If you were to visit our house right now, you’d be wondering if Christmas is really just a a week away. Oh, we have a small tree up in the living room but that’s about it. No present wrapped up underneath and a few of Christmas decorations here and there in the house. We have gifts almost all ready to go for everyone but we can’t leave them out since they are of the edible kind. The pupps have a tendency to get in trouble with bows and ornaments!
Thank you immensely for the warm birthday wishes and emails. You guys are the best! Phew! This past week was filled with opportunities to take me away from updating more often. Work related issues to ponder, projects, family. I decided to put my mind on a break for a few days. Break is over now. Does that happen to you too? This feeling that the cup is full and you need to just press "pause" for a couple of days? There is always a sweet moment involved for me though. One filled with Creme Brulee Pistachio Macarons for example. As good as a red rose on your birthday.
Jen emailed me recently that she was making macarons and that sent me into a mini brainstorming session. I quickly replied with "I’ve had this idea for a while to make a creme brulee filled macarons. I just need to sit on the logistics for a minute". I pretty much knew how to go about it but there is always this doubt that your idea may be better in your head than the actual production.
When I told Bill about it, he gave me this look of "You and your macaron ideas! Why?". In a cocky French way I simply replied "I want Pierre Herme to personally email me and say "I give up – You win". Yes, just that. I am never that bold about what I do which surprised me a great deal. I am such a dork! I think I even scared Y one evening we were talking about it and she got utterly confused when I said "I am having a throw down with Pierre Herme, except he does not know about it. It’s all in my head".
What can I say? Engineering macarons relaxes my brain cells.
For the filling I used a basic creme brulee recipe, and baked it into an 8×8 square pan lined with foil and set in a larger roasting pan filled with water. I turned the heat lower than for regular creme brulees and watched it carefully. Once baked and cooled to room temperature I refrigerated the pan overnight before using it in the macaron. To fill, I used a small cookie cutter and cut out rounds in the baked creme brulee, gently lifted them onto a macaron shell and topped it with another one. Make sure to refrigerate these a couple of hours before eating so that all the flavors have the chance to meld. Take these out of the refrigerator only 15 to 20 minutes before serving. The creme brulee my turn on you or become too soft to be handled properly.
Speaking of engineering… I’ve got something to share with you that has me so excited I could burst!! Two weeks from now Bill and I will be sitting down with Jen and Jeremy at a table at The Kitchen. In Colorado. Yeah!! B. is going there for work and Jen graciously invited me over so I could spend some time with her in the kitchen, in town and on the trails. When all the oks came in, I started mapping out the drive, getting guides, etc… Yes, you read right, we are driving the 1700 miles or so to get there. We are well aware of all the bumps in the road (no pun intended) with a road trip but I plan on making a bunch of sweet treats to smooth things out if needed. No argument can last long with a macaron in hand!
One year ago: Lemon Madeleines.
Two years ago: Rhubarb Cupcakes.
Creme Brulee Pistachio Macarons:
For the shells:
90 gr egg whites (preferably aged overnight in the fridge or on your countertop if the kitchen is relatively cool)
30 gr granulated sugar
200 gr powdered sugar
55 gr almonds
55 gr raw pistachios
powdered green food coloring (I only used a tiny amount to bump up the green from the nuts)
For the creme brulee filling:
1/2 cup (125ml) whole milk
1/2 cup (125ml) heavy cream
1/2 vanilla bean, seeded (see note)
1/4 cup (50gr) sugar
2 egg yolks
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, (think bubble bath foam) gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue (think shaving cream). Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry. Place the powdered sugar, almonds and pistachios in a food processor and give them a good pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Add them to the meringue along with some food coloring if using, give it a quick fold to break some of the air and then fold the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that falls back on itself after counting to 10. Give quick strokes at first to break the mass and slow down. The whole process should not take more than 50 strokes. Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (Ateco #807 or #809) with the batter and pipe small rounds (1.5 inches in diameter) onto parchment paper or silicone mats lined baking sheets. Let the macarons sit out for 30 minutes to an hour to harden their shells a bit. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 280F. When ready, bake for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool. If you have trouble removing the shells, pour a couple of drops of water under the parchment paper while the sheet is still a bit warm and the macarons will lift up more easily do to the moisture. Don’t let them sit there in it too long or they will become soggy. Once baked and if you are not using them right away, store them in an airtight container out of the fridge for a couple of days or in the freezer. To fill: pipe or spoon about 1 big tablespoon of butterceam in the center of one shell and top with another one.
Prepare the creme brulee filling:
Preheat the oven to 300F and position a rack in the enter. Line a 8×8-inch square pan with foil and lightly coat with cooking spray or melted butter. Place this pan in a larger roasting pan and set aside.
In a medium saucepan set over medium heat bring the milk, heavy cream and vanilla bean seeds to a simmer. In the meantime, whisk together the sugar and egg yolk together in a large bowl until the mixture is pale. When the milk/cream is hot, slowly pour it over the egg yolk and sugar, whisking constantly to prevent the eggs from curddling. Let the mixture cool to room temperature, skim the foam on top and pour it into the prepared baking pan. Fill the roasting pan with water so that it comes about halfway up the side of the creme brulee pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. It is ok if the center still appears a little wiggly. It will set as it cools.
Let cool to room temperature before refirgerating preferably overnight.
Note: to seed a vanilla bean: place it on a flat surface and cut it in half lenghtwise without cutting all the way through. Scrape the seeds inside with a pairing knife. You can add both seeds and pods to the milk and cream as they heat up but remove the pod before whisking the liquids into the eggs and sugar.
Do not throw away your bean! Wash it, let it dry and add to some sugar for vanilla scented sugar in a pinch.
When ready to assemble the macarons, cut out rounds smaller than the diameters of the shells into the brulee filling and place it on top of a shell. Top with a second one but do not press down.
I was making a dessert for a client the other day to celebrate their anniversary when I started wondering if there was any anniversary for B. and I to celebrate soon. No first kiss, first dinner cooked together, no first trip anniversary in sight. Actually there is one soon…if I wrote real fast and everyday: I almost have written 500 posts on this blog. Five hundred stories, five hundred desserts, five hundred times I shared, laughed and cried with you… Now that made me nervous, like after a first date…"Did I talk to much? Did I laugh too hard? Did he/she have a good time?" Thanks for stopping by and offering a minute of your time as well as your stories, comments and emails. Let’s plan a big bash for post 500! Any (sweet) suggestions welcome!
Back to that lady’s anniversary and dessert. I like bumping into patrons I knew at the restaurant, it’s always fun to catch up and as fate would have it, I always end up with an order for macarons, tarts, cakes, you name it. The occasions are as varied: birthdays, showers, romantic dinners, business luncheons. In Lauren’s case, a 30th wedding anniversary and a dessert request for a quiet dinner at home with close friends. I really like Lauren. Impeccable taste in everything, down to earth and sincere. That to me is sophistication. She mentionned how much she loved my creme brulees I could not help but frown. She added that anything would be great but that they did not need anything super fancy or elaborate this time. Woohoo! I have zippo time for elaborate these days. Actually I have zippo time to even notice my socks are mismatched (oh yeah…not so cute at 33!).
I went home and told B. about our meeting and mentionned the creme brulees bit and frowned again. He noticed it. "Do you realize it’s lack a nervous tick with you everytime someone mentions creme brulees? You frown." Yes dear, I know. "Wouldn’t you frown too if you made them day in -day out, twice a day, every day and you can’t even recall which batch you are on and the restaurant’s owner does not want, will not have anything but vanilla creme brulees, and that the only time you got away with flavor was for a Grand Marnier tasting and that was cutting close and what was once your favorite dessert became "the one that shall not be named"? Phew… I needed to breathe so I stopped….He was staring, with that "oh my god, she is crazy" look on his face and took a step back before asking what I was going to bake then. Smart man, taking a step back.
I actually did not think about it long because it always boils down to this, what the client wants and what the client likes and I like them both a lot. They will get creme brulee. Only I’ll have my say in it, somehow. Since we are in full citrus season, I went for a tangerine creme brulee tartelettes: a tangerine pastry cream, baked in cocoa and cardamom shortbread (sable) shells and finished with a little sugar creme brulee crust. To commemorate their 25th anniversary of "tying the knot", I toppped each tartlet with a knotted candied citrus zest. I am such a love dork sometimes…
Tangerine Creme Brulees Tartelettes Recipe:
Kitchen Notes: The dough recipe was enough for four 4 inch fluted tartelettes and four 3 inch straight edged tartelettes, so I would say it makes between 6 to 8 tartelettes depending on your molds. You can replace the tangerine with orange or grapefruit, and leave the Grand Marnier out.
For the cocoa cardamom sable dough:
1 stick (115 gr) butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (93 gr) powdered sugar
1 large egg
1 1 /2 cups (188gr) flour
1 tablespoon (10 gr) natural cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon (2gr) ground cardamom
pinch of salt
In a mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and mix until combined. Add the flour, cocoa, cardamom and salt and mix briefly to incorporate. Dump the whole mixture onto a lightly floured board and gather the dough into a smooth ball. Do not work the dough while in the mixer or it will toughen up. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour. When the dough is nice and cold, roll it out on a lightly floured board or in between the sheets of plastic. You will have extra dough that you can save for another use in the fridge for up to 5 days or frozen, well wrapped for up to 3 months. Cut out 8 rounds two inches larger than your pastry rings. Fit the dough inside the rings with your fingertips and trim the edges with a sharp knife. Line the rings with small squares of parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dry beans. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 350F for 10-12 minutes. Let cool.
For the tangerine cream:
2/3 cup (120gr) sugar
6 egg yolks
3 tablespoons (30gr) all purpose flour
1 stick butter (115gr), melted and cooled
2/3 cup (160ml) tangerine juice
grated zest of 2 tangerines
2 tablespoons (20gr) Grand Marnier (optional)
In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, whole eggs and egg yolks until pale. Add the flour and butter and whisk until incorporated. Whisk in the tangerine juice and zest. Place the mixture in a saucepan over medium low heat and cook until thickened about 5-8 minutes, stirring constantly without letting it boil. Remove from the heat and whisk in the Grand Marnier if using. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the cream to prevent it from forming a crust while cooling. Let cool to room temperature.
1/4 cup granulated sugar mixed with 1/4 cup packed brown sugar for the brulee crust
tangerine slices and candied tangerine zest (use the recipe for candied kumquats, using tangerine zest instead)
Divide the cream evenly among the shells and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Top each tartelettes with about 1 tablespoon of the sugar mixed and using a blow torch, caramelize the top of the tarts to create a sugar crust. If you do not have a blowtorch, set the tarts on a sheetpan under the broiler and broil them until golden, watching carefully to monitor that the edges don’t burn.
Decorate with segments and zest of tangerines.
Update: Thank you to all of you who voted for Tartelette in the 2008 Food Blog Awards. I am grateful for your support in making Tartelette the Best Food Blog in the Chef Category and the Best Food Blog Of The Year. I will proudly honor this vote of confidence!
The family is packing for their upcoming departure tomorrow morning, so I thought it’s be best to stay at out of their packing jitters and tell you about the Loquat Creme Brulee Tartelettes we had last night….I am all about peace…. with tarts.
Back at the beginning of May when Marcela was visiting, we took a walk downtown and kept bumping into dozens of trees bearing a yellow/orange fruit that looked like a cross between an apricot and a plum. I thought about loquats but quickly discarded that thought. Really, what would be the odds to in the Lowcountry?! They grow and flourish in California in April and May, but it seemed like the first time I had ever seen one in town…but again locals are not the most observant people in their own town sometimes, and that day I had my camera in hand looking for the peculiarities of the city.
The loquat tree takes its origins in Southeastern China and was later introduced to Japan where it has been cultivated for over a thousand years. It is believed to have come to America via Chinese immigrants settling in Hawai. (source Wikipedia). We picked a couple off of a tree and scrupulously peeled them, not sure if we were indeed on the right loquat track. I figured that if the squirrels and the birds were feasting on them, it was safe to join them (yeah, I know, weird justification…!). The fruits was sweet and sour at the same time, like an apricot crossed with an Italian plum with a touch of lemon. We kept on walking and found another tree on the street with a sign giving us the confirmation that it as indeed a Eriobotrya japonica, or loquat tree.
We were not equipped for loquat picking that day (ladder necessary) and I vowed to either sneak into somebody’s yard at night or find a person somebody living in town. I started talking about them to one of my clients who lives downtown and she exclaimed that she was going away for the weekend and I was most welcome to go loquat picking at her house because they would otherwise just fall and rot in her driveway. Her waste, my taste….Yippee!! Once off the tree and cleaned of all lovely little bugs, it happens that the fruits turn "bad" very very fast. Not being one to particularly love stomach aches and given that loquats are high in pectin, I opted to make jam with the loot I had left.
Dinner time rolled around last night and no dessert was planned…gulp! We were peaking in the fridge and freezer to come up with something, when I remembered having enough almond shortcrust dough leftover from the blackberry tartelettes, a few egg yolks and a jar of loquat preserve. Loquat Creme Brulee Tartelettes were now on the menu! You can substitute the almonds in the tart dough with any nuts of your liking and do the same with the preserve.
Loquat Creme Brulee Tartelettes:
Makes 6-8 depending on your tart molds
For the tart shells:
1 stick plus 1 Tb. butter, cut in small pieces
1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 cup almonds
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 egg yolk
In a food processor, pulse all the dry ingredients. Add the butter and pulse again. Add the egg yolk and pulse until the mixture comes together in a ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate while you prepare the filling.Roll between sheets of plastic wrap and cut out circles larger than your tart shells, fit the dough into the molds and cut out the excess. Prick with a fork, cover with a sheet of parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake at 350 for about 10-15 minutes. Let cool to room temperature before filling with the loquat preserve.
2.5 pounds pitted and chopped fresh loquats
3 cups of sugar
1/3 cup of water
1/4 cup of lemon juice
Combine loquats, sugar and 1/4 cup of water in a large sauce pot. Bring slowly to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cook rapidly until thick. Stir frequently to prevent sticking. Add lemon juice and cook 1 minute longer. Pour hot into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Adjust caps. Process 15 minutes on a boiling water bath. If you need to read more about canning, here is a great site: National Center For Home Food Preservation.
Creme Brulee Topping:
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup whipping cream
4 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
2 tsp (packed) lemon zest
1 tablespoons granulated sugar + 1 Tb brown sugar for the top
Whisk 1/2 cup sugar, cream, yolks, and eggs in a bowl until pale. Add lemon zest. Pour filling into tart shells filled with the preserve. Bake until filling is slightly puffed at edges and set in center, about 30 minutes. Cool completely, about 1 hour. Remove from rings or tart pans.
Sprinkle tart with 2 tablespoons sugar. If using an oven: broil tart until sugar melts and caramelizes, turning sheet for even browning, about 2 minutes.
If using a torch: start slow and high up to melt the sugar and gradually get your flame closer to finish the burnt effect.
Macarons are great, no doubt about it, the only caveat when you make them on a regular basis is that you are left with quite a lot of egg yolks. B. will tell you that this is never a real problem and when you consider the endless possibilities if egg yolks based desserts, I’d say he is right. Custards, creme anglaise, pots de cremes, zabaglione, chocolate mousse, etc…and of course cremes brulees!
I have had the same relationship with cremes brulees as I have had with macarons. I love to make macarons, but did not start really liking eatng them until a couple of years ago when I let my imagination free and started to play with fillings, toppings, centers, etc…It was kind of the same with creme brulees. The owner of the restaurant I worked for hated two things: cinnamon and flavored creme brulees. The custards had to remain as plain as possible and since I had to make close to 100 a day I quickly started to hate making them, but still loved eating some whenever we went to diner somewhere. As soon as the owners would go on vacation or took a night out, you can be sure that I was playing with the liquor cabinet and the fruit purees!!
When my mother came to visit she brought with her a couple of syrups I had been eyeing for some time and while I have not completely figured out what to do with some of them, I knew this "Liqueur de Pain d’Epices" would end up in a custard of some sort. Pain d’epices is one of those traditional French cakes that as a child you either love or hate. I happen to love it with a passion.
According to The French Food and Cook, "Pain d’épices originally comes from China and was imported in France in the Middle Ages, in particular in East France, with the cities of Dijon and Reims as leading producers. Today, pain d’épices remains a specialty of Eastern France (Dijon, Alsace…). Pain d’épices that usually contents 30% of honey is very energetic and was considered as a very good medicine." The common spice blend found in the cake loaf is usually a combination of orange peel, anise seeds, cinnamon, coves and sometimes juniper berries. I like that I was already self-medicating at a young age with cakes…
The liqueur itself had definite notes of cloves and anise and was somewhat reminiscent of Bailey’s with a note of orange peel in color and texture. Pretty darn good! The recipe for the creme brulee is my usual standard one; you can add pretty much anything you like to flavor and it turns out smooth and creamy everytime. There is nothing better than the crackling sound your spoon makes when you hit that burnt sugar crust..hmmhmmhmm. I strongly recommend you invest in a blow torch which you can find at any hardware store. Not only will you get great crusts everytime, but you can also use it for meringue pies for example. I find that a combination of granulated sugar and brown sugar helps achieve a tasty crust that is easy to "burn" heavenly.
For the Creme Brulee: serves 4
1 cup egg yolks (between 6 and 8 depending on the size of your eggs)
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup liqueur de pain d’epices, or any other liqueur of your liking
1/4 cup brown sugar mixed with 1/4 cup white sugar for brulee topping
Preheat oven to 350F. Place 4 ramequins inside a roasting pan and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until pale yellow. Heat the cream until scalding hot. Slowly whisk it into the egg yolk mixture, mix well, but not too vigorously or you will add too much air. Pour into a container and let cool to room temperature. Pass the mixture through a sieve in a container with a spout (the spout is not necessary but it makes pouring easier), and divide among the 4 ramequins. Pour water to about halfway up the sides of the ramequins and put the pan in the oven. Cook for about 20 minutes or until the mixture appear almost set, it should still wiggle a bit in the middle. It is ok to remove the pan from the oven at that point as the custard will continue to bake and set. Let cool to room, cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use. Right before serving: divide sugar on top of each custard and use a blow torch to caramelise the top or put the pan under the broiler.
In my family we say that a good creme brulee is hot on top, room temp in the middle and cold at the bottom.
Last thing: the dishes are minis that my mother sent me the other day so I ended up with 8 minis but they were the perfect 2 bite treats with coffee.