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.

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