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Archive for the ‘custard’ Category

rice pudding

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While I was visiting my family in New Mexico last week, I came across a recipe for rice pudding. My mom and grandmother said that they liked it, but sister said she’s never cared for it, because it’s…rice. For dessert. I had never tried it, but I wanted to make a dessert (without guar gum or anything else weird) that my gluten-intolerant grandmother could eat, so I gave rice pudding a try.

And it was good, but it was definitely…rice. For dessert. That ain’t right. My mom and grandmother liked it. My dad was unsure at first, so he scooped out just a few spoonfuls for himself and then came back for more after he established that it was good. I seemed to be the only one unconvinced on the rice pudding. It had a lot of good traits – sweet, creamy, a bit nutty. But you know what else it had? Grains of rice floating in it. That ain’t right.

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Simple Stovetop Rice Pudding (from Cooks Illustrated September 1996)

Serves 6 to 8

CI note: We prefer pudding made from medium-grain rice, but long-grain is perfectly acceptable if that’s what you happen to have on hand.

Bridget note: I used long-grained rice.

¼ teaspoon table salt
1 cup medium-grain rice (white), or long grain white rice
2½ cups whole milk
2½ cups half-and-half
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1¼ teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Bring 2 cups water to boil in large, heavy-bottomed pot (at least 3 quarts) or small soup kettle (4 to 5 quarts). Stir in salt and rice; cover and simmer over low heat, stirring once or twice until water is almost fully absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes.

2. Add milk, half-and-half and sugar. Increase heat to medium-high to bring to simmer, then reduce heat to maintain simmer. Cook uncovered, stirring frequently, until mixture starts to thicken, about 30 minutes. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook, stirring every couple of minutes to prevent sticking and scorching, until a spoon is just able to stand up in the pudding, about 15 minutes longer.

3. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract. Cool and serve at room temperature or chilled. (Can be covered with plastic wrap on surface of pudding and then refrigerated up to 2 days.)

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Flan, crème caramel, whatever. Turns out, there’s only the teeniest of differences. I was struggling to think of a dessert that fit a precise set of requirements – compatibility with the red wine we’d be drinking that night, not chocolate, and most importantly, not requiring any trips to the store. I really thought I’d hit on the perfect idea with flan, and it had even been on my list of things I’m all too eager to cook for some time now. But I kept hitting a snag, in that most of the recipes on epicurious called for sweetened condensed milk, and I didn’t have any.

Finally, I hit upon one that I had all the ingredients for. And I noticed something – the only significant difference between this recipe and Cooks Illustrated’s recipe for crème caramel is the fat content of the dairy. The flan recipe uses almost twice as much whipping cream as milk, whereas the crème caramel recipe uses an equal amount of light cream and milk. This was perfect for me, because I had made the crème caramel before and found the custard to be a little too light for my tastes. Furthermore, I had heavy cream on hand.

Well, I sort of had heavy cream. What I actually had was not one, but two expired cartons of cream, neither of which was the ultra-pasteurized stuff that lasts forever. Eww. But I was determined to make this, and I decided that one of the cartons was passable. I didn’t tell Dave about the questionable dairy in the custard, as I don’t think he’d have been pleased.

Oh, this dessert turned out really well. Much better than the previous time I’d made the crème caramel, when I believe I had overcooked the caramel. This time I fussed over it determinedly, swirling and watching, and even getting a container of honey out so I could judge just when the caramel became the “honey-caramel color” that the recipe instructed. It was perfect. I did have a little adventure with divvying up the caramel among only 3 ramekins instead of the four I was supposed to use, then hurriedly trying to scoop quickly hardening caramel into the 4th ramekin.

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After that, everything went pretty smoothly. This really isn’t a hard dessert to make, although the water bath is a bit of a pain. The blood-colored streaks on the ramekins are stains from the maroon towel I used to keep the ramekins stable in the water bath. Don’t they look so appetizing? Oh, and the stab wounds are from my tests to check if the custard was done cooking. Next time I need to be careful not to puncture the caramel. Between the bloody ramekins and the knife marks, I bet these just look so tempting, right? But this is actually an easy, fairly cheap, impressive recipe that can be made days in advance, and might therefore be perfect for a dinner party.

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Classic Crème Caramel (from Cooks Illustrated)

CI note: Though you can make one large creme caramel, we find that custards baked in individual ramekins cook faster, are more evenly textured, and unmold more easily. You can vary the amount of sugar in the custard to suit your taste. Most tasters preferred the full two-thirds cup, but you can reduce that amount to as little as one-half cup to create a greater contrast between the custard and the sweetness of the caramel. Cook the caramel in a pan with a light-colored interior, since a dark surface makes it difficult to judge the color of the syrup. Caramel can leave a real mess in a pan, but it is easy to clean. Simply boil lots of water in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes to loosen the hardened caramel.

Crumblycookie changes: I used heavy cream instead of light cream, 2% milk instead of whole milk, ½ of a vanilla bean instead of extract, and vanilla sugar instead of regular sugar.

Serves 8

Caramel
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons corn syrup
¼ teaspoon lemon juice

Custard
1½ cups whole milk
1½ cups light cream
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
Pinch table salt

1. For the caramel: In a medium nonreactive saucepan and without stirring, bring sugar, water, corn syrup, and lemon juice to simmer over medium-high heat, wiping sides of pan with wet cloth to remove any sugar crystals that might cause syrup to turn grainy. Continue to cook until syrup turns from clear to golden, swirling pan gently to ensure even browning, about 8 minutes. Continue to cook, swirling pan gently and constantly, until large, slow bubbles on mixture’s surface turn honey-caramel in color, 4 to 5 minutes longer. Remove pan immediately from heat and, working quickly but carefully (the caramel is over 300 degrees and will burn you if it touches your skin), pour a portion of the caramel into each of 8 ungreased 6-ounce ovenproof ramekins. Allow caramel to cool and harden, about 15 minutes. (Can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 2 days; return to room temperature before adding custard.)

2. For the custard: Adjust oven rack to center position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Heat milk and cream, stirring occasionally, in medium saucepan over medium heat until steam appears and/or an instant-read thermometer held in the liquid registers 160 degrees, 6 to 8 minutes; remove from heat. Meanwhile, gently whisk eggs, yolks, and sugar in large bowl until just combined. Off heat, gently whisk warm milk mixture, salt, and vanilla into eggs until just combined but not at all foamy. Strain mixture through fine mesh sieve into large measuring cup or container with pouring spout; set aside.

3. Bring 2 quarts water to boil in kettle. Meanwhile, fold dish towel to fit bottom of large baking dish or roasting pan and position in pan. Divide reserved custard mixture among ramekins; place filled ramekins on towel in pan (making sure they do not touch) and set pan on oven rack. Fill pan with boiling water to reach halfway up ramekins; cover entire pan loosely with aluminum foil so steam can escape. Bake until a paring knife inserted halfway between center and edge of the custards comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer custards to wire rack; cool to room temperature (Can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated up to 2 days.)

4. To unmold, slide a paring knife around entire mold perimeter, pressing knife against side of the dish. Hold serving plate over top of ramekin and invert; set plate on work surface and shake ramekin gently to release custard. Serve immediately.

For one large crème caramel: Follow recipe for Classic Crème Caramel, pouring caramel and custard into 1½-quart straight-sided soufflé dish rather than individual ramekins. Fill roasting pan with boiling water to reach halfway up sides of soufflé dish; increase baking time to 70 to 75 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in center of custard registers 175 degrees.

The Perfect Flan (from epicurious)

1¾ cups whipping cream
1 cup milk (do not use low-fat or nonfat)
Pinch of salt
½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise

1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water

3 large eggs
2 large yolks
7 tablespoons sugar

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Combine cream, milk and salt in heavy medium saucepan. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean into cream mixture; add bean. Bring to simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat and let steep 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine 1 cup sugar and 1/3 cup water in another heavy medium saucepan. Stir over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high and cook without stirring until syrup turns deep amber, brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush and swirling pan occasionally, about 10 minutes. Quickly pour caramel into six ¾-cup ramekins or custard cups. Using oven mitts as aid, immediately tilt each ramekin to coat sides. Set ramekins into 13x9x2-inch baking pan.

Whisk eggs, egg yolks and 7 tablespoons sugar in medium bowl just until blended. Gradually and gently whisk cream mixture into egg mixture without creating lots of foam. Pour custard through small sieve into prepared ramekins, dividing evenly (mixture will fill ramekins). Pour enough hot water into baking pan to come halfway up sides of ramekins.

Bake until centers of flans are gently set, about 40 minutes. Transfer flans to rack and cool. Chill until cold, about 2 hours. Cover and chill overnight. (Can be made 2 days ahead.)

To serve, run small sharp knife around flan to loosen. Turn over onto plate. Shake gently to release flan. Carefully lift off ramekin allowing caramel syrup to run over flan. Repeat with remaining flans and serve.

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Dave’s birthday is today! He’s a few years older than me, which can be nice sometimes. It’s not that I think I’m old, or that I get all “I can’t believe I’m [blank] already.” But I can’t deny that when I hit those landmark numbers, those ages when it’s hard not to think “I’m [blank], and this is where I am in life?”, that the impact is lessened a bit by the fact that my husband’s been there for a few years.

Every year on his birthday, Dave requests banana cream pie. I’ve tried a number of recipes, and so far, according to Dave, none of them have lived up to Baker’s Square Restaurant. I’m pretty sure he hasn’t had Baker’s Square pie in quite a few years, and if he were to try it now (after living with me), he’d have a different opinion. But until then, I’ll just make my own favorite recipe.

This recipe starts with a graham cracker crust, which I’m a big fan of, especially for custard pies. The crust has a bit of banana right in it, which is a really great touch.

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The custard is undeniably rich. I have no problems with that! After both the crust and custard have cooled to room temperature, two layers of banana and three layers of custard are filled into the crust. Then the pie is covered and chilled for at least eight hours to set the custard and soften the crust. Yeah right. I wasn’t that organized. We ate it after four hours of chilling.

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It’s so good! It may not live up to Baker’s Square fame, but Dave had a number of complimentary comments to give, including “Scrumdelilicious.”

The original recipe is from epicurious.com, but I’m going to give my own adaptations below. The original is made in a 10-inch pie pan, which seems silly, because most people, including myself, don’t have such a beast. The recipe I’ve given below is adjusted for a standard 9-inch pie pan. I also made a few tweaks to the crust.

Banana Cream Pie (adapted from epicurious.com)

Serves 8

Crust:
9 graham crackers, processed to fine crumbs (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons sugar
½ banana
2½ tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Filling
6½ tablespoons (2.8 ounces) sugar
¼ cup (1.1 ounces) cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1¼ cups whipping cream
1¼ cups whole milk
3 large egg yolks
½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1½ tablespoons unsalted butter
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

4½ ripe bananas, peeled, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices

For crust:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Process graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and banana until evenly mixed and there are no visible chunks of banana. Add unsalted butter and process to moisten evenly. Press onto bottom and up sides of 9-inch glass pie dish. Chill until firm, about 30 minutes. Bake crust until set and pale golden, about 15 minutes. Cool completely.

For filling:
Whisk sugar, cornstarch, and salt in heavy medium saucepan to blend. Gradually whisk in whipping cream and whole milk, then egg yolks. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add vanilla bean. Whisk over medium-high heat until custard thickens and boils, about 6 minutes. Pour through mesh strainer into medium bowl. Whisk in unsalted butter and vanilla extract. Cool completely, whisking occasionally, about 1 hour. Remove vanilla bean.

Stir custard to loosen, if necessary. Spread ¾ cup custard over bottom of prepared crust. Top with half of sliced bananas, then ¾ cup custard, covering bananas completely. Repeat layering with remaining bananas and remaining custard. Chill banana cream pie until filling is set and crust softens slightly, at least 8 hours and up to 1 day. Cut pie into wedges and serve with sweetened whipped cream, if desired.

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