Crème brûlée

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This crunchy and custardy crème is my all time favorite dessert! I loved it for a very long time but I also dreaded making it, thinking it would be impossible to replicate its creamy tender texture topped with delicious caramel served in restaurants. What a waste of time that fear was! For all of you thinking this a complicated fancy-schmancy thing- it really is a very simple dessert to make. If I can do it, anyone can do it. And of course crème brûlée can be made at home even without having a kitchen torch, as in my case. This is my very first try and I am beyond happy that it was successful.  I know now that next time I’ll double the ingredients to make a more generous amount because…well..I have a generous appetite for crème brûlée! Of all the recipes presented in this blog, this was the hardest waiting for to set and eat 🙂 . It was torturous actually! But it was definitely worth the wait. To me crème brûlée would be the perfect treat for a special occasion, all you need is to follow the recipe strictly and make the crème a day before the occasion and leave in the refrigerator over night. It helps setting the crème beautifully. Of course if you are in a hurry cooling it for 4-5 hours will also do. Another yummy detail is using a vanilla pod instead of the artificial extracts. Nothing beats a creme infused with real, sweet and addictive vanilla flavour. This is why, as seen in the top picture, I preferred to leave the vanilla seeds in the custard instead of straining them.

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A word about caramelizing the sugar on top of the crème brûlée. Do not worry if you don’t have a kitchen torch, if you have grill  (broiler) function in your oven, it will be all you need. I was worried that returning the crème in the hot oven will change the custard texture, worse- it will turn it into a wobbly mess. Not at all! I preheated the grill at maximum temperature and let the ramekins in the oven for about 5 minutes to get that gorgeous caramel. Then I cooled them a bit and left them in the refrigerator for 1/2 hour. Crème brûlée caramelized in the oven gets that fine rustic view that I am favouring so much….see the edges beautifully blackened by burnt sugar. To me this burn balances out perfectly the rich and sweet custard. Do I need to tell you that scraping and savouring the edges  gave me enormous pleasure 🙂

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The recipe is adapted from BBC Good Food. Ingredients for 6 ramekins:

500 ml double cream

150 ml full fat milk

6 large egg yolks

50  g  white sugar, plus extra for the topping

1 vanilla pod

Preheat the oven to 150 C. Pour the double cream and milk into a medium pan. If you are using a vanilla pod, slice it lengthways, split it open  and scrape out all the tiny seeds into the cream mixture.  Drop the vanilla pod in as well, you will take it out later. Bring the cream to a simmer over medium-low heat.  As soon as you see bubbles appear round the edge, take the pan off the heat.You do not want it to boil, otherwise when added to the eggs it will scramble them. You just need to get the cream warm and simmering gently. In a large bowl whisk the eggs and sugar for a 2-3 minutes to get them paler in colour and fluffy.  I did it by hand but you can use a hand mixer, if so whisk for a minute. Strain the cream mixture and remove the vanilla pod. I did remove that but left the seeds. I could not help and tasted it, the flavour was out of this world! Slowly add a cup of the warm cream into the eggs while stirring continuously. This is called eggs tempering. Continue adding the rest of the cream and stirring. Pour the mixture into the ramekins and place them in a roasting tin. Stick in the oven and pour boiling water into the roasting tin, allowing it to come about 1.5 cm up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 30-35 minutes until the custard is softly set. To check, sway gently the tin and if ready the crème brûlées will wobble a bit. That is what you are looking for. Take the ramekins out of the tin and let them cool for a few minutes on the kitchen counter. After that leave in the fridge to cool completely at least for 4-5 hours. I kept them in the fridge overnight.

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To make the caramel crust, sprinkle a fine layer of sugar over the tops of your ramekins. Shake them back and forth gently to distribute the sugar evenly. Move the rack in your oven up as high as possible and turn the grill (broiler) function on. Grill (broiler) for about 5-6 minutes or until golden brown and bulbing. Let cool a bit and place the ramekins back in the fridge for half an hour. Serve and enjoy, I certainly did :-)!

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 Have an yummy Sunday!

 

 

 

 

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Lemon bars

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What could be more refreshing than these little sunshines, infused with lemon juice and zest and a buttery crust that melts in the mouth! This is my favoured dessert because of its tangy, soft and smooth taste. Oh how I love all things citrus! I am big on lemons and I love the filling quite tangy but if you prefer a milder flavour just add sugar to your taste.

For me this is a typical summertime recipe, everything in it screams sunshine, warmth and dazzling taste. Give it a try and invite summer into your home.

Maybe I need to tell you that today I started the process of making limoncello or more precisely I infused a litter of vodka with the peels of some lemons and let it marry for a month :-). This is how I found myself with 10 peeled lemons, which I decided to use for these lovely bars.

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The recipe is adapted from the wonderful blog of David Lebovitz.

Ingredients for a square baking pan- 14×10 1/2 cm

Crust

300 g flour
50g sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons of  melted unsalted butter
1 sachet vanilla sugar

Lemon filling

4 lemons. Since lemons are being waxed for protection and freshness I washed them thoroughly first. Then I put them in a bowl and poured over a kettle of boiling water and let it sit for 5 minutes.

150 g sugar. Taste while making the filling, if you find it too tangy add sugar

5 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

5 medium-sized eggs at room temperature

5 teaspoons corn starch

A pinch of salt

4 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

Line the baking pan with foil, it will make it easier to remove the bars once baked. Preheat the oven to 190 C. To make the crust combine the flour, sugar, salt, melted butter, vanilla sugar and stir to form a crumbly batter. Spread the batter into the bottom of the pan and smooth it using your hands or a spatula. It needs to be as level as possible.

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Bake the crust until golden brown, somewhere between 25-30, mine took 35 minutes.  To make the lemon filling cut the lemons in chunks, remove the seeds and place in your blender. Add the sugar and lemon juice, and let it run until the lemon is completely broken up. Add the eggs, corn starch, salt, and melted butter, and blend until smooth.

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David says that “A few tiny bits of lemon pieces are normal and encouraged” and couldn’t agree more 🙂

Once the crust is ready, take it out and reduce the oven temperature to 150 C. Pour the lemon filling over the hot crust and return in the oven for 15-20 minutes. The filling needs to just set and stop jiggling, mine was ready for 15 minutes.

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Cut into bars once it is completely cooled. Just before serving sift powdered sugar on top of the bars.

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Oh I am savouring one of those while writing this 🙂

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Tiramisu

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Do you remember “Sleepless in Seattle” movie? The dialogue (courtesy of imdb.com) goes like this:

 Jay is helping Sam get back into the dating scene.

Sam Baldwin: What is “tiramisu”?

Jay: You’ll find out.

Sam Baldwin: Well, what is it?

Jay: You’ll see!

Sam Baldwin: Some woman is gonna want me to do it to her and I’m not gonna know what it is!

Sam seemed a bit lost about tiramisu 🙂 but I am not. I know pretty well what tiramisu is and I always loved it. No wonder tiramisu in Italian means “pick me up” or “lift me up”, and it really is that lifting with its creamy texture and rich coffee/cocoa flavour. Oh I love the simplicity of Italian recipes, simple ingredients turned into gorgeous comfort food. You will love how quickly you will put the tiramisu together but for best results leave it in the fridge over night. This way you will have a glorious blend of cocoa, coffee, and mascarpone flavours.

I made this tiramisu for my son’s birthday and he absolutely loved it. So did I and my hubby. And I promised them I’ll make tiramisu more often 🙂

The original Italian recipe calls for raw egg yolks and whites. I am not big on raw eggs and decided to skip that. Probably the flavour would have been richer with eggs but I liked my tiramisu the way I made it.

Ingredients:

300 g ladyfingers. I used a 500 g pack of Sweet Italy Savoiardi. 2 packages remained unused so buy a smaller pack.

250 g mascarpone cheese at room temperature

250 ml cream

100 g sugar. You can add more sugar as per your taste. I like my tiramisu not very sweet

1 sachet vanilla sugar

350 ml strong coffee, cooled. I used Nescafe.

2 tablespoons of dark rum

2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder

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Whip the cream and sugar until it thickens and let in the fridge to keep it stiffer. Mix the coffee and the rum and set aside. In another bowl cream together the mascarpone and the vanilla sugar. Fold in carefully the whipped cream to the mascarpone mixture, blend it well using a spatula but do not over mix.

To assemble the tiramisu you will need a square baking pan, mine is 14×10 1/2 cm. Dip each ladyfinger into the coffee mixture and place them at the bottom of your pan, covering it completely. Take care not to soak the ladyfingers for too long as they disintegrate quickly. Spread evenly half of the mascarpone/cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder using a sifter.

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Add another layer of dipped in coffee ladyfingers and cover with the remaining mascarpone cream. Place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or ideally overnight.  A trick I learned from the mega talented cook Marco Pierre White is not to sprinkle the tiramisu with cocoa powder until two hours before serving; otherwise the cocoa will melt and create a chocolaty mess.

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I hope tiramisu will make you as happy as it has made me and my family :-).We’re were “lifted up” indeed!

I’d love to hear from you if you decide to give it a try and please share your impressions.