Sunday, October 31, 2010

Crème à la vanille

Here's another recipe for you, Eliza. Wheat-free and meat-free. Enjoy.

This recipe is absolutely delicious. I fell in love with these while in Paris this past fall, though I was buying the store-bought version then. They are so good that I actually brought one of them with me to the airport and ate it right before going through security (damn new rule of no liquids/gels on board!). I had brought one to the airport for Jerome too, but he didn't want it (Well... it is a dessert and we did pass customs at 11am. But whatever. You can only get these in France). I then proceeded to forget about his and managed to accidentally smuggle it back to Canada with me. After much debate (I mean, it was my last one!), I decided to share it with my friend Heather, who was a great support to me during our events in Paris, rather than just pig out on it myself. So there's the history behind these delicious little desserts. Though might I add, how is it possible that I've been to France a kizillion times before and had never had these???

Jerome's mom had given us a cookbook called Petites Crèmes awhile back, but I had never actually made anything from it (what was I thinking???). It has all sorts of different flavours of creams: vanilla, chocolate, coffee, apple, even rhubarb. So I set out to learn to make these the instant we got back. And despite Jerome's pleading, I've only made the vanilla one (even though I've made them several times) as I'm still just as in love with them now as I was in Paris. Perhaps one day when I truly OD on them, I'll make him some chocolate ones (or maybe on his birthday... teehee... wait... that's my birthday too... so maybe vanilla and chocolate??). Anyhow, I'm getting off track...

The dessert is a bit like a pudding, but way, way better than any pudding you'd get in Canada. The secret is using real vanilla bean (not liquid extract) and making sure that it's good quality. We're lucky enough to still have vanilla from our trip to Tahiti, which makes these absolutely delicious. Though I'm a bit concerned about how I will manage once we run out and have started e-mailing vanilla producers in Tahiti to see if anyone will ship us any, as it's way better than anything you find over here.

Ok, ok, so you just want the recipe and not all of my related babble... well here you go:

4 egg yolks
1 egg
2 C homogenized milk (3.25%) (don't substitute lesser fat milk)
1 vanilla bean (I use about 1/3 of a bean and split it in half)
a little less than a 1/2 C of sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Farenheit.

2. Beat the eggs in a bowl. Add the sugar and beat vigorously with a whisk for 3 minutes.

3. Slowly heat the milk with the vanilla bean in it in a pot. Once the milk is almost boiling, remove the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the milk. Pour the hot milk mixture onto the beaten eggs and mix well. (Note: if the milk is not hot enough, the texture of the pudding won't be thick enough. Also, you can't let the eggs sit for a long period while heating the milk, so be sure to do it as the milk is heating and re-beat a bit again if necessary).

4. While still hot, divide the mixture between 6 ramekins. Place them into a large baking dish (I use a 13 x 9 glass dish). Pour water into the dish, avoiding the ramekins, until the water is halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cook for 30 minutes. (Note: cooking time varies depending on how high the water comes up the sides of the ramekins. The creams are done when they jiggle a bit when shaken and don't seem too liquidy. I have cooked them anywhere from 30 to 50 minutes. When eaten, the texture shouldn't be too liquidy).

5. Let the creams cool and then place them in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving. Serve cold.

Note: before cooking, you can place a piece of vanilla on top of each cream.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Back to Real Life

So there has been a real lull in my blogging to date... as many of you know, my mother-in-law passed away at the beginning of this month. So blogging hasn't been a priority lately, as I'm sure it won't be for a little while longer, as we settle back into real life here at home and catch up on everything back here.

It was all a bit of a crazy ordeal: visiting her regularly in the hospital, arranging her funeral, emptying out her apartment and shipping much of her stuff back to Canada, while at the same time dealing with a general strike in Paris and taking care of a 4/5 month old baby... I don't think we've ever been quite so happy to be back home.

However, despite the craziness my life has been over the past 6 weeks (or perhaps because of??), we still managed to try to enjoy French food and wine to the fullest while we were away. Well... the wine as much as any breastfeeding woman without a pump can... there were even a few super tasty desserts that I somehow only tried for the first time this trip, despite the fact that I've been going to Paris regularly for the past 15 or so years.

My new goal in life is to find recipes for some of these super delicious treats... as well as to learn how to make a pâte feuilleté (flaky pastry) as good as my mother-in-law's. We still have one in the freezer here that she made for us on her last trip out here that we will one day savour in her memory. And also, to make her famous crème caramel, that every single person we crossed in our trip over there this time talked to us about, even though I've never even had it! Jerome doesn't like crème caramel, which I guess explains why she didn't ever make it for us. But we have her handwritten recipe book with all of her recipes and over the next little while I'll make them and get them up here on the blog for all to enjoy.

I wanted to come on quickly to write, as Alanna pointed out to me that I somehow missed the flour in the Reverse Chocolate Chippers posted on Jan. 31/10. I've adjusted the recipe now, so it should work now if you make it :P Apologies to anyone who may have tried to make it already, as I'm sure it wouldn't have worked. But the cookies are delicious, so if you tried them before and they didn't work, be sure to try them again now that you have all of the ingredients.

On that note, I am going to go relax for awhile... I'm sure it'll still be a few good weeks before I'm back to cooking and baking as usual. Just one last thing...

In memory of Josiane: La tête haute by Les cowboys fringants