Tag Archives: Custard

Procrastination Pâtisserie

Strawberry and fennel tarts

The Kind Of Procrastination That Leaves a Sweet Aftertaste

At the time that I cooked this, I really should have been packing for a work trip. I have also been so busy since I got back; including dealing with a gaping hole in my kitchen ceiling through which my neighbour’s shower leaks, and a recalcitrant landlord; that I have not really had the time to blog. Procrastination is a big theme in my life. Both mine and that of others, unfortunately.

You may also have noticed that I have had a little bit of an obssesion with pairing  things with fennel of late. I had briefly considered strawberries with candied fennel, a long time ago, but instead it became Rhubarb and Fennel Foolish, following some inspiration from Mister Kitchen at the Rollende Keukens.

I had some fennel stewed rhubarb leftover a while back. I had it for breakfast with some yoghurt and the first of the year’s strawberries, and discovered another match made in heaven. The seed of an idea was planted, and then I put off enacting it until I had something else I wanted to put off doing.

Unlike most procrastination, this did not leave me grumpy, nor with the slightly sour taste of panic in my mouth. Instead, it was a delicious treat for the last meal with the Big Guy before I left for the Philippines for a work trip. If only I’d got around to blogging it sooner…

Strawberry and Fennel tart in Profile

A Treat You Shouldn’t Put Off

I’m really very proud of this tart, it tastes like it is full of complex techniques, but it really is pretty simple. Even the crème patissière is not as complex as it sounds, since the flour in it means it thickens much quicker than it heats, so the risk of splitting is much less than with normal custard.

In fact, I thought that this little treat would be  great first entry into the Made With Love Monday blog challenge, hosted by Mark at Javelin Warrior because it was all my own work, and was made and shared with love.

Recipe: Fennel and Strawberry Tarts

Makes 6 small tarts

Ingredients

For the Crème Patissière:

½ tsp fennel seeds

350 ml milk

4 egg yolks

65 g caster sugar

15 g plain flour

15 g cornflour (or use 30 g cornflour)

For the Sable Pastry

25 g icing sugar

100 g plain flour

30 g ground almonds

50 g cold butter, cubed

1 egg yolk

A splash of cold milk to bind

For the Tarts:

15-18 Strawberries

2 tbsps rose petal jelly or  strawberry jelly (not jam)

1 tbsp water

Method

Crème Patissière

Add the fennel seed to the milk, bring to the boil, turn off he heat and allow it to infuse for 20 mins.

Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and the sugar together until pale. Whisk in the flour and cornflour until thick and glossy.

Once the milk is infused with fennel flavour, bring it back up to boiling point, and strain through a sieve. Let it sit for about a minute. Slowly add to the egg yolk mixture. Don’t add it too fast or the eggs will scramble.

Return the custard to the pan, and bring to the boil, whisking constantly, and pretty rapidly. Once it starts to cloy on the whisk, take it off the heat, pour into a waterproof container, whisk a little more until it is thick. Sprinkle a little icing sugar over the top, so that it doesn’t form a skin.

Cool quickly by dipping the bowl in iced water (don’t get water in the custard). Refrigerate until needed. I did mine the night before I needed it.

Cheekily hoover up the scrapings in the saucepan, like you were 5 again. You won’t regret this step, I promise.

Sable Pastry

Sift the flour and icing sugar. Add the ground almonds. Rub through the butter, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

Mix in the egg yolk. Add very small splashes of milk, until you can just bring the pastry together. You won’t need a lot, this pastry is quite soft.

Wrap the pastry in paper or clingfilm, and allow to rest in the fridge for at least 40 minutes.

Heat the oven to 200°C.

Roll the pastry out thinly. It’s a delicate pastry, it should be really short and buttery when cooked, so don’t add loads of flour when you roll it out. Instead, roll it on a lightly dusted sheet of baking paper (wax side up).

Grease 6 small tartlet tins. I find the ones with the removable bases are the easiest to use.

Line the tins carefully with the pastry. If your pastry is really short, you could make a sausage from it, cut into thin discs, and then overlap some discs and press them together to thin the pastry. Or you could roll it thinly, use a saucer to cut out rounds of the pastry, and slip it into the tart tin using your baking paper. Either way, carefully push the pastry into the flutes of the tin, using a little bit of scrunched up spare dough. Trim the pastry by rolling your rolling-pin over the top of each tart tin.

Cut squares of baking paper (you can use the same stuff you rolled the pastry on) a bit larger than the tart tins, and scrunch each of them up, as if you are going to throw them in a bin. This will help the paper sit better in the tart case, so that you can get the blind bake into all the nooks and crannies, ensuring that none of your pastry can rise.

Gently prick the bases of the pastry cases with a fork. Unscrunch the baking paper, and line the top of the pastry cases. Line thickly with ceramic beans, dried beans or rice and tap on a work surface to get them into the fluting of the cases.

Bake the tartlet cases in the oven for 10 minutes. Then remove the blind bake, and return to the oven for a further five minutes until the pastry is  crisp and lightly browned all over.

Set aside for five minutes, and carefully remove from the tins. Allow to cool completely.

Tarts

Once your pastry and crème patissière are completely cool, you can assemble your tarts. Slice the strawberries in a way you find aesthetically pleasing. Put some of the crème patissière into each tart case, and spread over the base. Arrange your strawberries prettily over the crème patissière.

Make a glaze by heating the rose petal jelly and water gently until the jelly has melted. Mix well, and brush it over the strawberry arrangement.

Enjoy as a slightly unusual treat, with or without friends.

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Tiramisu – Another Day Another Trifle

Tiramisu

A Mere Trifle

(c) J. Casper 2011

This is another take on  a trifle, of course, continuing in the spirit of eating well and using up what you have. This also appeared at the international Christmas dinner, but is great for any occasion.

The history of this dessert is uncertain, but it seems to be a lot younger than my family’s sherry trifle. However, purists would argue that my recipe is not a tiramisu, but at the time I served it, I didn’t think that “Coffee and Custard Layer Construction” had quite the same ring to it. Although now I see it written down, I am wavering…

The traditional tiramisu consists of layered sponge, soaked in coffee, and a  mascarpone and Marsala custard. But, I had some more spare panetone and I had made 2 l of custard, so I diverted from the original. I think that you can add a slug of Marsala, or even some Tia Maria if you want. I preferred a big smack from the coffee, and so didn’t want it mellowed in this instance. I certainly don’t think it suffered for it.

If you are an improvisational cook, like I am, you will enjoy getting the most out of what you have, so may well find other, equally good things in your cupboard, or fridge. It is good to know that you don’t have to stick rigidly to the old traditions, but that you can still produce great tasting food. You never know, if it is good enough, you could be starting a tradition for yourself!

Recipe: Tiramisu

Ingredients

180 g panetone

3 espresso coffees

6 egg yolks

100 g sugar

500 ml double cream

500 ml milk

½  vanilla pod

100 ml whipping cream

Cocoa powder to dust

Method

Make the custard, using the usual method, which is here, in case you need a reminder…

Leave to cool overnight in the fridge, if you can, but at least a few hours if you forgot that you are entertaining the next day, or have a pressing appointment.

Cut the panetone into strips of roughly the same size and thickness, and put in a dish, in a single layer if you can. I used a flat baking dish for this, not the final serving dish. Pour the coffee over it in as even a way as you can, you don’t want large portions of the sponge to remain untainted by the coffee.

Set the panetone aside to soak for about half an hour.

Once the panetone is thoroughly soaked, layer it into the serving dish (or individual glasses)  so that you have sponge, custard, sponge custard. I find that this is enough for two layers, but you may get more or fewer, depending on the width and depth of your serving dish.

Leave about 3-5 cm at the top, and refrigerate if you are not going to serve it straight away.

Just before serving, whip up the rest of the cream, and put it in a layer on the top of your trifle. Dust with cocoa powder, and serve it to guests who have already feasted on loads of food, but they won’t be able to resist just a small bit of this too.

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Sherry Trifle

Sherry Trifle

Sherry Trifle, for all Festive Occasions

(c) J. Casper 2011

In my family, a festive occasion is never complete without a sherry trifle – home-made, of course! We have a family recipe from my aunt’s mother-in-law, who was very particular about her recipe. She never, ever used fruit, and would frown upon versions that had superfluous ingredients. We have them for all manner of get-togethers, and a party wouldn’t be the same without one.

She passed her secret recipe onto my aunt. I have never asked her the exact recipe, but she has given me enough hints and tips that I have been able to come up with a good enough approximation. The exact recipe remains a closely guarded secret. Well, at least I imagine it that way, it seems nice to have a recipe that gets passed on to only a select few!

I have been meaning to post about the one that I made for our international dinner, but I had so much to post from Australia and since then, this is the first opportunity that I have had. I figure that this recipe is good for any party, and what better excuse than on your next snow day? Given the weather at the moment, I’m sure you won’t have to wait that long for the next one!

This version of sherry trifle has a few main differences to my normal one. Firstly, following our mince pie and mulled wine party, we had half a panetone left over that someone brought. I hate to waste things, so it seemed the perfect way to use this was to add it to the trifle instead of the usual sponge.

Secondly, I sent the Big Guy off to buy the sherry, and he came back with Pedro Ximinez. It does fit the brief of a sweet sherry, but it is much more interesting than the usual cream sherry, so beloved of elderly ladies, that is traditional in the family one.

Thirdly, the jam is usually strawberry or raspberry. I didn’t have any of those, and so I used some of the blueberry jam I had left from a trip to Sweden.

I am not sure that these amendments would have met the approval of the originator of the recipe, but it was certainly appreciated by my guests at our international christmas dinner!

Recipe: Sherry Trifle

Ingredients

6 egg yolks

100 g sugar

500 ml double cream

500 ml milk

½  vanilla pod

150 g panetone, cut into strips and spread with jam

100 ml sherry

200 ml whipping cream for the topping

Method

Firstly, you need to make a custard. It also need to be fairly thick, so I use half milk and cream. Normal custards can be made with just milk, but this one needs to hold up when you serve it, and not run everywhere, so the cream is necessary here.

You can make the custard using the step-by-step guide that I posted yesterday.

Set the custard aside to cool completely. If you can chill it overnight, so much the better.

Spread the jam on the panetone, and place it in the bottom of the serving dish. My traditional sherry trifle is served in a large bowl, from which everyone is served, but you can also arrange it into glasses for individual servings. Add the sherry to the sponge, and leave aside to soak in for 20 minutes.

Add the custard on top of the panetone. Spread it so it is as even as possible, but leave about 2-3 cm at the top of the bowl.If you are not going to serve this immediately, chill it again.

Just before serving, whip some cream to stiff peaks, and put it on top of the custard.

This is not a lightweight dessert, but it is a great treat. Especially for a celebration.

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Custard – a Step by Step Guide

You may have noticed by now that I am rather fond of dishes that involve custard. This is partly because I can only get Vla in the Netherlands, which is too sweet for use on desserts, and has been thickened with flour; but partly because homemade custard is much more tasty than it’s packet counterpart . It would, indeed, be possible to add Bird’s Custard to the list of Stuff Visitors Must Bring From the Motherland, but actually, making custard is relatively easy, so I don’t usually bother.

As it is so easy, and I have a couple of recipes coming up that require custard (and many more to follow, I’m sure) I thought that I would give a quick step-by-step guide, to save me typing out the method all the time.  The recipe calls for the use of vanilla bean. I know they are expensive, but they really are superior to using vanilla extract, so try to get them if you can. There is a good vanilla bean paste on the market too, that would be a better substitute if you really have to. Of course, I have managed to find a way to eke out the most value from a single vanilla bean, and nothing is wasted!

Most of the time, a recipe will call for you to split a vanilla pod in half, then add all of the seeds, and the pod to the warming milk/ milk replacement. I usually only ever scrape half of the bean, and add the seeds to the liquid. The exception to this is when making ice cream, or a LOT of custard, as these will require a whole pod.  I always add the split pod too, but when the milk has warmed through, I remove the pod, rinse, and dry the halves. When they are dry, I put them aside in an airtight container (a small jar with a lid). The next time that I need to make a custard, I still have seeds from half of the pod, and the old pod to add to the milk, so I get double the custard for the price of one.

Still not done, you can then dry the pods for a second time, and snip them into shorter lengths. Add these to an airtight jar filled with sugar. The remaining oils in the pod will infuse, leaving you with vanilla sugar. This is a much more acceptable substitute for vanilla pods in your next batch of custard, than using vanilla extract. There are many other recipes that you can use this in. I find stewing fruit with a little of this sugar is a really great addition. The vanilla pods will continue to be useful in this way for a few weeks. When they are dried up, they have imparted all their flavour to the sugar, and only then should you discard (or better yet, compost) them. That is a lot of value from one lowly bean, making it all a lot more worthwhile!

I have not given proportions here, as this will vary from recipe to recipe, whether you are using milk, cream, soya milk or even coconut milk (which is excellent in custard – I recommend that you give it a go). You can also make savoury custards but the methodology differs, so this is for sweet custards only.

STEP ONE – The Milk

Flavoured milk, just below boilng point

When the milk looks like this, remove from the heat

The milk (or replacement) has to carry the flavour. Usually, this will be vanilla, but could also be cocoa, ginger or fruit syrups. Whatever flavour you are adding needs to get heated with the milk. Some flavours, like the vanilla will infuse sufficiently having been brought up to the boiling point. Others will need to steep for a while before you heat the milk, to intensify their flavour.

Whichever way, you will need to gently bring the milk up to boiling point, but try not to let it boil. You will have reached this point when there are small bubbles at the sides of the pan. Take it off the heat at this point.

STEP TWO – The Eggs

While the milk is slowly coming to the boil, separate your eggs. I have assumed that a picture is not necessary for this part of step two. Be careful not to get yolk in your whites. I advise breaking each egg over a small, separate container before adding the whites and the yolks to the main batches. This way if any do break, you haven’t lost the lot. I have also taken a risk on scooping out some egg yolk when I managed to get a little bit (and I stress it was little) of yolk in my whites once when I didn’t follow my own advice, and it turned out OK, with no discernible effect on the yolks, but it was not great worrying about it.

Don’t throw away the egg whites. They make great meringues and macarons. They also freeze well, if you don’t have time to do something with them straight away. I would love to hear any other suggestions for using up egg whites, particularly in savoury dishes, if you have them. Although egg white omlets need not apply!

Egg yolks and sugar, whisked until pale

Egg yolks and sugar, whisked until pale

Once you have your egg yolks, you need to combine with the sugar, by whisking them together, until the mixture is pale.

A tip here is not to add the sugar to the egg yolks unless you are going to whisk them straight away. If sugar is left on the yolks, it will change them, and a skin will form, making the end result a little bit lumpy. This would be the time not to answer the phone if anyone rings!

It is the yolks that act as the thickening agent. I have heard that it is possible to make a sort of vegan custard, using soy flour as a thickener, and coconut milk, but I have never tried this method. Anyway, my point in telling you this is that you need the egg yolks – don’t be tempted to cut down on these, unless you also cut down on liquid too.

STEP THREE – Combining Eggs and Milk

Adding milk to eggs to make custard, slowly at first

Add a small amount of milk first

Some people will tell you that this is the hard part of the custard making process. As long as you don’t let it intimidate you, and you have a bit of patience, it need not be difficult. There is a risk that you could scramble the eggs, if you heat them up too quickly in one spot. This only happens if you apply direct heat to them, or if you try to add too much hot liquid at once.

An easy way to get around this is to only add a small amount of milk at first (really, only 20-30 ml), and make sure that you have whisked it in well before adding the next lot of milk.

You will need to put a damp cloth under your bowl, as I have done here, to stop it sliding around as you whisk, which leaves you with both hands for custard, not bowl-stabilisation.

Whisking in the first bit of milk

Thoroughly combine the first bit of milk before adding more

You can gradually increase the amount that you add each time. At some point, the egg will become quite liquid, at which point you have custard – congratulations! You  can add the remaining milk in a continuous stream, as long as you continue to whisk the custard all the time as you do so.

Adding Milk faster, continuing to whisk

You can start to add the milk faster, but continue whisking

I usually continue to whisk the custard for a little while, once all the milk has been added, more from habit than anything else, I think.

Whisking well to make sure the milk & eggs are thoroughly combined

Give the custard a whisk after all the milk is added, to ensure it is all combined well

STEP FOUR – Thickening the Custard

Custard, not yet thickened

When you return the custard to the pan, it will look like this

Next, the custard needs to be thickened. If you are making custard from scratch, you will need to stir it constantly. There is no getting away from this. I like to see it as spending time with the custard rather than getting impatient about it. Making custard can be relaxing, and fairly zen, if you let it.

Return the custard to the pan that you heated your milk in. Put it on a low heat and start to stir. You need to try to stir so that you are  moving the wooden spoon over all of the base of the pan, so that no custard can catch on the bottom, and cause lumps.

As it cooks, the custard will gradually start to thicken. When you draw a line on the back of the spoon, and the line stays there, and does not run, then your custard is done.

Thickened, Warm Custard

You know your custard is done when you get a line on your spoon

Never allow the custard to boil at this stage. If it boils, you will split it, and will end up with lumpy, scrambled custard, which will taste nice, but will look awful and the texture in your mouth will be horrible.

If this does happen, don’t despair too much. It can be salvaged to make it passable again, but it will have lost a little of the rich, silky texture that good custard is known for.

You can let the split custard cool a little, then put it into a food processor. Start it on a low setting, and gradually increase the speed and keep going until it is smooth again. I got this tip from the Accidental Hedonist a very long time ago, when I first started making custards, and one split on me (or rather, I split it, if we are going for full disclosure…). It really works, and the custard will be almost as good as new.

You can pour custard, hot, onto pies and puddings, baked fruits, or fresh ones. You can chill it for use in trifles or flans. Once chilled, you can cover  it with sugar that you burn under a blow torch, or a very hot grill for a créme brulée. You can bake it in the oven. You can even bathe in it to demonstrate how wacky you can be to raise money for charity, if you really must (not recommended, better use Bird’s for this purpose). Whatever you do with it, you will have a lovely homemade treat that will impress your friends, and that you can be very proud of.

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Handmade Ice Cream

Hi, my name is Mel, and I am a gadget-ophobe.

Well, I guess that is not strictly true, I just don’t see the point of most of them. I suppose this comes partly from the make-do-and-mend attitude I have retained since my uni days, when all I had was a block of knives, a mixing bowl, a wooden spoon and a balloon whisk. Anything else I had to improvise with a wine bottle (useful as a blender and a rolling pin!), or whatever else was to hand.

Obviously, I have got many more of the basics now, which allows me to do much more, but I still have not been suckered by many of the more ‘faddish’ gadgets, such as a breadmaker, or ice cream machine. I enjoy making bread, and take great pleasure from trying to get a tight round, or a nice airy foccacia.

I have never really attempted ice cream before now though, because I was under the impression it was difficult. It was also not easy to find a recipe that did not involve the instructions to “place all of the ingredients into an ice-cream machine”.

Stages of hand made ice cream

Stage 1: an hour in the freezer, before whisking

Anyway, a bit of hunting around, and a lucky episode of Masterchef Australia left me a bit more encouraged try to make my own, especially since they recommend a custard base, and I do like a good custard. Because I wanted something to serve with rhubarb, I chose to flavour this one with ginger.

Here is how I did it:

Ingredients

5 Egg Yolks

100 g Sugar

400 ml Double cream

400 ml Milk

50 g Stem Ginger

1 Tbsp Syrup from the ginger jar

Making Custard

Finely chop the ginger, and add that to the milk and the cream in a pan. heat to just below boiling point.Set aside to steep for 20 minutes. Pass the liquid through a sieve to remove the pieces of ginger, but set them aside though, because you will use some later. Bring the liquid back up to boiling point.

In general, for flavoured custards, you add the flavouring to the milk – you also do this with the vanilla pod if you are making custard to go with your apple pie. So, if you want to make mint ice cream, and the essence to the milk, add cocoa or melted chocolate for chocolate ice cream and so on.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks and the sugar together until they thicken quite a bit. Now for the tricky bit (or so they tell you). Very slowly at first, add the warm milk to the egg mixture. I do this by adding a little, and making sure it is whisked in before I add more. Once you have combined a fair amount, you can add the rest of the liquid much faster.

Once the egg and cream  is combined, returned to the heat and heat gently. Do not allow it to boil, or it will curdle. The custard will thicken, and when it leaves a line on the back of your wooden spoon then it is thick enough. Remove from the heat.

Stages of Ice Cream Making

Stage 2: Not much further than stage 1

The Ice Cream Bit

The custard needs to cool completely before you try to freeze it (not least for energy efficiency of the freezer!). You can either set it aside to cool, or a better way is to put it in a bowl, which is sitting in some ice in another bowl (or the sink) and stir it to dissipate the heat faster.

Once the custard is cold, then you need to put it in the freezer. Most sources I read said that you should put it in a bowl for this stage. Unfortunately, I didn’t read that until after I had frozen it, so I put it in an ice cream tub (recycled, of course). As long as the custard does not fill more than 3/4 of the vessel, it will be fine.

In order to make ice cream, er, creamy, you need to try to keep the ice crystals from getting too big. To do this, put it in the freezer for an hour, then take it out and whisk it. Repeat this process until you have a smooth, thick ice cream.For this recipe, I found it took four times to create the smoothness required.

Because I like ginger, I stirred in some of the chopped ginger from the custard making at the last stage of the whisk and freeze cycle. You could also add anything that you like at this stage – nuts, mint chips, chocolate chips, fruit.

Stages of Ice Cram Making

Stage 4: Thick, and after adding the ginger

The ice cream should last a few weeks in the freezer (in theory!), just don’t forget to take it out of the freezer about 10-15 minutes before you want to serve it.

I served mine with the aforementioned poached rhubarb, and some meringue. Well, I needed to use up those egg whites somehow!

Poached rhubarb, stem ginger ice cream & meringue

The finished product

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