Thursday, April 24, 2008

Custard's Last Stand

Custards fall into three main categories: stirred, baked and starch-bound. A custard is basically a mixture of liquid and egg that when gently heated thickens or sets from the coagulation of egg proteins.

For our stirred custard we made a Crème Anglaise – a rich vanilla scented custard usually used as a dessert sauce. The sauce is simple to make and consists of milk, egg yolks, sugar and vanilla bean or pure extract.

The starch-bound custard recipe was Crème Patissière (Pastry Cream) where flour and cornstarch are used to give it body. We all made a batch of Crème Patissière and stored it in the main refrigerator to use for a later class.

Crème Renversée (Crème Caramel) is a baked custard and includes a sweet amber-colored caramelized sugar. We made a basic custard recipe on the stove top and on the side we caramelized our sugar with a little water. When the sugar starts to caramelize it is best to take it off the stove a few minutes before you reach the color you desire since the caramel will continue to cook.

We poured our caramel into little ramekins and set those aside to harden. In the meantime we prepared a bain marie (water bath used to gently cook the custards) and preheated our ovens. Remember to use boiling water for your water bath. Once the caramel is hardened in the ramekin then you can put in your custard mixture and then into the oven.

While all that was happening, I started to play around with the remaining caramelized sugar. I took a flat bottomed pot and sprayed Pam® on it to create a nonstick surface. I drizzled lacy patterns of the now darkened sugar to use for our presentation.

My cooking partner Joseph and I unmolded our Crème Renversée (Crème Caramel) which was a little challenging because the little buggers just didn’t want to let go! But we prevailed in the end and topped our four presented custards with the lacy caramelized sugar on top. Chef liked the presentation and at the end of the evening we had a moment to breathe and enjoy our creamy dessert.

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