Archive | February, 2010

Creme de la creme

16 Feb

I just made the most beautiful caramel sauces I have ever seen.  It is just the right shade of amber, and unlike my attempt last month, there haven’t even been any injuries.  If I had a good camera I could show you the sensuous loveliness that is perfectly caramelized sugar.  Like my creme caramel mentor mentioned today, “the darker the better”.  But the secret is not to let it boil over because at a certain temperature (that I couldn’t even guess at, but it is H-O-T, hot!) it becomes a bubbly, foamy inferno, and I can only imagine the mess it leaves as it hardens all over your cooktop, your counter, the dogs hovering at your feet, and your floor.

This recipe has been years in the perfecting and handed down through the generation.  My grandparents were really accomplished and interesting people, but they were not francophiles.  My dad is a first-generation admirer of all things Francaises.  Cup custard, as it is known at our house, is made of simple ingredients but there is an art to its creation.  There are multiple sensitive moments in the making of la creme caramel parfait.  There is the fine art of using a whisk, par example.  Le whisking – it’s all in ze wrist.

Let’s not forget the crucialness (cruciality?) of transferring a tiny  drizzle of scalded milk into the eggs and sugar. Not too much!  You don’t want to cook the eggs.  Then another drizzle, and another, and another…until voila!  le sugar and eggs are half milk and no egg has cooked, and then – and only then – is it safe to add the remainder of the hot milk to the custard.  We have already discussed the beautiful lava that is the caramelized sugar, so it’s time for le bain mariee – the water bath.  This step ensures the gentle steaming of the custard.

Il faut necessaire to remove the pans carefully from the hot oven as the water is boiling and it awaits the chance to splash onto your arm and burn you.  Yes, the making of la creme caramel is fraught with danger – which may be why we love it so much.  The Carters embrace risky behavior – our family motto is “Ah, but how great the reward!”

The next “guidelines” of la creme caramel refer to the presentation and eating of said delicacy.  No matter how much you want to dive right into the finished product, you will reap the full benefit of the dish by waiting a day or two for the flavors to set.  And last, and not only not least, but maybe even first, is this premier rule of le creme caramel:  THE CUSTARD CANNOT BE EATEN FROM THE VESSEL.  Mais non!  Quel horreur!  La creme caramel must be gently loosened from its captor by the insertion of a knife along its edge.  A plate must cover the open top of the mold, and the entire creation must be inverted so that the finished product can be enjoyed in all its glory.

Vive la creme caramel!  And laissez le bon temps rouler!

Later tonight (because the party is tomorrow!):

le bread pudding with le bourbon sauce.