Crème anglaise

I came down with a cold last week and had to miss my baking class lecture & lab.  Chef was kind enough to allow me to make up the lab at home with the stipulation that I document the process and show it to her.  This I could do!  My assigned dessert sauce was Crème anglaise which is a custard that can be poured over the likes of cake or fruit, or even be drunk on its own (it tastes like unspiced egg nog).  This recipe is very sweet which will be great on a plain cake or unsweet fruit, but if the item being topped is sweet, I would cut back on the sugar content.

Ingredients

250 g egg yolks
250 g granulated sugar
1 L whole milk or 1/2 L whole milk plus 1/2 L heavy cream
1 vanilla bean or  15 mL vanilla extract

Directions

Measure 250 g granulated sugar
Separate the egg yolks from the whites

Measure 250 g egg yolks

I opted to use 1/2 milk and 1/2 cream Measure 1 L milk & cream

Get out your vanilla bean and cut it lengthwise

Set up an ice bath to cool that custard down quickly once it’s cooked. Set a stainless bowl inside of a larger bowl that’s got some ice and water  int it

Set a strainer over the bowl that’s in the ice bath.  This will help to withhold any lumps that may end up in the custard

The yolks and sugar need to be combined in a stainless bowl and whipped as soon as they’re combined until thick and light

Scrape the beans out of the vanilla and put them into the milk mixture, in a large sauce pan, add the seed pods too

Heat the vanilla and milk mixture to scalding (181 degrees F)

Temper the egg mixture with the warm milk mixture by adding one ladle of milk to the eggs while mixing on low

Slowly add the egg mixture to the warm milk in the saucepan and cook it on a medium-low heat while stirring constantly to prevent curdling until it’s thick enough to coat the back of a spoon(180 degrees F)

Remove the pan from the heat and pour the custard into the strainer that’s resting over the bowl in the ice bath and stir it to cool it down before using or storing in the refrigerator

Rhubarb curd

Ingredients
600g/21 oz. rhubarb, washed, trimmed and chopped into 1-inch chunks
4 large eggs
200g/7oz. unsalted butter, diced
8 tsp cornstarch
175g/6 oz. powdered sugar

Directions
Put the rhubarb chunks into a food processor and work them until a fine pulp is achieved. Transfer the pulp to a food mill and work it over a medium bowl to catch the juice until you’ve collected about 350 ml.

Add the eggs, diced butter, cornstarch, powdered sugar and 250ml of the rhubarb juice (save the rest) to a pan and set over a low heat, whisking until all of the butter has melted.

Once the butter has melted, switch to a wooden spoon and stir the concoction constantly until the curd has thickened to a consistency a wee bit thicker than custard. Do not increase the heat to speed up the process or your eggs will curdle- nobody likes a chunky custard!

Stir in about 100ml more of the reserved rhubarb juice, then set the custard in the refrigerator to chill.

Once chilled, taste the custard and add a splash of rhubarb juice if it needs more tart, then divide into jars. The curd will keep, stored in the fridge, for up to a week.   This preservative is delightful spread on toast, spooned onto a scone, or dolloped onto bread pudding (as pictured below).  The one negative to this curd is that all of the beautiful color of the rhubarb disappears and the resulting product looks rather paste-like.

Rhubarb curd atop bread pudding

Cocoa Cupcakes

Spring gatherings always necessitate a wow! dessert and the bigger the crowd, the more obvious it becomes that the perfect solution is cupcakes.  Cupcakes are easy to make, can be decorated in a variety of ways (or not at all), and allow the eaters to remain mobile (and social).

This particular cupcake is rich and dense, chocolaty, and has a tight crumb.  It strikes the perfect balance of sea salt, cocoa, vanilla and coffee.  If you ever ate Drake’s Cakes Devil Dogs as a kid, these cupcakes will take you right back to that special place in your memories (hopefully you eat it a little slower though, and savor it with a cup of coffee or a nice glass of red wine).

The options for toppings are endless, but primary candidates include fresh whipped heavy cream, whipped coconut cream, or a light buttercream.  You could also get really crazy and go for a peanut butter frosting for over-the-top decadence.  For my latest function I topped about half of the batch with coconut cream and left half plain.

Ingredients

1 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose gluten-free flour

2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup vegetable shortening

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon finely ground coffee

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup flax milk

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350° and line a 12-cup muffin pan with baking cups.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt and baking soda into a medium sized bowl.

In a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer), beat the shortening and sugar until light and fluffy, then sprinkle in the coffee granules. With the mixer on a medium speed add the eggs one at a time, beating until each  is fully incorporated before adding the next. Add the vanilla. At low speed, alternately beat in the dry ingredients and the flax milk.

Use a number 2 scoop to transfer the batter into the baking cups. Bake the cupcakes for 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool for five minutes, then remove them from the muffin tin and transfer to a cooling rack.

How to soak, cook and freeze dried red kidney beans

I work a 9-5 type of job so Saturday & Sunday are my days off and I tend to use them for food prep.  This includes the soaking and cooking of dried beans which tend to take more time than I have to spend on dinner on any given week day.  I like to buy more beans than are called for in whatever recipe I’m tackling, cook them all, and freeze the unused portion for another meal the following week.  This way I get twice the bang for my single buck of time.

For kidney beans I buy about a pound of dried beans, put them in a container twice as big as the bean content, cover them with water, put the lid on, and pop them in the fridge overnight.  When it’s time to cook, strain the beans out of the soaking water (as it has oligosaccharides in it which were released by the beans during soaking and can lead to digestive discomfort).  Place the strained beans into a pan at least twice the volume of the beans and add about ten cups of water.  Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer and put on a timer for 40 minutes.  At that point try one bean for doneness.  If there’s still a tiny bit of crunch to it, let them continue to cook for a minute or two (or five- whatever it takes).

When the beans are cooked to my liking I shut the heat off and add about 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt, give them a stir, and let them sit for just a couple more minutes to absorb some of that flavor.  Next, strain out the cooking water (make sure to check your recipe to see if you need to reserve that flavorful H2O) and place the cooked beans in storage containers in the fridge or freezer.  This method results in a firm (I hate mushy beans!) bean with a hint of salt that is great in soups or stews or even just to snack on.

If you are going to eat the beans as a side dish where they are the star of the show, rather than in a soup or stew where there are lots of other flavors coming together, consider cooking them in stock rather than in water.

Miso-ginger wild rice with carrots, cabbage, daikon and turnip

New Year’s Day provided us with a freebie day off in the middle of the week.  Besides random household chores, I decided that the best use of this time would be to cook a few dishes that we planned to eat in the coming week so that we buy ourselves time in the evenings for the next few days by having dinner already prepared.  The bigger benefit being that these dishes are ones that get better with time- the kind that soak up dressings, and age with grace.  A soup, some roasted vegetables, a dressed rice dish….

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 cups uncooked wild rice
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 4 medium carrots, quartered and sliced thin
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced thin
  • 1 leek, sliced thin
  • 1 3-inch piece daikon, halved and cut into thin strips
  • 1 small purple-top turnip, peeled, halved, and cut into thin half-circles
  • 1 cup thinly cut cabbage
  • 4 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower (or other mild) oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon barley miso (we found a great 3-year dark handcrafted right in Conway, MA by South River.  Organic too!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Directions

  • Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a medium pot, add the rice and return it to a boil
  • Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid is absorbed and rice is cooked through, about 50 minutes
  • Meanwhile, bring a large fry pan up to a medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of sunflower oil and all of the sesame oil, then toss in the carrots, celery, leek, daikon and turnip and get a nice brown on them.  If they begin to get too dark, turn down the heat and cook them until they’re al dente
  • When the veggies are cooked, add in the cabbage.  It’s cut nice and thin so it should soften up quickly
  • While that’s cooking, in a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, garlic, remaining tablespoon of sunflower oil, ginger, miso and crushed red pepper until blended
  • When the rice is cooked, add it to the pan with the vegetables (or, if you’re out of space in the pan you can do this in a large serving or mixing bowl) and pour in the dressing, stirring to incorporate all ingredients
Miso-ginger wild rice with carrots, cabbage, daikon and turnip

Miso-ginger wild rice with carrots, cabbage, daikon and turnip