vanilla bean imparts such a great flavor, better than any vanilla extract can provide. Plus you get the tiny black vanilla seeds at the bottom of your custard, which to me makes it all the better.

So here’s how you make it.

Combine the cream, sugar and the sliced and scraped vanilla bean and seeds in a medium saucepan over medium heat.

heating

While the cream is heating, separate your eggs

yolk

and whisk the yolks in a medium bowl or a glass measuring cup like I did here.

whisk

After the cream comes to a simmer, turn the burner to the lowest setting, put the lid on your pan and let the flavors infuse for 10 minutes. Then remove from the heat and strain the cream mixture.

straining

You’ll want to whisk in a little bit of the hot cream mixture to the egg mixture to temper the eggs or keep the eggs from immediately scrambling when you add them to the hot cream.  So pour a little bit of the cream into the eggs, mix well, and then add a little more.

tempering

When the egg mixture is warmed up enough, pour it all into the hot cream.

hot cream

Mix it well, then pour it into the ramekins. I like to use the large glass measuring cups for all of this mixing and whisking and such, because it makes it a whole lot easier in the end to pour the custard into the ramekins.

filling the ramekins

My ramekins have a little ledge near the top that I use as a guide for how full they should be.

Into the pre-heated oven they go for about 30-35 minutes.

dsc_0104

When they jiggle slightly, but are mostly firm, they are done. Remove them from the oven and let them cool until you can pick up the ramekins, then put them in the fridge to chill completely. Or if you live in Minnesota in February, you can put them outside on the patio for a few hours instead!

Now comes the fun part – pulling out the torch and burning the sugar!

sugar

Top the custard with about 1/2 a tablespoon of superfine sugar. You want to cover the entire top, but don’t want too deep of a layer of sugar.

sugar added

As you can see here, my super-fine sugar has clumped. And because I was too lazy to sift out the lumps, I left them in  and you’ll see that they all melted. But you could certainly be a better person than I and sift the sugar first.

Now, light your torch. Some of you may have those cute little hand-held creme brulee torches that have a gentle little flame…but I learned all about burning creme brulee in a restaurant where we had the industrial size torch, so I went to my local hardware store and got one of these for myself. And I love it!

the torch

Take your time and keep the flame about 2 inches away from the custard. You can leave your ramekin on the countertop and burn it that way, or you could live on the edge as I definitely do and pick it up and turn the custard while moving the flame around the top, gently melting and burning the sugar.

burning_1

burning_2

burning_3

burning_4

burnt

Once all the sugar has melted and is nice and dark, you’re done!

I like to burn all my creme brulee immediately before serving them. I think they taste best that way and it is also entertaining for the dinner guests. Sometimes, they want to learn to burn their own. Dinner AND a show!

Serve with fresh berries or tropical fruit like papaya or kiwi fruit.

served

Creme Brulee
Adapted from Epicurious
Serves 6

Ingredients

Custard
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
5 large egg yolks

Topping
3 tablespoons sugar
Fresh berries or other fruit

Preparation

Make custard:
Preheat oven to 325°F/160°C. Place six 3/4-cup ramekins in 9”x13″ pan and add 2-3 cups of hot water to the pan. The water should come halfway up the side of the ramekins.

Use small knife to split the vanilla bean the long way and scrape out the seeds. Mix the cream, sugar, vanilla bean and seeds in a heavy medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and mixture just comes to a simmer. Cover the pan, reduce heat to very low and simmer gently for 10 minutes to infuse flavors. Then strain into a large measuring cup.

Whisk the yolks in a medium bowl until well blended. Gradually whisk in hot cream mixture just to blend. Pour that mixture back into the rest of the custard in the large measuring cup; pour equally among ramekins. Carefully transfer the pan to oven.

Bake custards until almost set in center when pans are gently shaken, about 30 – 35 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool 30 minutes. Chill at least 3 hours in refrigerator.

Make burnt sugar topping:
Sprinkle 1/2 tablespoon of superfine sugar evenly over each custard. Working with 1 custard at a time, hold blowtorch so that flame is 2 inches above surface. Direct flame so that sugar melts and browns, about 2 minutes.

You can refrigerate until custards are firm again but topping is still brittle, at least 2 hours but no longer than 4 hours so that topping doesn’t soften. Garnish creme brulee with fruit and serve.

 

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Mayonnaise and Thousand Island Dressing

21 Feb

It’s nice to know what’s in your food, isn’t it? These days, it’s so important to read the labels on all the food you buy, as you never know what mystery ingredients might be hiding in your perfectly innocent food. And it’s especially important if you have any food sensitivities or allergies to watch out for.

There are also the times when you just want to make your own food. I grew up eating homemade mayonnaise, made by using the fresh eggs we had on our farm. So when I was on a cleansing diet recently and had to avoid canola oil as well as added sugars and various other things, I decided to make my own mayo. And it really is so easy.

mayo

Just a few simple — and NOT low fat– ingredients. You’ll see that it does take a fair amount of oil to make mayonnaise.

ingredients

The original recipe I used called for part sunflower oil and part olive oil. When making mine, I use just olive oil, making sure to use the extra light variety rather than extra virgin to avoid adding a strong olive flavor to the mayo.

Separate the eggs and use only the yolks for this. You can save the whites to make some meringues or Pavlova for dessert- yum!

Add the ingredients to food processor or blender.

ingredients

When picking whether you will use a food processor or blender to make this, keep in mind that you will have to drizzle in the oil slowly as the machine is running, so make sure you’re using something that allows you to do that easily. I have a Ninja blender with some of the small cups that make it impossible to actively add ingredients while the mixture is processing.

I like my food processor for this, (this is the one I have) because the food pusher that goes into the feed tube has two tiny little holes at the bottom of it, so I can slowly add the oil very easily by just pouring it into the pusher itself and the oil very slowly dispenses itself through those little holes.

Start slowly drizzling the oil while the machine is whirring, the mixture should start firming up quickly, then you can add the rest of oil more quickly. I add the first 1/4 cup very slowly until it’s emulsified, then add the rest of it right into the pusher and it slowly drizzles into the food processor.

self dispensing

Here you can see it self-dispensing.

self dispensing

And then, voila!

dsc_0064

I use this mayonnaise for anything and everything I would normally make with Hellmann’s mayonnaise. We make potato salad with it, and I recently discovered a recipe for shrimp salad made with just a tablespoon of mayo and an avocado for a very creamy healthy salad. But for the most part, I use it to make Paul’s favorite: Thousand Island dressing! He love it so much that he regularly tells me I could feed him an old shoe, as long as it was drenched in this dressing.

Using my mayo (but you can use purchased mayo just as  easily), I just add a few more ingredients to make a really tasty salad dressing that is also good on sandwiches, burgers, as a vegetable dip and even on old shoe leather.

TI dressing

And of course, I forgot to include the honey in this first shot!

raw honey

This was some beautiful raw honey I picked up in Asheville, NC over Christmas time and it’s a great addition.

Asheville honey

It certainly doesn’t hurt that it’s in such a pretty bottle either.

And the ever important ketchup – Heinz brand only. Accept no substitutes.

Heinz

We (and by “we”, I mean my husband Paul) have very strong feelings about ketchup, how we must always have enough of it in our house and how Heinz is the only acceptable brand of ketchup allowed. In fact, our first argument as a couple was about ketchup. Who knew condiments could evoke such strong feelings!

So add your Heinz ketchup and all the rest of your ingredients together and mix.

added ingredients

mixed

It is super easy to make. It’s got a little sweetness from the honey and ketchup, a little tanginess from the vinegar and chopped pickles as well as crunch from the pickles and onion.

Keep it in a jar in the fridge for all your salad needs.

PS. I made a double recipe here because we are having people over for dinner and because we love it so much that it will be gone quickly, so your batch from the recipe below will be a little smaller than this.

 

Mayonnaise
Yield: 2 1/2 cups

3 egg yolks, you can use pasteurized for added safety
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cup light olive oil

In a food processor bowl fitted with a metal blade, place the egg yolks, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar and salt. Turn the food processor on and blend well.

While the food processor is running, add 1/4 cup of oil very slowly through the feed chute until mixture emulsifies and begins to thicken, then pour in the rest of the oil in a steady stream.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix the mayonnaise well.

You can store the mayonnaise in a glass jar in the fridge for about a week. Or make Thousand Island dressing.

 

Thousand Island Dressing
Adapted from Mommypotamus
Yield: 1 1/2 cups

1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
2 tablespoons pickles, finely chopped
2 tablespoons onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Taste and add more salt, pepper or vinegar if needed.

 

 

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