Tag Archives: Using yolks

Strawberry Gratin (Strawberries Under a Creamy Blanket)

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Slightly softened fruits, hidden under a light creamy vanilla-scented blanket… This how I imagined a strawberry gratin and at first it seemed an easy task. I made a quick research on internet, found a reliable-looking recipe and… a disaster. Then, another recipe and another inedible, mushy result. Then I decided to find my own method, turning to foolproof basics. I quartered the fruits, covered them in pastry cream (crème pâtissière), baked for 15 minutes and this obvious, straightforward solution worked perfectly. If you like strawberries and pastry cream in fruit tarts, you will probably enjoy them in this warm, light gratin.

This dessert is an excellent way to use up leftover egg yolks. If you start with whole eggs, click here to browse some egg white using ideas.

If you don’t like the idea of a warm strawberry dessert, you might like this Yogurt Strawberry Mousse I have recently wrote about:

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TIPS: I strongly advice to serve this dessert warm (not hot). When it cools down, it somehow loses its charm.

Vanilla is not necessary here, but in my opinion it enhances the strawberry taste.

You can prepare this dessert in two stages (in two days). First make the pastry cream, refrigerate it overnight (well covered) and, if you still have some cream left the following day 😉 , prepare the final stage just before serving.

Unless you have health problems which forbid you even its smallest intake, do not skip the butter in the pastry cream! Even if you are on a diet. This is only one tablespoon divided into six portions, but it changes the taste and texture a lot. (The worst thing you could do here though would be substituting butter with margarine…).

Special equipment: 6 x 9 cm/3,5 in shallow round baking dishes (or similarly sized baking dishes)

Ingredients (serves 6):

24 big strawberries

(6 tablespoons almond slivers)

Pastry cream (crème pâtissière, based on Pierre Hermé’s recipe (from “Plaisirs sucrés”), the best I have ever found):

250 ml (about 1 cup) milk 

2 tablespoons corn starch

2 heaped tablespoons caster sugar 

1/2 – 1 vanilla pod

2 egg yolks

1 heaped tablespoon butter 

Prepare the pastry cream.

Bring to boil 3/4 of the milk with the vanilla pod cut in two lengthwise.

Put aside and let it cool down.

Scrape off the two vanilla pieces so that the small vanilla grains stay in the milk.

Combine the yolks, the sugar, the corn starch and the remaining 1/4 cold milk.

Strain the warm vanilla milk, constantly stirring, into the yolks mixture.

Discard the vanilla pod (wash it, dry it thoroughly and put into a confectioner’s sugar jar: you’ll have vanilla scented sugar).

Put back the obtained mixture into the pan and constantly stirring bring to boil.

Put aside when it thickens to the cream consistency.

If the cream is not smooth and you see many lumps, mix it in a blender or rub through a sieve.

When the cream is no longer hot, but still very warm, combine it with butter.

Preheat the oven to 200°C (about 400°F).

Prepare 6 individual baking dishes.

Quarter the big strawberries and distribute equally among the dishes. (If the strawberries are small you can halve them or even leave whole).

Spread the pastry cream equally on the top of each dish, sprinkle with almond slivers and bake for 15 minutes (until the almonds start changing colour).
Serve warm.

(You can sprinkle the gratins with some brown sugar and burn it with a torch just before serving, but make sure you don’t burn the almonds).

Palets bretons (Sweet and Salty Brittany Cookies)

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This was one of the first recipes I have posted. I hardly had any visitors at the time, so I have decided to dig it up and write about these French biscuits (or cookies). They may look ordinary, but their delicate crumbly texture, buttery taste and a delicate touch of saltiness make them very special.

“Palet” (pronounced without the final “t”) means a “puck” , and “jeu de palets” is a Brittany regional game with pucks which shape is similar to those used in hockey. Brittany is famous for its rich in butter sweets – usually made with salted butter – and one of those is a crumbly cookie, called “palet” in reference to its puck shape. They have a buttery taste, are slightly salty and sweet at the same time, very crumbly and melt in your mouth too quickly… Palets bretons are quite popular all around the  country and can be found in every supermarket, but they are easy to prepare and obviously taste better baked at home.

Together with Crème brûlée palets are a good way to use up egg yolks (if you have made Coconut Cookies for example…or another dish calling for whites uniquely).

There are French internet recipes galore for these cookies. The one I tried for the first time and have always made with success comes the French blog Miamm…Maman Cuisine, where I also found the trick to keep their shape (see below).

TIPS: Click here to see a few ideas of how to use up the leftover egg whites.

You can sprinkle the cookies with coarse salt for an extra crunch and extra saltiness, but I don’t advise it for the first batch you prepare (you can test on one or two biscuits first).

Special equipment: muffins or similar size forms

Preparation: almost two hours (including 1 hour in the fridge)

Calories (the whole batch): about 1700 kcal

Ingredients for 12-15 pucks:

80g (about 3 oz) salted butter (or unsalted butter+1/2 teaspoon salt, but salty butter is better)

80 g (about 3 oz) confectioner’s sugar

140g (about 5 oz) flour

1/3 small package of baking powder (1 1/2 heaped teaspoon) 

2 yolks

(coarse good quality sea salt)

Mix the yolks and the sugar well in a food processor. Add the softened butter, mix again.

Add the flour and the baking powder.

Knead it for 5 minutes.

Form a thick sausage (diameter=the bottom of one whole in a muffin form), wrap it in plastic film and put into the fridge for 1 hour (or more, until the dough becomes hard enough to be easily sliced).

Preheat the oven to 170°C.

Take the dough out of the fridge, unwrap it, cut into 1 cm (about 0,4 in) thick slices.

Put them inside the muffin forms (this way they’ll be more or less of equal size and will only rise instead of spreading around).

If you don’t have muffin forms or other cookie forms, simply put the cut cookies on a baking sheet, but at your own responsibility: they’ll probably spread around and become flatter than the ones “imprisoned” in a mould.

(You can sprinkle them with coarse salt for an extra salty crunch.)

Bake for 15-20 minutes till golden.

Light Matcha Cream

matchacreamnThis refreshing, light cream is the second dish I have made with matcha, Japanese powdered green tea. It has become my staple throughout the Summer and since hot days are soon over in Europe, I thought it was high time I posted it. I based my recipe on the Joël Robuchon’s cream (in “Le meilleur etle plus simpledeRobuchon), the same one I used while preparing Light Coffee and Cardamom Cream.

As an avowed – though still inexperienced – matcha desserts fan I find this cream extraordinary. It is a distant cousin of Matcha Crème Brûlée, but without the crunch and with a bit less calories. As always, matcha adds elegant bitterness and makes the cream particularly cooling. This is most of all a dessert, but it can also be served between the meals as a palate “refreshener”, recently fashionable in many restaurants.

Beware! This recipe is far from being perfect. In spite of double straining, a part of matcha powder accumulates on the bottom of the dish, creating a darker thin line. This doesn’t alter really the taste, but is quite annoying… If anyone has an idea how to avoid it, please let me know! (Strangely I have never had this problem with Matcha Crème Brûlée).

Preparation: 1 hour + at least 2 – 3 hours in the fridge

Special equipment:

3 or 4 individual baking dishes

Ingredients (makes 4 small or 3 medium creams):

400 ml (about 14 fl oz) milk (I used skimmed)

4 egg yolks

4 tablespoons sugar (or sweetener)

2 flat tablespoons matcha + some more to sprinkle on top before serving

Pour the milk into a pan.

Slowly bring the milk to boil.

Put aside.

Heat the oven to 140°C.

Combine the yolks, the sugar and the matcha.

Strain the warm milk into the bowl with egg yolks and mix everything with a spoon.

Wash the pan.

Pour the cream mixture into the pan.

Heat the mixture for about 10 minutes (without boiling), constantly stirring.

Strain it and put aside.

Boil a big amount of water.

Prepare a baking dish at least as high as the individual cream dishes and big enough to contain all the creams.

Strain the cream mixture once more into the individual dishes.

Place them in the big baking dish.

Fill the big dish with boiling water so that half of the creams is covered.

Cover the creams tightly with aluminium foil and put (very carefully!) into the oven.

(This step is very important to avoid a thick “skin” forming on the top of the creams.)

Bake for about 25 minutes (the creams are ready when only the centre is slightly trembling, but the rest is set).

Let them chill and put into the fridge for several hours.

Serve very cold sprinkled with sieved matcha just before serving.

Light Coffee and Cardamom Cream

As an avowed coffee addict I also adore desserts containing my favourite drug. Last week I thought it was high time I tried to make one on my own. Browsing through my cookery books I was tempted to make not the easiest coffee éclairs, but finally opted for the cream recipe I found in “Le meilleur et le plus simple de Robuchon (The best and the easiest by Robuchon).

Even though he doesn’t have anything in common with coffee, Joël Robuchon is worth mentioning here for those who have never heard about him. He is the chef, who has collected the biggest number of Michelin starts in the world (26!) and whose most famous recipe was… potato purée! Several years ago Robuchon retired, travelled all around the world, especially to Asia and ended up creating a new “open kitchen” concept of restaurants. His “Ateliers” have been opened in several countries in the world. Click here if you want to learn a bit more about this extraordinary and – what is rare among the big chefs – humble and truly nice man.

Let’s go back to the cream. The recipe didn’t call for coffee, but I saw modifying it would not be a big problem. As the title promised, it was very easy indeed and I say this, conscious of the fact that many people dread the hot water bath, or “bain marie”, necessary in this recipe. I don’t know why I added cardamom, but it proved a wise decision, since it added dynamism and complexity. The coffee-cardamom combination creates a refreshing, elegant and serious dessert, particularly pleasant on hot days. As almost always I have slightly modified the basic cream recipe.

Preparation: 1 hour + at least 2 – 3 hours in the fridge

Calories: approx. 4 x 155 kcal (if using skimmed milk and real sugar)

Special equipment:

3 or 4 individual baking dishes

Ingredients (makes 4 small or 3 medium creams):

400 ml milk (I used skimmed)

4 egg yolks

4 tablespoons sugar (or sweetener)

2 heaped tablespoons instant coffee or 2 very small and very strong espresso)

2 pods of cardamom

Pour the milk into a pan.

Crush the cardamom pods and throw them with the grains to the milk.

Slowly bring the milk to boil.

Put aside and let the cardamom infuse for about 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 140°C.

Combine the yolks, the sugar and the coffee (cold if using espresso).

Strain the cardamom milk into the bowl with egg yolks.

Discard the cardamom and wash the pan.

Mix everything with a spoon and pour into the pan.

Heat the mixture for about 10 minutes (without boiling).

Put aside.

Boil a big amount of water.

Prepare a baking dish at least as high as the individual cream dishes and big enough to contain all the creams.

Strain the cream mixture into the individual dishes.

Place them in the big baking dish.

Fill the big dish with boiling water so that half of the creams is covered.

Cover the creams tightly with aluminium foil and put (very carefully!) into the oven.

(This step is very important to avoid a thick “skin” forming on the top of the creams.)

Bake for about 25 minutes (the creams are ready when only the centre is slightly trembling, but the rest is set).

Let them chill and put into the fridge for several hours.

Serve very cold.

Light Matcha Crème Brûlée

matchacbpCrème brûlée or burnt cream is probably the most frequent dessert I make and my favourite along with chocolate mousse. It is light, it is cold and warm, soft and crunchy…  Taken from the famous French chef Alain Ducasse’s book (“Le Grand Livre de Cuisine d’Alain Ducasse: Bistrots, Brasseries et Restaurants de Tradition), my crème brûlée recipe calls for half milk and half cream, following the contemporary lightning desserts tendency I observe in the famous chefs’ or confectioners’ recipes. If you have never prepared cream and milk version, do try it.

Crème brûlée (or burnt cream, since the British and the French both claim its invention) is one of the dishes I have always preferred unaltered, only seasoned with vanilla pods. I have always regretted all the modifications. I also think the savoury starter of crème brûlée with foie gras (fat duck’s liver) is the worst thing which can be done with this expensive and wonderful product.

Crème brûlée with matcha is  however an exception. Matcha (抹茶) is the Japanese powdered green tea, used in the tea ceremony and in many desserts. Since I am a big green tea drinker, I have always had a feeling I would love it in crème brûlée. Somehow I have never had the occasion to taste it in a restaurant and I couldn’t decide on making it. One day, when I saw it in a restaurant review featured on the Shizuoka Gourmet blog, I felt the time has come to try it.

I haven’t followed any specific recipe. I have simply adapted my usual one, adding matcha. I must proudly say my crème brûlée with matcha was sensational. It was very refreshing, with a slightly bitter, herbaceous and surprisingly sophisticated taste. Even though I am now its avowed fan, I wouldn’t advice serving it to those who hate green tea and to children. (Both would certainly love the basic crème brûlée though.) However, if you like green tea and/or want to be surprised how easily a sophisticated dessert can be produced at home, give it a try!

The only thing I would change next time is straining the liquid before pouring it into the burnt cream dishes. The foam which forms during the mixing process darkens the burnt cream.

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:

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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, I could only define it as fabulous.

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.

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 have used cream with 25% fat content)

4 teaspoons matcha 

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 the 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.