January 17th, 2008

The Ultimate Crème Caramel Recipe
(with photographs of the process)

Coco&Me - The Ultimate Crème Caramel Recipe (with photographs of the process)(It’s the most creamiest, & yet most delicate Crème Caramel I’ve ever tasted in my life!)

Coco&Me - The Ultimate Crème Caramel Recipe(I didn’t have molds that were all the same, so I used my collection of Japanese tea cups instead! – The two illustrated ones are from my childhood. And the one with the writing is a soba (buckwheat noodle) sauce dish that my parents brought over from Japan over 25 years ago!)

.

x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

.
Since my last post:

I’ve been naughty of late. My sweet tooth never stops craving, it’s just terrible. My nearby convenience store’s got a “buy two tubs for a fiver” deal for big tubs of Häagen-Dazs (Praline & Cookie’s n’ Cream’s my favourite – what’s yours?). And I’ve been tucking in to them with a big tablespoon (no dilly-dallying with a wee teaspoon I say!), late at night, wrapped up in my blanket, fireplace on, surfing the web endlessly with the other hand, quite meaninglessly whiling away my time, browsing from a web link to another link…

.

But, now that the cheap ice cream deal is over…, I decided I must start making my own desserts again that I can stick my sweet tooth in to!

.

x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

.

So, here is the ULTIMATE recipe for Crème Caramel that I have been indulging in lately.
.

I call it ‘Ultimate’ because, I can honestly say it really is the most creamiest, & yet most delicate Crème Caramel I’ve ever tasted in my life! Every luscious spoon sends blissful melt-down of your surroundings, & before you know it, it’s gone… – & you curse yourself for not making more… Yup, ladies & gents, it’s THAT good.
.

It is dead-easy to make too if you follow certain steps. Crème Caramel in basic terms is literally just a three-step method: mix, sieve & water bath, with the most simplest of ingredients (eggs, sugar, milk & cream optional). The most important trick to keep in mind is to try NOT TO incorporate AIR, as the final silky texture will suffer greatly.
.

In this special recipe, I did not use any egg-whites, as per normal Crème Caramel recipes. It relies on just egg-yolks to set the liquids. This is what makes this that extra rich & thick in flavour, yet delicate, as well as the softest you’ll ever ever taste. Despite no egg-whites, it keeps its shape very well, so long as you refrigerate it for a good 4 hours.
(Note: Although, if you’re using a very big mold, it maybe better to look for a recipe that uses whole eggs &/or gelatine that will help to hold its shape better.)

.

Please keep in mind the quantity of ingredients listed below makes roughly 6 to 8 individual Crème Caramels. It’s all dependent on the size of your chosen molds. The best way to know how many this quantity will make is to measure 700ml of water & fill the molds to see how many it fills.

.
x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

.

THE ULTIMATE CREME CARAMEL RECIPE

.
Ingredients
For Caramel:

40 cc Water
80g Sugar
20cc Water

For the Crème:

250cc Double cream
250cc Milk
4 x Egg yolks
60g Sugar (granulated or castor)
A few drops of Vanilla essence OR half a vanilla pod, split length way

.
Prepare this before you begin:

  • Make sure your eggs are at room temperature, as cold egg won’t mix well with the milk.
  • Butter inside the individual molds so that the Creme Caramel de-molds smoothly.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees.

.
METHOD:
.
First make the caramel.

  • 1. First stir the sugar & 40cc of water to a syrup in a small thick bottomed pan. Then cook on medium heat so that the whole base of the pan is equally heated. During this time do not stir too much.
  • 2. Once it starts to colour, stir with a wooden spoon. The colour will start to darken – & once you reach ‘a step or two before’ your desired darkness, take it off the heat & SLOWLY pour & stir in the 20cc of water to stop it colouring any further.
  • 3. Immediately pour the caramel in to your molds before it becomes too thick to handle.
  • 4. Make sure the bottom is completely covered by tilting the mold around.

Caramel Tip:
- Never let the caramel darken too much, it’ll taste too bitter. The caramel suddenly turns
from sugar liquid to dark & bitter in a split second, so I advise you take it off the heat (in step 2) while it is slightly lighter still. It’ll darken ultra-quickly while you’re stirring more water in to it anyway.
- Never leave it cooking alone. It is dangerously hot.
- Never ever pour the water in to it in one go. It is highly dangerous as it will foam up like mad & increase in volume & splutter.

.

Next, make the Crème:

  • 5. Heat the milk & the double cream in a pan – (with half a vanilla pod if you’re using it instead of vanilla essence).

Tip: Here, never let it reach the boil. Or more precisely, never let it go over 60 degrees as the milk will form a skin on the surface. – At 60 degrees the protein coagulates when exposed to air. So skimming & throwing away this skin means you are throwing away the delicious proteins & fat molecules.

.

  • 6. While the milk mixture is heating, GENTLY whisk the egg yolks in a mixing bowl.
  • 7. Then mix in the sugar GENTLY.

Tip:
- Always mix the sugar into the eggs straight away. Don’t leave the sugar lying around with the egg as the sugar will absorb moisture from your egg & leave dry gravelly bits.
- Always stir the sugar in SLOWLY. Do it as if you’re cutting it up, rather than whisking it, as if you’re scraping the sugar against the bowl. Crème Caramel is a dish that purely uses the solidifying power of the egg as it heats, so the finer you ‘cut’ the egg yolk up, & incorporate it in to the mixture, the better the overall texture.
- DO NOT INCORPORATE AIR whilst mixing. This is the most vital trick to make your final Creme Caramel smooth.

.

  • 8. Pour & mix the hot milk/ cream liquid in to your egg bowl. Add vanilla essence if you are using it instead of vanilla pod.

Tip: Pour in a small amount first & mix, & then pour some more. Let the egg mixture get used to the hot liquid little by little. Never pour the hot liquid in to it in one go. You have to be cautious as eggs solidify at 60-70 degrees, although the sugar should act as a good blanket.

.

  • 9. Lay a few layers of kitchen paper or a cloth inside a roasting pan, & place your molds.
  • 10. Use a sieve & slowly pour the mixture in to the molds.
  • 11. Remove air bubbles by tapping mold lightly on your work-table, &/ or by spoon. Lightly dabbing the bubble with kitchen towel also works well.
  • 12. Lid each mold tightly with aluminium foil.

Tip:
- Laying some kitchen paper stops directly heating your Crème Caramel from the bottom.
- The temperature of the Crème mixture should still be warm (if it is cold, it’ll take longer to bake in the oven).
- Sieving the Crème mixture gets rid of air bubbles, aswell as the chalaza (the ropey strands of egg white).
- Lidding the molds with foil prevents the top surface from drying under direct oven heat.

.

  • 13. Boil lots of water in the kettle. And pop the roasting pan with the prepared molds in to the pre-heated oven. Keep the door ajar to pour the hot water in the pan, half to two-thirds up.

Tip: It’s best to pour the hot water in to your water-bath when the pan is already on the oven shelf. This way, it is less likely for the water to accidentally make way in to your molds while transfering from work-table to oven.

.

  • 14. Bake for 20 minutes at 160 degrees, & then 10 minutes at 170 degrees without the lid. After the baking time, remove from the oven. Check if baked thoroughly by gently shaking it sideways. If it wobbles too much & creases form in the middle, put it back in the oven for another 3 minutes & check again (crease form when the sides are cooked, but not the middle). ‘Bouncy’ & ‘springy’ wobble is cooked.
  • 15. Take it out of the water bath, & leave aside to cool. Once cool, refrigerate for a good 4 hours before serving so that it sets fully.
  • 16. To demold, run the edge of the knife around the rim. Place inverted plate on it. Hold both mold & plate firmly together, then flip it so that the mold is on top. Gently shake up & down. It should smoothly come out. Let the caramel sauce pool around the set Crème.
  • Bon Appétit!

.
Coco&Me - The Ultimate Crème Caramel Recipe - with photos of process
.
Suggestions on alternative flavours:
You can ‘flavour’ the milk at step 5 with ‘coffee’ & ‘tea’.
You can also use honey instead of sugar too.
Or why not add brandy or rum? Or what about green tea, or chocolate flavour?

.

January 6th, 2008

Galette des Rois 2008

Coco&Me - Galette des Rois from PAUL

.

January the 6th is an important date for anyone who’s knee-deep in Cake-love. Y’see, it’s a special date to consume a particular cake called the Galette des Roisa super delicious French cake made simply with flakey puff pastry & frangipane filling (almond cream & custard cream mix of 2:1 ratio).

(Note: some pâtisseries just use almond cream filling, & some pâtisseries sell other flavoured fillings as well as the ‘classic’ version. Ie: Hermé’s got several types, one of which is filled with his famous signature combo, the ‘Ispahan’, which is, rose-flavored almond cream, lychees & raspberries.)

.

‘Scuse the pun, but the “charming” factor that gets everyone raving is that the galette hides a ‘fève’, a small ceramic (sometimes porcelain or plastic) charm. The lucky person who stumbles upon the fève in their slice is crowned the King or the Queen of the day, & get to wear the golden crown supplied. He/ she can also get to choose who can become their fellow King or Queen to enjoy such privilege together.

- I guess you can take this to your advantage & choose someone you fancy as a flirting tool! – That is if you’re single & available though! I guess I’d probably have to choose my D. – Then again… if George Clooney was attending the same party… … [!!] No, no, do not worry! (cough cough…).
.

Of course, I ‘should’ mention that the date means a lot more than a cake-eating fest!

January the 6th (or the first Sunday of January) is a Holy date called the Epiphany, commemorating the Twelfth Night when the Three Kings arrived in Bethlehem bearing gifts for baby Christ, thus by so doing revealing Jesus to the world as the Lord & the King (The term Epiphany means ‘to make known’).
- Although, I think nowadays many people attach no particular religious significance to the date, but just enjoy the culinary tradition of it alone. (- a bit like the modern day Christmas, non?)

.

x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x . x
.

Coco&Me - Galette des Rois from PAUL

(Medium size, measuring around 9 inch diameter was £11.00. Their large-size costs £14.00. The crown is white & gold, the traditional colour of Epiphany.)

Coco&Me - Galette des Rois from PAUL

(The fève, front & back view. The cake came with a note on which printed the following words: “BEWARE OF THE CHARM – Make sure you look out for our royal charm, hidden somewhere in this Galette des Rois, please don’t chip your tooth on it or swallow it. Whoever finds the charm in their slice is crowned King or Queen for the day, traditionally they also have to buy the next Galette.”)

.

My Galette des Rois 2008 was purchased from the pâtisserie PAUL.

I guess if I was living in Paris I would have ordered mine from the likes of Hermé, or other super-artisanal pâtisseries, that are less ubiquitous. But this is London, & the only place I knew that would sell the Galette des Rois was this PAUL & Maison Blanc.

.
In Hampstead, North London, these two chains exist opposite each other. In comparison, MB’s one looked rather sluggishly made, with the sides of the galette sloping outwards like a splat. PAUL’s was straighter & glossier, although the top surface was bubbled-up & uneven, the pattern poorly executed & was barely visible – definately not picture-perfect either. BUT, again, “this is London”, this is what had to do.

.

Of course I could have made one myself. But y’know, dare I admit, I felt like hibernating. I know, I know, straight from my motivational blurb on my previous post about experimenting, it’s a bit embarrassing.

.

But on this occasion, it turned out beautifully to my favor, because I re-realized that there’s nothing like the excitement that you get from especially travelling to “buy” a cake that you know will be delicious. And especially with this cake, I won’t know where & what design the fève might be!

(- Also, I often find that baking my own cake puts me off eating it slightly, because I know how much sugar & butter went in to it, which is… ‘a lot’!!)

.

After purchasing the galette, when we were browsing in Waterstones Bookstore, I had the most wonderful experience of noticing that I received a straight-from-the-oven galette. The base of my cake box was hot to the touch, & the gorgeous smell of super-freshly baked pastry filled the air, the buttery-ness almost too over-powering. [!!] I urged D that we gotta go home a.s.a.p.! This baby’s too delicious to wait around!

.

And guys. yes, it truly was heavenly delicious! The puff pastry had a glossy top, was delicately flaky, & was not too sweet, slightly salty even – it went well with the moist & sweet almond frangipane inside. After having a small bite, I decided to pour myself some Nilgiri tea. I know, I know I should stay away from caffeine, but I also knew the combo with the Nilgiri would work great to refresh the palette from the rich buttery-ness. A sip now & again between my bites. I just had to. A ‘erbal just wouldn’t be up to this job!
.

PS: Gentle reminder.

Have you tidied away your Christmas decoration? Apparently “Twelfth Night is when all Christmas Decorations should be removed so as not to bring bad luck upon the home.” [!!]

January 1st, 2008

Anna Karina in “Une femme est une femme”

Coco&Me

(Over this Winter holiday we watched Jean-Luc Godard’s ‘anti-musical’ musical “Une femme est une femme” (A Woman is a Woman,1961) & I instantaneously fell in love with the lead actress Anna Karina. – Obviously the director fell for her too, as they married after filming!)

Coco&Me

(She’s sooo cute! I hear Agnès b. has channeled Anna Karina as the muse for their latest collection. I wonder if they sell a similar trench coat & cardi? I must get myself to one of their shops…!)

Coco&Me(In the strip cabaret: This was the ‘it’ scene for me, when she seductively sang to the camera, about her beauty. The song melody has been playing in my head ever since…!)
.

x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

.

Firstly, Happy New Year to you!

Every time I greet the new year, I just can not believe that it’s ‘Another’ new year. It’s like ‘What?! 2008?!!’ How can time fly so quickly? I mean, I still can’t believe we’re in the 200x (in the Noughties) anyways!

Maybe my reaction is a sign of getting old… *sigh…*
Just yesterday, our friend T told us how he had a work-experience student coming in for a week at his workplace, who’s born in the… mid-90′s! – Huh?! mid-90′s??! Everyone around the dinner-table (all aged 30+) shook their heads in disbelief (& consequently checked if their ears are still hearing correct)!

.

.

SO, dearest blog readers! Have you thought of what your new year’s resolution might be? Any plans or goals for this year? In Japan, we say “1年の計は元旦にあり”, It means New Year’s Day is the right timing to plan your year ahead when your mind & spirit is fresh.
.

Huh? What? My new year’s resolution/ plan?
Well, I’d like 2008 to be about re-establishing my passion for making chocolates & pastry making. On self-reflection, the whirlwind of the last two years, franticly making the same stuff for every Saturday, had not given me enough time for new explorations. And the products I produce for the market is often limited/ restricted to popular stuff that would sell well, & I certainly hadn’t been making desserts (such as with mousse, ice-cream, etc) that is not suited to sell if not in a refrigerated food display.

.

This year’s schedule is going to be quite different, what with giving birth to my second child. – meaning I’d be spending a lot more time at home, meaning there’ll be a bit more ‘Me’-Time! Yay! Very exciting. I want to use that time to make new desserts & do all-sorts of things I wanted to do but couldn’t because of my market-commitments. Be it working on my camera-skills, channeling sexy-cute Anna Karina for fashion…, & how about being a better mommy who’s there everyday… …
.

Currently I’m thinking of working for another one more month in February (I want to be selling chocolates for the Valentine’s season), before giving birth. And then give myself a six month break, & go back to regularly doing the market again from around mid to end of September (I want to start after my first child starts reception class – he’s gonna be going All-day 9.00 to 3.30!). I’ll be working for the whole of the Winter season, which is the best season for selling my chocolates.

.

- So for anyone who visits my stall, it seems like I won’t be around much this year… I will miss you…

.

“Happy New Year to you!
May every great new day
Bring you sweet surprises!”

t xxx
.