Wednesday, July 8, 2009

//Orange Crème Caramels with Berries


Ya know... I could have sworn I clicked the "Publish Post" button and not the "Save Now" button on Friday morning before I closed my laptop so I could head on out the door and onward to Seattle for the Fourth of July weekend. But, I guess I was wrong!

(Spoiler: Seattle is awesome. And very much a foodie town, like Portland. But that's not the focus of this post, though I do want to write a mini-wrap up post about the city some time this week.)

Crème caramel is often passed over in favor of the more popular crème brûlée. Both depend on caramel for their predominate flavor, but in a crème caramel, the caramel is soft and the custard is unmolded. Berries are the perfect accompaniment for the dish, as they blend well with the subtle hints of orange, and they complement the slight bitterness of the dark caramel. I chose a crème caramel recipe as my final dish for the Bounty of Blissful Berry Bites because I really want to buy a crème brûlée torch some time in the next few weeks — so that I can make brûlées (regular, fig, pumpkin... the entire panoply of custard recipes known to humankind), as well as sear meat and seafood. Also, typing "crème brûlée" with all the accents is just plain fun (editor's note: I have a weird sense of what constitutes "fun"). But, I couldn't in good conscience go through with the purchase until I first made an easier custard... one that didn't involve obtaining a fire extinguisher beforehand (just in case).

Orange Crème Caramels with Berries
Dish No. 6 of 6 for The Bounty of Blissful Berry Bites
(recipe borrowed from Classic Stars Desserts by Emily Luchetti)

For Orange Custard Base:
2/3 cup milk
2 cups heavy whipping cream
Peel of 1 orange
4 large egg yolks
1 large whole egg
2/3 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of kosher salt

In a heavy saucepan, combine the milk, cream, and orange peel over medium heat and cook until small bubbles appear around the edges of the pan. Remove from the heat, cover, and let steep for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare and ice bath. In a large stainless-steel bowl, whisk together egg yolks, whole egg, sugar, and salt until blended.

While whisking constantly, pour the milk mixture into the egg mixture in a slow, steady stream. Place the bowl in the ice bath and let cool to room temperature, whisking occasionally. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl and discard the orange peel.


For Caramel:
2/3 cup sugar
5 Tbsp water

While the custard base is cooling, arrange six 5-ounce ramekins in a 9-by-3-inch baking dish. In a small, heavy saucepan, stir together the sugar and 3 Tbsp of water. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves and comes to a boil. Increase the heat to high and cook, without stirring, until the mixture becomes golden amber. Remove from the heat and let the bubbles subside for a few seconds. Stir in the remaining 2 Tbsp of water. Be careful as you stir, as the caramel with bubble up when you add the water.

Pour the caramel into the bottoms of the ramekins. If necessary, pick up each ramekin and rotate it so that the caramel completely coats the bottom. Set aside until the caramel hardens, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 300° F.

Fill the caramel-lined ramekins with the custard base. Cover the pan with aluminum foil, but leave one corner open. Place the baking pan in the middle of the oven. Carefully pour hot water into the pan so that the water comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the pan completely with foil.

Bake the custards for 50-55 minutes. To check if the custards are ready, carefully remove the foil and gently shake the ramekin. The custard should be set around the edges, yet have an area in the middle — about the size of a quarter — that is not completely firm. Remove the pan from the oven. Remove the ramekins from the pan with tongs or a dish towel to protect your fingers Cover an refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.


For Tops:
1 pint mixed berries
1 Tbsp Grand Marnier (optional)

Carefully run a knife around the inside of the edge of each ramekin and unmold the custards onto plates. In a bowl, toss the berries with the Grand Mariner, if desired.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

//Puddin' Out Muffins


Happy Muffin Day!

Triple Berry Bread Pudding Muffins
Dish No. 5 of 6 for The Bounty of Blissful Berry Bites

For batter
7 cups of cubed bread (French, brioche, challah, or your choice)
Strawberry reduction (recipe to follow)
1/2 cup milk
4 eggs, lightly beaten
6 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled
1 pint blackberries
1/2 pint blueberries
1/2 lb strawberries
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350° F. Place rack in the middle of the oven. Butter and flour one 12 muffin tin, or one 6 muffin tin.

Place the bread cubes in a large mixing bowl and add the strawberry reduction. Let stand for five minutes. Then stir in the milk, beaten eggs, vanilla, butter and berries.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Stir this mixture into the bread cube mixture.

Evenly divide the mixture among the muffins cups, using two spoons. Place the muffin tin on a parchment lined baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Place on a wire rack to cool. Can dust with powdered sugar before serving.


For strawberry reduction
10 medium-sized strawberries
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 cup cream

In a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, heat the strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice until the fruit breaks down and releases its juices (about 10 minutes). Remove mixture from heat and strain. Pour the cream into the reduction, and whisk until just combined.