Monday, February 11, 2008

Orange Blossom and Cardamom Crème Brûlée »Arabesque«

I name this one in honor of Greg Malouf's wonderful book »Arabesque«, which reveals a finer side of Middle Eastern cooking than many may be used to from Shawarma, Falafel and Baklava. Key ingredients here are orange-blossom water and cardamom, which find many uses in Middle-Eastern, North-African and South-Asian cuisine. Both should be easy to find in well-stocked supermarkets.
The trick, once again, is the infusion of flavors. Unlike making the tea creams, I chose to mix both the orange-blossom water and the cardamom into the mixture of eggs and sugar, before stirring it into the cream. This creates a more liquid egg mixture, which may require a bit longer in the oven for the eggs to set.
Here is the slightly altered basic recipe:
  1. Preheat oven to 150C/300F.
  2. Mix 200ml/7oz cream and milk each in small pot over medium heat. Heat without boiling and let simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Whisk three eggs with 200ml/7oz of sugar, one teaspoon of ground cardamom and two tablespoons of orange-blossom water.
  4. Remove cream-milk mixture from heat, slowly stir the whisked eggs into hot milk-cream mixture. Pour mixture into four ramekins.
  5. In a bain marie (an oven tray filled with water half way up the sides of the dishes). Bake creams for 20-30 minutes. Remove when creams begin to set. Refrigerate for at least two hours.
  6. Spread one teaspoon of sugar evenly over each cream, caramelize with a kitchen torch.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Earl Grey Crème Brûlée

Earl Grey flavored dessert recipe have been a recurring theme for me for quite some time. A good friend of ours made a fantastic Earl Grey cake a while back and I've often thought that Earl Grey would make a killer ice-cream flavor. Unfortunately I haven't tried making it yet, in part because we've been wanting to buy the ice-cream maker add-on to our beautiful new kitchen machine.
But then, the inspiration to make an Earl Grey crème brûlée struck and it worked out beautifully, finishing a recent dinner of green curry soup. Basically you'll want to follow the basic recipe and make just two changes: remove the cinnamon and add the tea.
There are several ways to add flavors to a crème brûlée. In this case, since tea best releases its flavors in hot liquids, you'll want to add it to the milk-cream mixture as its hot. Bear in mind, however that tea steeped in boiling water will "burn" and become tart while tea steeped for longer than three to five minutes (depending on the tea) will become bitter, due to high tannin content. This basically means the best time to infuse the cream mixture with the tea flavor is after heating it, before adding the eggs & sugar mixture. Simply shorten the simmering time, letting tea infuse at the end, in a tea bag of course.
I added two teaspoons of an Earl Grey Darjeeling in my recipe, using the quantities of the basic recipe. Since Darjeeling turns bitter rather quickly, I removed it after only three minutes. Using a cheap Earl Grey blend, sometimes characterized by soapy palate and overbearing bergamot flavors, should work fine, though you may want to reduce steeping time even more.

Open question remains, whether this a Crème Brûlée »Jean-Luc Picard« or »Bruce Wayne«. Strong feelings on this one anyone?

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Basic Crème Brûlée

This is a basic crème brûlée recipe, that I've found easily reproduces satisfying results in three easy stages: Préparation, Bain Marie and Brûlage (these are my terms, so use with care). I'm also assuming ownership of a kitchen torch for burning the sugar, but the top-heat method - broiling sugar after cooling the creams - can also be employed.
  1. Préparation - Preheat oven to 150C/300F. Mix 200ml/7oz cream and milk each in small pot over medium heat. Add a stick of cinnamon. Heat without boiling and let simmer for 5 minutes. Whisk three eggs with 200ml/7oz of sugar. Remove cream-milk mixture from heat and take out cinnamon. Slowly stir eggs into hot milk-cream mixture.
  2. Bain Marie - Pour mixture into four ramekins in a bain marie (an oven tray filled with water half way up the sides of the dishes). Bake for 20-30 minutes. Remove when creams begin to set. Refrigerate for two hours.
  3. Brûlage - Spread one teaspoon of sugar evenly on surface of cream. Apply flame of burner at a low angle, moving around in small circles. Let sugar dissolve and start boiling briefly, but move away quickly to adjacent areas to avoid blackening.
Depending on the type of ramekin that you make the creams in, you will need to vary the time they spend in the oven. There are two types of common crème brûlée dishes: deep dishes (the ones normally with ridges in the side) and shallow ones (sometimes with little handles). Deeper ones will need longer for the cream to set. Also, you want to take care not to fill the bain marie too much when using shallow ones, to avoid spillage, which will make the creams watery.