Crème Caramel

Easy to make and sometimes overlooked in the world of modern foams and more elaborated desserts, Crème Caramel or Flan is still a favorite of mine. Its magic combination of sweet, rich custard and bitter caramel is one of those marriages meant to last.

And without the caramelized sugar, the custard is a great base for turning leftovers such as bread or baked goods like Panettone or Croissants into wonderful moist puddings.

As usual there are many different recipes, but here's one I personally like:

The trickiest part is making the caramel, because in order to soften it a bit and prevent it from becoming solid after it cools off, I like to add a small amount of water to it while it is still extremely hot, and this makes the hot caramel react and splash around dangerously.

But if you survive that part the rest is pretty easy.

To make this process a little safer, once the caramelized sugar has reached the desired rich amber color, dip the bottom of the hot pan in a bowl full of water. This will stop the cooking and partially lower the temperature making the action of adding some water to it a bit less extreme. After this, pour the hot caramel into each mold and allow to cool.

In a sauce pan warm up 1qt of whole milk with the yellow part of a lemon peel and a small piece of cinnamon stick. While the milk is warming up stir 4 egg yolks and 4 whole eggs with 7oz of sugar and a small pinch of salt. There is no need to whisk hard as you don't want to mount them, just combine them. You want to avoid extra foam forming after you combine the milk.

When the milk is hot, but before it starts simmering, pour it slowly into the egg mixture, stirring to avoid the eggs from coagulating.

If desired add a splash of Brandy, Rum or Grand Marnier, to provide a little extra aroma. Or if you prefer you can put a piece of vanilla bean in the milk.

Strain through a fine sieve and pour inside the molds. Place the molds inside a oven safe dish and add about 1 or two inches of hot water. Bake at 325F for about 30-40 minutes or until the custard will feel slightly firm to the touch.

Allow to cool and refrigerate. To serve run a paring knife along the side of the mold to allow some air inside and reverse the creme caramel in a small plate, pouring all the extra caramel on top of it.

It's ok to eat more than one if like me you just can't stop at the first.

Tiramisu

Tiramisu

It doesn't need an introduction, I know. But like all food preparations it can be prepared in many different ways with surprisingly different results, so I decided to share with you how I make it.

Beware though, I am not going for the easy way.

I prepare Tiramisu by cooking the yolks with sugar and Marsala like a Sabayon over a warm water bath and this can be labor intense and tricky to execute correctly. It requires constant care to ensure the Sabayon will mount, become rich, fluffy and thick without scrambling the eggs. Such hard work, however, produces a superior flavor and texture, in my opinion, and is also safer to eat than the uncooked egg versions.

So if you are up for some arm workout here is my recipe:

Egg yolks 8 - Sugar 200 gr - Marsala 200 gr - Mascarpone 500 gr

Combine the yolks with the sugar and Marsala in a stainless steel or even better copper bowl if you have one.

Start whisking vigorously enough to produce bubbles and place the bowl over a water bath with the water very hot but not simmering. Keep whisking and stirring to allow the mixture to increase its volume and mount to a fluffy texture.

If you feel the temperature is getting too hot or the water below is starting to simmer, move the bowl aside and keep whisking. Keep the sides of the bowl clean at all times to avoid that the untouched parts coagulate too quickly and produce lumps. The Sabayon must be completely smooth.

Keep whisking over the water bath until the Sabayon will become thick and creamy. You should be able to see the tracks left by the whisk and the sabayon should be thick enough to leave clear paths when dripping from the whisk. This might take several minutes of whisking and keep in mind that it will occur just a few moments before the entire mixture would become so hot that the eggs could scramble, so play close attention as this is the most delicate and important part of this preparation.

As soon as the Sabayon is properly cooked, move it over an ice bath and keep stirring to allow to rapidly cool down, then add the Mascarpone and keep refrigerated.

Now that the tough part is over and all you have to do is assemble the final dessert.

The easy way would be to assemble it in a large dish and spoon it to portions at the table. When possible, I prefer to prepare individual portions in wine glasses as in the image above. It is a bit more time consuming but it provides a prettier individual presentation. I also prefer to soak in good, strong espresso disks of sponge cake instead of Savoiardi or Ladyfingers cookies, but no big deal either ways. Just make sure that the espresso is strong and pure. I don't like to mix it with any liquors or sugar because the key is to enjoy the contrast between the bitter and juicy espresso soaked sponge cake and the rich, sweet and Marsala scented cream.

So to complete it put the Tiramisu cream in a pastry bag and start piping a small amount in the bottom of each glass. Then top it with a small disc of coffee soaked sponge cake and repeat this a couple of times finishing with a nice swirl of cream.

At this point the dessert can be refrigerated for a day or two if necessary but the sooner you eat it the better. Desserts, in general, don't benefit from sitting in the fridge and freshness is paramount.

Before serving dust a little cocoa powder on top, sit comfortably and enjoy each bite!