One of the greatest French bistro desserts is tarte au citron, or lemon tart: a rich, tangy curd set in a buttery French tart shell. In furtherance to ending the tyranny of the lemon in our fair city, I’ve been experimenting with substituting citrus with our local sour cherries.
Background: Classic Fruit Curds
In pastry books there are usually two fruit curd recipes: one for lemon and lime, and another that can be used for almost any other kind of fruit.
Lemon has two traits that let it have its own style of curd: a yellow colour and a very intense acidity. If you cook lemon juice with enough egg yolks and butter that it sets as a curd … Continue reading.
The short version of this post goes like this: remember when we made crème anglaise? That sauce made from milk, cream, and sugar, flavoured with vanilla and thickened with egg yolks, gently cooked on a double-boiler? If you put that sauce into a well-chilled household ice cream churn, you can make pretty good ice cream.
The long version of this post is more like this:
There are two broad styles of ice cream: Philadelphia and French. Philly ice cream typically contains only milk, cream, and sugar, while French ice cream also contains eggs. In fact, the crème anglaise we made last week is very, very similar to some recipes for French ice cream mix. The only difference is that … Continue reading.
The Origins of Butterscotch. Though butterscotch is common in Scotland, the “scotch” in the name does not refer to that country. In fact “scotch” is a very old English word for an etching, or scratch. Another instance of this suffix is in “hopscotch”, the game in which children jump across etchings or chalk-marks on the ground.
Scotch is also an old style of candy. To make scotches, sugar is boiled to hard crack, then flavoured and poured onto a buttered slab or dish. Portioning the individual candies while the sugar is still hot would yield sloppy candies with stringy edges, so once the sugar is partially cooled, the candies are marked out by cutting lines partway down into the mass. … Continue reading.
The last two posts have included the two most important recipes for making gingerbread houses: gingerbread and royal icing.
This season is only the second time I’ve made a gingerbread house, the first being in 2010 when Lisa and I made a gingerbread church with stained glass windows. Thanks to the nimble index fingers of Pinterest, that has become one of the most popular posts on this site.
This year I made another house in the same style, only instead of a church, I modeled the building after the one that Lisa and I live in, in McKernan.
The structure is made from these gingerbread cookies, which are bound with this royal icing.
The shingles are sliced … Continue reading.
Royal icing can be used in several ways, but it is most notable as the mortar that holds gingerbread houses together. It is decorative. It’s certainly not unsafe to eat, but it is almost entirely sugar, and it sets very hard and brittle. The CIA Baking and Pastry book says it best: “not intended to be consumed, at least not in any measurable quantities.”
In fact besides sugar royal icing has only one other major ingredient: egg whites. It might also have cream of tartar or lemon juice, which strengthen the protein matrix created by beating the egg whites.
To make royal icing you add a small quantity of egg whites, say 3 oz, to a mixing bowl, then start … Continue reading.
There are several kinds of gingerbread cookies, from the soft, chewy type with large cracks in the surface, to the very smooth, brittle sort used to build houses and men. This post is about the latter.
Below is a very simple gingerbread recipe that I wanted to post on Button Soup for the sake of completeness, as I use it to build my gingerbread houses. I like to cut the excess dough into other traditional shapes, like men, Christmas trees, and dinosaurs.
Tips and Tricks
- The key to getting this dough to hold its shape during baking is to roll it quite thin, about 1/8″, and to chill it thoroughly before baking.
- This is one of the very few instances
… Continue reading.
Another example of how to use the custards I’ve been talking about.
Come to think of it, most of the posts this advent have been short, simple introductions to basic pastry preparations: whipped cream, for instance, and ganache. Now we can start combining some of those building blocks to make more elaborate preparations.
Take éclairs. Éclairs are long choux pastries filled with whipped cream or pastry cream, glazed with chocolate.
We discussed choux pastry here, whipped cream here, pastry cream in this post, and ganache in this one. Several birds, one stone.
I ate my fair share of éclairs growing up. My dad often brought them home on Saturday mornings from the doughnut shop in the … Continue reading.
While crème brûlée is immediately identifiable by the crust of burnt sugar on top, the custard itself has a very particular consistency and flavour. Since it is eaten out of a ramekin, it can have a much softer, moister curd that, say, crème caramel, which is unmolded on to a plate and is therefore firmer, and eggier.
In fact crème brûlée used to be even more moist than it is now. According to Harold McGee, crème brûlée used to be completely liquid, like crème anglaise, and was poured into a very shallow dish, dusted with sugar, and burnt. Before blowtorches became the norm the burnt crust was made by taking a heavy, metal plate out of some very … Continue reading.
To make custard sauce we carefully cooked a mixture of dairy, sugar, and egg yolks over a double boiler so that the yolks thickened but didn’t curdle, which only occurs within a very narrow band of temperatures around 80°C. It was nerve-racking.
It turns out that if you add starch to the mix, the eggs will never curdle, even if you boil the custard vigorously. The starch granules absorb heat, protecting the egg proteins, and the dissolved starch interferes with protein linking. Of course, the starch also thickens the custard, so you end up with something that is more like pudding than sauce.
This preparation is called pastry cream, or crème pâtissière, and it begins exactly as crème anglaise… Continue reading.
The French name for this custard sauce is crème anglaise, which means “English cream.” À l’anglaise is a descriptor given to many preparations in classic French cuisine. It is in fact mildly derogatory, as it always describes the most basic of preparations. For instance, vegetables prepared à l’anglaise are boiled, then served with butter and parsley. Meat dishes prepared a l’angaise are also always boiled. And crème anglaise is the most basic of dessert sauces, a pourable custard flavoured with vanilla.
So yes: this sauce is considered very ordinary within the context of classic cuisine. It is not usually a featured component, but an accompaniment, an afterthought.
After initial preparation, crème anglaise can go on to become a number … Continue reading.