Category Archives: Custards, creams, puddings, mousses

Far Breton (Brittany Prune Pudding Cake)

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I rarely bake (at least compared to most bloggers I follow), mainly because, no matter which season of the year, I crave usually light creams, custards or mousses you will find published quite often on my blog and I often find a piece of good dark chocolate totally sufficient as a daily sweet treat. When I do bake, I often go back to my favourite thin French-style tarts or moist, creamy cakes, such as Polish Light Cheesecake, Moist Coconut Cake or… Far Breton, which is my definite favourite. Actually, if I were to show here every single sweet treat coming out of my oven, I think it would appear on my blog probably 80% of the time. I hope my love for this light, custardy pudding cake and a slight photographic improvement are valid excuses to rewrite about it after two years.

Far breton is as easy to prepare as it is impossible to translate. It’s not exactly a cake, nor a custard, nor a flan… Since nothing I have ever tasted has a similar consistency, maybe “a baked, dense, slightly elastic pudding” (in the German sense of the word) would be a good definition. As its name suggests, far breton is a Brittany region specialty and a small Breton village bakery shop is the first place where I discovered it . Apparently, several centuries ago the dish called far was a kind of gruel with dried fruit, far meaning “wheat” or “spelt” in Latin. Afterwards the dish evolved into the today’s dense pudding-like cake. The oldest written trace of the present form of far breton dates back to the XVIIIth century, when both savoury (made from buckwheat and served with meat) and sweet fars (usually without any fruit) were popular. Nowadays only the sweet one is very popular not only in Brittany, but all around France.

Most people prepare it, like me, with prunes, some add only raisins, some both, and some purists refuse any kind of fruit. I find the most popular, slightly tangy version the absolute winner. I think it is best served cold, preferably left overnight in the fridge. Having prepared far breton according to the same method for at least ten years, I no longer remember where I found this recipe, but I appreciate it for the absence of butter or any fats and also for its low sugar content.

Coolness, extreme softness, moisture and a slight elasticity are the main reasons I find this cake irresistible. I also appreciate it for its lightness and low flour and fat content. My far breton is only slightly sweet, so if you are not the kind of person who cuts down the sugar content by half in every recipe (I do), add at least 50% more. The balance between the sweetness and acidity depends also on the prunes though.

TIP: Many people worry about the fact that prunes fall to the bottom. I don’t mind, but I have heard that coating prunes in flour prevent them from falling. (I have never tested it though).

Preparation: 1 h (+ at least 2 hours in the fridge)

Ingredients (fills a 10 x 30 cm or 20 x 20 cm baking dishes):

250 g/about 9 oz flour

70 g / about 2,5 oz sugar

4 eggs

750 ml/ about 25 fl oz milk

1 pinch salt

a bit of salted butter to grease the dish

25 big prunes (stoned)

a bowl of hot strong black tea

50-100 ml/about 1,7 – 3,5 fl oz rum

Soak the prunes in tea until they become soft. Drain them.

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Grease the pan with butter (or line with baking paper).

Warm the milk until it is hot (don’t boil it!).

Combine the eggs, the flour, the salt and the sugar.

Slowly add the warm milk and the rum, stirring.

Pour the batter (it will be very liquid) into the baking dish. (If it is not smooth, mix it in a blender or pass it through a sieve).

Place the prunes inside, more or less regularly.

Bake for about 1 hour until golden brown.

Let the far cool down before putting it into the fridge for several hours.

Serve very cold, sliced.

Light Matcha Crème Brûlée

matchacbpIf you are fond of matcha (Japanese powdered green tea) you have probably tasted Matcha Crème Brûlée, which has become popular worldwide. Green tea’s astringency and slight bitterness is not everyone’s fare, but its fans appreciate its refreshing, cooling effect and unique herbaceous aroma. I have always enjoyed all the sweets and desserts with matcha, so even though I had always been disappointed with such inventions as chocolate or coffee crème brûlée, I wasn’t surprised that matcha crème brûlée proved an exception. Nowadays, apart from the traditional vanilla-scented one, it’s the only version of this French dessert I like and prepare.

I have called my crème brûlée “light” because it’s lighter than the old cream-only recipe. Following the vanilla-scented recipe found in “Le Grand Livre de Cuisine d’Alain Ducasse: Bistrots, Brasseries et Restaurants de Tradition I put half milk and half cream. As I have mentioned in one of my crème brûlée posts, this is not a diet recipe or a diet book and the author doesn’t call this cream “light”. Alain Ducasse is one of the most renowned French chefs and his cuisine simply follows the modern tendency (adapted to our lifestyles) to make food less fatty and less sweet, as long as it doesn’t affect the taste. Personally, I find this lighter version an improvement to the old-fashioned heavy one: I find it more elegant and sophisticated.

I have already written about Matcha Crème Brûlée two years ago. In the meantime I stopped using the cheapest matcha brand and this – wise – decision made me change the ingredients’ amounts (if the tea is of higher quality, you use less of it) and seemed a good excuse to write about it once more. I have also realised that a higher quality matcha produces a more beautiful, brighter colour. In short, if you ever try making any matcha dessert, invest in a slightly more expensive brand.

If you don’t feel like experimenting with matcha or if you are simply not a fan of this Japanese green tea, you might like the classic Light Crème Brûlée:

Light Crème Brûlée

Light Crème Brûlée

TIPS:  Do not taste this matcha version (it doesn’t concern the traditional crème brûlée) unless it has spent 12 hours in the fridge. It improves with time. It was excellent after 12 hours, but, after 48 hours in the fridge, it became simply sensational.

Blowtorch is a very good investment since, at least from my experience, it’s impossible to obtain the contrasting textures and temperatures crème brûlée is famous for with an oven broiler (the cream warms up). You can use blowtorch on many other custardy desserts and sweet tarts. (It’s usually quite cheap, at least here).

Click here for a few ideas of how to use up the leftover egg whites.

If you don’t have brown cane sugar, you can use caster sugar to burn, but the taste is worse.

If you travel to France and order burnt cream in an unknown restaurant, I would strongly advise asking if it’s burnt just before being served. I had several times an unpleasant surprise of soggy caramel and a uniform temperature in restaurants where the cream is burnt before the opening hours and sits for several hours in the fridge.

Special equipment: a blowtorch

Preparation: about 2 hours+ min. 12 hours in the fridge (the best is to wait 48 hours)

Calories (the whole batch, using skimmed milk and including the burnt sugar): about 1600 kcal

Ingredients (serves 4):

5 egg yolks

250 ml/8,5 fl oz/about 1 cup milk

250 ml/8,5 oz/about 1 cup liquid cream (without any thickeners; I use cream with 25% fat content)

4 teaspoons matcha (choose a medium quality brand; if you use cheapest brand you should increase the amounts)

4 slightly heaped tablespoons caster sugar

about 50 g/about 1/4 cup cane sugar (but not the moist one!)

Put the milk and the cream in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, put aside for 30 minutes.

Strain it.

Preheat the oven at 100°C or 120°C if it’s the old oven type .

Put the yolks, the sugar and the matcha in a blender or food processor and mix it.

Add the warm – not hot! – milk with cream and mix again for a couple of minutes.

Strain it to eliminate the foam and pour the mixture into six burnt cream dishes or other small shallow ramekins.

Bake it for approximately 45 minutes. (The custards are ready when only their centres are slightly trembling when moved).

Let them cool down. Put into the fridge for at least 12 hours (but it would be even better to leave them for 48 hours).

Just before serving take the creams out of the fridge and pat dry with paper towel (water drops will appear on the surface and they will make the burning process difficult).

Sprinkle with cane sugar and caramelise it with a special blowtorch.

Serve immediately while the top is still warm and crunchy and the cream below stays very cold.

Black Currant and Yogurt Mousse

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Tantalising colour, inebriating, strong aroma and unique, sophisticated tart flavour… I was completely taken aback by this new version of my staple yogurt and fruit mousse. The results of this experiment went well beyond my expectations and proved that black currant operates like a magic wand, taking everything to an unforgettable, superior sensory level.

I remember when already as a small, tanginess-loving child I was thrilled to be able to eat finally ripe black currants straight from the bush, hypnotised by the amazing aroma of both the fruits and the leaves. For long years, apart from its fresh form, the only black currant product I knew was my beloved tart, almost black jam which has no equals and is particularly excellent in cakes. Several years ago I started to infuse vodkas and quickly realised that the black currant one beats by far all the other fruit alcohols I have ever made. This light dessert will be one more reason I will impatiently wait every year for the short black currant season.

If you feel like experimenting other black currant recipes, you might like to try the amazing Black Currant Infused Vodka:

vodkacassisp

If you find only red currants, you can test them in this mousse too (though I don’t guarantee the results: I haven’t tried them yet this way) or check the fabulous hot and sweet red currant jelly at Eva’s Kitchen Inspirations.

TIPS: The amounts of gelatin depend sometimes on the brand. Leaves are sometimes bigger, sometimes smaller,  powdered gelatin sometimes contains other products and doesn’t set as well as pure gelatin in powder… In short, the aim here is to use the amount of gelatin which sets 500 ml/2 cups/about 17 oz liquid. (The whole mousse mixture has more than 500 ml, so the mousse will be firm but not hard as a standard jelly).

The mousses keep well in the fridge for several days (up to five days if the fruits are fresh), but this particular black currant one loses a lot of its aroma after about two days. If you want to serve the mousse for a dinner, you can prepare it a day before. It will be ready after 30 minutes in the fridge.

The only annoying part here is removing the dry black currants tips, but it’s definitely worth the effort and time. I did it with small scissors.

Preparation: 10 minutes+ 2 – 3 hours in the fridge

Ingredients (serves 4):

300 g (about 10,5 oz) unsweetened natural yogurt (you can use also Greek yogurt, which will make this mousse creamier) 

150 – 200 g (about 5 – 6 oz) black currants (hulled, with dry tips removed)

4 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar or sweetener (or no sugar if you prefer your mousse to be very tangy)

1 tablespoon gelatin in powder or other amount necessary to set 500 ml liquid, see TIPS above (you can use leaves too, in amounts necessary to set 500 ml/2 cups liquid)

some black currants for the decoration

Mix the black currants (without the dry tips!) in a food processor or a blender. Add the sugar and the yogurt (remove the liquid floating on the surface). Mix once more.

Taste and add more sugar if needed.

Dissolve the gelatin in 4 tablespoons warm water (if using leaves, soften them in cold water, squeeze and dissolve also in 4 tablespoons warm water).

In a food processor mix well the dissolved gelatin with the strawberry mixture.

Divide the mousse into serving dishes.

Put the mousse into the fridge for 2 -3 hours until it sets.

Serve very cold.

Yogurt Strawberry Mousse with Chocolate Ganache

strmousseganachep

How I wish the strawberry season stretched to the whole year… Even though I’m happy to see cherries, apricots or peaches appear on my market, I am unable to ignore strawberries, which now, in their later varieties, have a much more complex and interesting taste. Last weekend I ended up once more making my staple yogurt and fruit mousse. At the same time the chocolate craving wouldn’t leave me, so I decided to cover each portion with a thin layer of dark chocolate ganache instead of the initially planned strawberry coulis. “Sensational” is the only word I find to describe it.

If you like this recipe, you might also like this coconut and strawberry combination:

Coconut and Strawberry Wobbly Cream with Agar

Coconut and Strawberry Wobbly Cream with Agar

TIPS: The amounts of gelatin depend sometimes on the brand. Leaves are sometimes bigger, sometimes smaller,  powdered gelatin sometimes contains other products and doesn’t set as well as pure gelatin in powder… In short, the aim here is to use the amount of gelatin which sets 500 ml/2 cups/about 17 oz liquid. (The whole mousse mixture has more than 500 ml, so the mousse will be firm but not hard as a standard jelly).

If you prefer a sweeter ganache, you can add sugar. I never do because even bitter chocolate is sweet enough for me (of course the instant coffee can be replaced with several teaspoons of strong espresso or skipped; I practically always add a pinch of coffee to my chocolate desserts because it enhances the bitter chocolate flavours). The chocolate ganache can be prepared with milk chocolate too.

The mousses keep well in the fridge for several days (up to five days if the fruits are fresh). If you want to serve them for a dinner, you can prepare the mousses a day before and cover with ganache just before the guests arrive. They will be ready after 30 minutes in the fridge.

Preparation: 10 minutes+ 2 – 3 hours in the fridge

Ingredients (serves 4):

250 g (about 1 cup) unsweetened natural yogurt (you can use also Greek yogurt, which will make this mousse creamier) 

300 g (about 11oz) strawberries (hulled)

4 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar or sweetener (or no sugar if you prefer your mousse to be very tangy)

1 tablespoon gelatin in powder or other amount necessary to set 500 ml liquid, see TIPS above (you can use leaves too, in amounts necessary to set 500 ml/2 cups liquid)

Chocolate ganache:

70 g (about 2.5 oz) good quality chocolate (I have used 72% cocoa chocolate), roughly chopped 

70 ml (about 2.4 fl  oz) natural liquid cream, min. 25% fat (do not use crème fraîche or any thickened cream)

(1/2 teaspoon instant coffee or several teaspoons of strong espresso) 

some strawberries for the decoration

Mix the strawberries in a food processor or a blender. Add the sugar and the yogurt (remove the liquid floating on the surface). Mix once more.

Taste and add more sugar if needed.

Dissolve the gelatin in 4 tablespoons warm water (if using leaves, soften them in cold water, squeeze and dissolve also in 4 tablespoons warm water).

In a food processor mix well the dissolved gelatin with the strawberry mixture.

Divide the mousse into serving dishes.

Put the mousse into the fridge for 2 -3 hours until it sets.

When the mousses are well set, prepare the chocolate ganache.

Bring the cream to a boil. Put aside.

Throw the chopped chocolate and the instant coffee into the pan and, quickly stirring, dissolve in the hot cream (do not boil the mixture of chocolate and cream!).

Distribute the warm (not hot) chocolate ganache equally among the mousse portions and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes more.

Serve very cold.

Light Unbaked Cheesecake/Greek Yogurt Mousse with Sour Cherries

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I have a big passion for black sour cherries. I don’t talk about the mouth-puckering, early light red cherries with transparent flesh. I mean the dark red fruits, with a deep serious elegant taste, impossible to confound with any other variety: the ones used in the famous schwarzwälder kirschtorte, kirsch and other products, where sweet varieties might become bland and boring. They are excellent in cakes, jams, home-made liquors, but nothing equals the unique bold mixture of tanginess and sweetness of raw ripe fruits I have been crazy for since I was a child. Rare guests in my house and impossible to buy fresh here, dark sour cherries have become for me an unattainable luxury I long for almost as much as for fresh wasabi root.

Conscious of my fondness for this fruit, my kind friend has recently surprised me bringing a big box of sour cherries from her trip to Hungary. I spent the two following days, enjoying them nature straight from the box and wondering which dessert would highlight best this rare delicacy. My choice went finally for the simplest, tangy, unbaked cheesecake.

I have posted several unbaked cheesecake versions, but as a reminder I would like to emphasize they are not made with US cream cheese and I do not advise it as a substitution. I make them with fresh, natural, smooth cheese, often called “quark”, “fromage frais” or “fromage blanc”, which is slightly similar in taste to Greek yogurt (its excellent replacement by the way). Such a cheesecake doesn’t contain eggs and is set with gelatin, which creates a kind of thick moussy, creamy texture. Some people prepare it with a crust, but I’m not a fan of these, so my cheesecakes contain only cheese, gelatin, (not always) sugar and make particularly light desserts. Of course different seasonings (vanilla, aromatic alcohols, spices etc.) can be added, as well as seasonal fruits. Whatever you add, serve the unbaked cheesecake very cold and enjoy its refreshing qualities.

If you don’t like/have cherries, you might like one of these unbaked cheesecake/Greek yogurt mousse versions:

with Passion Fruit

with Passion Fruit

with Blueberry

with Blueberry

with Strawberry

with Strawberry

TIPS: You can substitute dark sour cherries with any other variety, sour or not, but do profit from seasonal fresh fruits (even though this cheesecake will be excellent with candied, canned or frozen fruits too).

This cheesecake can be made in one big mould lined with plastic film, and then sliced into portions, but I find individual portions easier to handle and much cuter when served.

The amounts of gelatin depend sometimes on the brand. Leaves are sometimes bigger, sometimes smaller,  powdered gelatin sometimes contains other products and doesn’t set as well as pure gelatin in powder… In short, the aim here is to use here the amount of gelatin which sets 500 ml/2 cups/about 17 oz liquid.

Difference between sheets and powdered gelatin: gelatin in sheets/leaves requires three stages (softening in cold water, then squeezing them to get rid of the water and then dissolving in warm/hot water), while powdered gelatin requires only one step: it needs to be stirred in warm (I prefer hot) water. There is also gelatin in “cristals” but I have never used it.

Preparation: 15 minutes + 2 hours in the fridge

Ingredients (serves 4-5): 

500 g  (about 17 oz) smoothly mixed fresh cheese or curd cheese (quark/fromage frais/fromage blanc) or Greek yogurt 

30-40 medium sized cherries (pitted, though you may save some with pits for the decoration)

1 tablespoon gelatin or 6 – 8 sheets, depending on the size/brand, so take the amount necessary to set 500 ml/17 fl oz of liquid, see TIPS above)

4 tablespoons warm water (I prefer to use hot water with powdered gelatin)

3-4 tablespoons rum or kirsch

(I haven’t added any sugar here, but if you are not fond of tangy desserts, add 4 flat tablespoons confectioner’s sugar or sweetener of your choice)

Dissolve the gelatin in 4 tablespoons warm or hot (not boiling) water. (If using leaves, proceed as indicated on the package).

Mix the cheese, the rum (and the sugar if using) in a food processor.

Add the dissolved gelatin and mix once more.

Divide the cherries equally into individual glasses (saving some for the decoration), pour the cheese mixture over them and  put into the fridge for at least two hours.

Just before serving decorate with cherries. Serve very cold.