Custard is broadly defined as a cooked mixture of liquid and egg. The liquid dilutes the egg protein, so when the mixture is cooked and the protein coagulates it forms a very delicate network that gives the custard structure. In western cooking the liquid is almost always milk and cream, though stock can also be used. In classical French cooking a royale is a custard made from stock and egg that is cut into geometric shapes and floated in consommé.
Most custards are comprised of roughly 4 parts dairy and 1 part egg. The inclusion of egg whites makes for glossier, firmer custards, while using only yolks creates softer, creamier versions.
What’s remarkable about custard is the variety of consistencies … Continue reading.
Chocolate truffles are bite-sized balls of ganache, usually rolled in cocoa or nuts, or coated in a thin layer of hard chocolate.
Though most think of truffles as a luxury item sold in boutique chocolaterie, they can actually be made at home without fuss or artistry. All you need is good dark chocolate, heavy cream, and some garnishes of your choosing.
First, make the medium ganache described in this post. Let it cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until firm.
Use a measuring scoop to portion the ganache into bite-sized pieces.
Roll the pieces between your palms into uniform balls. I use nitrile gloves for this. Besides forming the round shape of the final truffle, this process also melts … Continue reading.
Ganache has two ingredients: chocolate and cream. They are combined in a way that transforms the hard, brittle chocolate into a soft, perfectly smooth, workable substance.
Types: Soft, Medium, and Hard. I most commonly make medium ganache, which is one part chocolate and one part cream by weight. It is firm but workable at fridge temperatures, and very soft but not fluid at room temperature.
Hard ganache is two parts chocolate to one part cream. It is much firmer than medium ganache and holds it’s shape well. It is, however, less stable: the concentrated solids in the chocolate slowly absorb moisture from the cream, then swell, clump, and make the ganache grainy. Hard ganache is often used as a … Continue reading.
Today I made hot chocolate using chocolate. It was the first time I had ever done that.
I grew up drinking hot chocolate made from prepared powder that came in little packets. The baggies had tiny, desiccated marshmallows in them that rehydrated when combined with hot milk. There was usually a portion of the talc that failed to dissolve and accumulated on the bottom of the mug. (Yum!) The drink tasted mildly of bad chocolate, but mostly it tasted like milk.
It first occurred to me that one could make hot chocolate from chocolate when I read The Polar Express, in which children are served hot chocolate “as thick and rich as melted chocolate bars.” That caught my attention. … Continue reading.
Attendez la crème!
-Col. Hans Landa
Though whipped cream has been around for hundreds of years, it took two relatively modern inventions for it to become as common as it is now.
One is the wire whisk. Before this tool was invented, cooks used cumbersome bundles of sticks or straw. More important for the future of whipped cream, though, was the invention of the mechanical cream separator. The traditional way to separate cream from milk is to let the fresh milk stand for several hours. Fattier bits will float to the top, and the cream skimmed from the surface will typically be about 25% fat. Mechanical separators use centrifugal forces and are able to produce cream with a … Continue reading.
Some detailed notes on a North American staple.
The Dough. I take for granted that you already know how to make a superlative, flaky pie dough. If you don’t, this pie dough is a good start, but you should probably add a handful of sugar to the mix.
The Filling. The first important consideration for the filling is the variety of apple to be used. High acidity and firm, crisp texture are key. Of the common commercial varieties, Granny Smith is probably the best, but there are lots of varieties growing within the Edmonton city limits that make good pie. Sweetness, of course, is also desirable, but we can balance the tartness of the apples with sugar. Look … Continue reading.
When it comes to pies and crumbles, I’m usually a purist: I prefer to use only one type of fruit. Saskatoon pie and crumble, however, pose two problems. First, the berries are relatively low-moisture, with pronounced pips and skins. When you cook them down with sugar they don’t ooze moisture like most other fruits, so they don’t produce cohesive pastry fillings without the addition of water, which simply dilutes the flavour of the berries. Second, they are low-acid when ripe, and on their own don’t make well-balanced fillings.
Rhubarb solves both of these problems. When cooked down, most rhubarb varieties are fluid, and help make saskatoons into a cohesive pastry filling. Rhubarb is also crazy tart, balancing the sweetness of … Continue reading.
Some quick notes on a springtime specialty.
The most difficult part about using rhubarb as a pastry filling is that once it’s cooked it has almost no structure. Actually it’s entirely liquid. For this reason rhubarb is often mixed with other fruit like strawberries or apples. Right now I have lots of rhubarb, hardly any fruit in the freezer, and berries and apples are still months off. In other words I have to set my rhubarb filling with gelatin or cornstarch.
We like rhubarb because it is tart, but oftentimes it is too tart. To make sure the acidity isn’t overpowering, I make rhubarb pie in a shallow, French tart pan instead of a classic North American pie pan; this … Continue reading.
I just nailed down a solid ratio of ingredients for a classic crumble. If you’re not from around here, let me tell you about crumbles.
A crumble is a casserole filled with some manner of stewed or baked fruit, topped with a crispy layer made from flour, sugar, and butter, usually with the addition of other grains or nuts. It is baked in a casserole, and often served with ice cream.
Crumble and crisp are two words for the same thing, though crumble seems to be the more common term in the UK, while crisp is more common in North America. As usual, Canadians comfortably elide the British and American vernaculars.
Crumble should not to be confused with cobbler, which … Continue reading.
Possibly my favourite application for rhubarb. Almost any tart fruit can be used, but the sour flavour of rhubarb marries beautifully with the nutty character of the brown butter.
Every time I brown butter I ask myself why I don’t do it more often. It’s quick, more or less foolproof, and one of the great, complex flavours of the kitchen. Simply put butter in a heavy pot over medium high heat, then remove once the moisture has boiled off and the milk solids have browned. If you need more guidance, you can think of browning butter like making syrup: as more and more water evaporates, the boiling point of the liquid rises. Use a candy thermometer and pull the brown … Continue reading.