Friday, September 16, 2005

SHF#12: Cooking Up Custard

I adore custard as much for its taste and texture as for its sheer versatility. Whether winging it alone as crème caramel and crème brûlée, or playing the part of perfect foil as crème anglaise and crème pâtissière, custard is the cornerstone of the sweet kitchen. The 12th edition of Sugar High Fridays is hosted by Elise of the wonderful Simply Recipes, and the theme is Cooking Up Custard. Here're some of my favourite ways of enjoying custard:

Vanilla Bean Pots de Crème
Thomas Keller's method as detailed in the Bouchon cookbook produces a luxuriously creamy custard, set so delicately it virtually melts in your mouth. The most magical thing, perhaps, is that it practically cooks itself. The pots (or ramekins) are coddled in a water bath before being baked in the oven. And thus, the simplest of ingredients - eggs, cream and vanilla beans - are transformed by the alchemy of very gentle heat.


Crème Brûlée Tart with Lavender Scented Crème Anglaise
This is based on an unusual recipe from Sherry Yard's The Secrets of Baking. I had first approached the preparation with trepidation but Ms.Yard's unconventional technique works a treat - by baking crème brûlée in sheets then freezing it, you are able to cut out any shapes you fancy (I used a fluted cookie cutter) and blowtorch the tops a la minute. The custard sits atop a fragrant white peach compote (the original recipe calls for sliced Royal Blenheim apricots) and some fabulously flaky almond pastry, accompanied by a classic vanilla crème anglaise intriguingly infused with lavender.

Île Flottante
Another Thomas Keller recipe, this time from The French Laundry Cookbook, and replete with spectacular twist, as you would expect. The slow-baked meringue swaddles a bittersweet chocolate mousse centre - a surprise hinted at by the garnish of chocolate tuiles and shavings. This featherweight island floats in a yolk-yellow pool of silky crème anglaise, picturesquely speckled with mint oil. The finishing touch? A few flakes of sea salt (I used Maldon instead of the fleur de sel specified) to round out the sweetness.

17 September 2005: Elise's rolling roundup is up!

30 Comments:

Anonymous ChubbyCat said...

Once again J, your creations have left me speechless and in awe. Simply love your camera work :) The Île Flottante looks especially divine. Yum!

12:13 am, September 17, 2005  
Anonymous joey said...

J, you never fail to impress! I wouldn't know what to eat first! :) Everything looks so beautiful! The Vanilla Bean Pot de Crème sounds sublime in its simplicity...and I love their little cups with the "petals" saucer :)

1:23 am, September 17, 2005  
Anonymous Cath said...

J,

These look amazing! I wouldn't have had enough nerve to make three desserts -- and each one as beautiful as the last! I think I'd definitely start with the pot de crème-- those cups! :-)

2:33 am, September 17, 2005  
Blogger Nic said...

I am loving everything, J. The one I most want to eat is the île flottante, but I adore the creme bruleed tart. I am actually rather suprised that freezing the custard worked so well. Beautiful job.

5:26 am, September 17, 2005  
Blogger Ruth said...

Now THAT'S how custard should look. Absolutely gorgeous yet again.

10:48 am, September 17, 2005  
Blogger Reid said...

Hi J,

More fabulous desserts I see. =)

They continue to look so yummy that I wish I could have sampled them all.

Excellent job once again!

12:15 pm, September 17, 2005  
Blogger J said...

hi chubbycat, thanks...glad you liked the looks of the floating island...

hi joey, thanks...i am a great hoarder of odds and ends...

hi cath, thanks...i love the great simplicity of a pot de creme too...

hi nic, thanks...i was really freaked by the prospect of a collapsing mess, but sherry yard's technique actually works really well...

hi ruth, thanks..coming from you, that's high praise...

hi reid, thanks...i've been asked if i live on dessert breakfast, lunch and dinner...if only ;)

1:42 pm, September 17, 2005  
Anonymous augustusgloop said...

Wow. Once again a tempting collection of desserts beatifully photographed as always. My first thought at the creme brulee tart was wondering how you got that shape! What an elegant idea.

The Ile Flottante sounds fantastic too. The touch of salt sounds divine.

4:01 pm, September 17, 2005  
Anonymous gemma said...

Oh my J, you always go so far and above. These all look superb and they were beautifully captured! Nice work.

5:22 pm, September 17, 2005  
Anonymous Mel said...

Oh my... I love custard, and what I wouldn't do to sample all of your creations... fantastic photography!

5:55 pm, September 17, 2005  
Blogger boo_licious said...

Simply fantastic! I love the idea about the creme brulee tart.

8:43 pm, September 17, 2005  
Blogger soycap said...

Hi j :)

Another incredible entry! I love everything you made here...I always wanted to try Sherry Yard's recipe of the Creme Brulee Tart and now that I've seen you done it, I just can't wait to give it a try one of these days :)Once again, lovely pictures and write-up ;)

2:23 am, September 18, 2005  
Blogger J said...

hi ag, thanks...i must say i was skeptical about the freeze-and-cut technique until i tried it and realised it's as easy as ms. yard makes it sound...

hi gemma, thanks, you are always so kind...

hi mel, thanks...i love custard too

hi boolicious, thanks...glad you liked it

hi soycap, thanks; the sherry yard recipe is wonderful, as are most her recipes...her book is one of my faves!

11:42 pm, September 18, 2005  
Blogger Mika said...

Your photos usually leave me speechless. But this time the description of your creations have done it for me. Wonderful, wonderful entries!

9:11 am, September 19, 2005  
Blogger Chubby Hubby said...

As usual, stunning. I just wish I could have tried that ile flottante (like everyone else here). Boy, you sure do make the rest of us feel rather less than talented with the sheer variety of tasty treats posted here ;-) Great post! Yum.

12:27 pm, September 19, 2005  
Blogger babe_kl said...

j, as always yr pics are utmost delicious so were yr crockeries... so beautiful

2:32 pm, September 19, 2005  
Anonymous keiko said...

Hi Joycelyn - hooooooooow gorgeous! I don't know which one to try (well, I'm not choosing one, I'm having all of them in one go :)) How do you put chocolate mousse in meringue!? I was looking at the sherry yard's book the other day and you've convinced me again...

6:27 pm, September 19, 2005  
Blogger Pille said...

Hi J - am speechless again!!! Three such extremely impressive creations of custardy puddings, gorgeous pictures, lovely write-up. I'm in awe..
PS I really like the small cups&saucers on the first picture!!! You do have a beautiful collections of interesting dishes & cutlery!

7:26 pm, September 19, 2005  
Blogger Amy said...

Everything looks amazingly beautiful and delicious, as usual. I'm really intrigued by Sherry Yard's freezing method. I can see it worked really well.

8:58 pm, September 19, 2005  
Blogger J said...

hi mika, thanks for your kind words

hi c.h., thanks, but you're much too kind. will make ile flottante again for sure as w is rather peeved he didn't get to try it; the batch in the post was a "trial run" i made whilst he was away ;)

hi babekl, thanks :)

hi keiko, thanks...i'm still dreaming about your ambroisie...the meringues are baked in ramekins, left to cool, then chilled to firm up slightly. the centres are then hollowed out and filled with chocolate mousse, chilled to set the mousse, then the ramekins are inverted - voila! chocolate centered surprise...re: sherry yard book...i have a hunch you'll enjoy the book ;)

hi pille, thanks for your kind words...re:cups and petal saucers...i bought these on a whim with no idea what to use them for...glad they found a purpose in life as pots de creme dishes!

hi amy, thanks...i was really curious when i read her recipe too; and given my clumsiness, rather surprised that it worked out well...

11:15 am, September 20, 2005  
Anonymous S said...

Hiya J,
For some bizarre reason, mini ile flottantes always remind me of the divine blue cheese bavarois with vanilla bean creme anglaise I had at Tetsuya's. When it arrived at the table, it looked like a tiny ile flottante--until you tasted it. Surprisingly, it's a combination that works fabulously well. Tets also puts raspberry, in addition to chocolate, into his ile flottantes. Another 'trial run' perhaps? ;P

11:49 am, September 20, 2005  
Blogger J said...

hi s, raspberry element sounds wonderful - i am beginning to be a real convert to the chocolate-and-fruit thing...hmm...perhaps as a coulis, used in lieu of the mint oil in thomas keller's recipe?...

1:18 pm, September 20, 2005  
Blogger cin said...

Your photography and your cooking are outstanding, J! I've just added you to my favourites list!

2:48 pm, September 20, 2005  
Blogger Jennifer said...

What gorgeous creations - three delcious looking desserts to add to my custard must-tries. Thanks so much for joining in on SHF - you never cease to amaze me with your delectables!

4:17 am, September 21, 2005  
Blogger cass said...

hi j, very beautiful creations! so impressive! hey, may i know where you buy the vanilla pod from? are they available in singapore? i've been searching for them ...but to no avail.... :(

9:17 am, September 21, 2005  
Blogger J said...

hi cin, thanks for dropping by; gave me the opportunity to discover your lovely blog!

hi jennifer, thanks for your kind words; coming from you, that's high praise!

hi cass, thanks! vanilla pods are available at culina as well as cellar door deli

3:12 pm, September 21, 2005  
Blogger julietkennedy said...

Simply elegant and beautiful! Where did you find the petal saucers???? I would love to have these..would you mind sharing or pm me?

11:43 pm, September 22, 2005  
Blogger J said...

hi juliet, thanks. i bought these quite some time ago from the link home boutique here in singapore. they are by a parisian brand called "blue leaves" and come in sets of 2 (2 cups, 2 petal saucers, 2 little leaf shaped spoons)

4:27 pm, September 23, 2005  
Blogger Elise said...

Hi Jocelyn - oh my, they are gorgeous! You out did yourself for this SHF. Who would have imagined lavender with custard? Beautiful entry, thank you.

9:35 pm, September 26, 2005  
Blogger J said...

hi elise, thanks for hosting, and for coming up with such an inspiring theme!

10:34 pm, September 28, 2005  

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