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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Culinary School - Session 69: Bread Pudding, Clafoutis, Crème Brûlée, Crème Caramel and Chocolate Pot de Crème


Culinary School: Session 69 (02.02.15)

Bread Pudding, Clafoutis, Crème Brûlée, Crème Caramel and Chocolate Pot de Crème



Plated Desserts... single serving satisfaction!

This is it, folks... at long last, the unit for which I have long been waiting


For Plated Desserts, each session focuses on one specific "family" of dessert, such as fried desserts (e.g. Fritters and Beignets) or frozen desserts (e.g. Semifreddos and Granitas). Since there are so many items to prepare each day, the class is divided into super teams, and each team is tasked with producing multiple portions of several of the individual desserts.

At the end of the evening (around 9:30pm... you know... the best time to start eating a full menu of heavy desserts), the class reassembles for a group degustation, dissecting and critiquing each dish.

If you live in New York City and you hear an explosion around 10pm, that's just my stomach bursting!

Creme Brûlée



Riddle me this...

So what do Bread Pudding, Clafoutis, Creme Brûlée, Creme Caramel and Chocolate Pot de Creme have in common?


No, it's not my dessert order from this past weekend (or is it... how well do you know me?)

All of these desserts are Baked Custards: sweet, smooth and rich creations made from eggs, milk and sugar. In each recipe, eggs serve as the binding agent which, when gently and slowly heated, sets the milk, sugar and other recipe-specific ingredients. 

Specific ratios vary from dessert to dessert - the slightly firm custard of a Creme Caramel requires more egg than the softer Creme Brûlée. The reasoning is simple. A Creme Caramel must stand on its own while a Creme Brûlée remains supported by the mold in which it is baked. But the underlying technique remains the same.

For a custard, start by making a hot infusion of milk (or cream) with sugar, aromatics and other flavors. Temper the eggs with the warm infusion. Strain the custard into the dessert-specific serving dish and bake it at a low temperature (typically no hotter than 300 degrees Fahrenheit) so that the egg in the custard does not curdle.

It's amazing how many unique desserts are born from the same, simple process. Just as impressive is recognizing how so many cultures independently developed their own desserts using this method. After all, a Creme Caramel is just a French version of Flan! 



- Ingredients Running Tally -



No surprises here -- for custards, eggs and cream were flying of the shelves at an alarming rate. 

Ingredients used to date (02.02.15):
  • Flour: 23,905g
  • Eggs: 14,400g (288x)
  • Sugar: 17,090g
  • Butter: 15,100g
  • Milk/Cream: 13,990g
  • Chocolate: 2,710g (since 01.12.15)



    - The Recipes -



    Item:

    Bread Pudding


    Description:
    The ultimate comfort food dessert, Bread Pudding is a classic custard made by pouring a whole egg and milk-based custard over dried bread. The custard can be enhanced with various aromatics, spices and liquor. Adding fruit, such as raisins, is also common. 

    The dessert can be prepared in individual molds or in larger batches that are subsequently portioned for service. The pudding is best served warm and is frequently accompanied with a sauce, such as a Creme Anglaise or Caramel.

    Focus Techniques:
    - Producing Consistent Portions. While Bread Pudding is commonly served as an individual dessert, baking many portions in larger trays results in a more consistent product. It can be very difficult to determine if individually molded desserts have equal ratios of bread and custard. Preparing a larger hotel pan ensures that the custard is evenly distributed across many portions. A large hotel pan is easily divided using a round cutter.

    Dried Bread for Bread Pudding

    Baked Tray of Bread Pudding

    Plated Bread Pudding with Whiskey Caramel Sauce



    Item:

    Clafoutis


    Description:
    While still technically a baked custard, a Clafoutis custard includes a trace amount of flour. The flour helps to bind the dessert while also creating a more pancake-like consistency. The addition of starch, in the form of flour, makes the Clafoutis slightly less sensitive to curdling at elevated temperatures. 

    A traditional Clafoutis is baked over cherries, but any firm fruit, particularly stone fruit, will work. Cherries are particularly well suited as the sour flavor balances the sweet custard.

    Focus Techniques:
    - Preparing Molds. Clafoutis molds are prepared similar to Souffle dishes. The entire mold is brushed with butter (Beurre en Pommade) and dusted with a fine layer of sugar.

    Clafoutis

    Eating the Clafoutis



    Item:

    Creme Brûlée


    Description:
    The classic bistro dessert: the Creme Brûlée is an intensely rich custard that is finished with a torched layer of sugar. The warm and crisp brûléed top provides the perfect textural contrast to the cold and creamy custard base. 

    The custard of a Creme Brûlée is made from egg yolks and heavy cream (as opposed to whole eggs and milk). The resulting taste and texture is particularly rich, smooth and soft. The lack of proteins from egg whites means that it would not be possible to remove a Creme Brûlée custard from its mold. 

    Focus Techniques:
    - Baking Custard in a Water Bath. A water bath provides for even, gentle heat transfer. In an oven, the water in a water bath will remain around 200 degrees Fahrenheit. The gentle cooking process helps prevent curdling the eggs, which is more likely to occur in a direct heat environment. It is also important to wrap the water bath tightly with foil. The foil traps the heat and steam in the baking environment.
    Testing a Custard for Doneness. A baked custard is done when it is mostly set. When tapped, it should jiggle slightly. If there is no movement, it is over-baked. Given the small, individual portions, it is particularly important to account for carry-over cooking. The custard will continue to bake after it is removed from the oven since the product remains in the warm dish.

    Baked Creme Brûlée

    Baked Creme Brûlées

    Sugar Coated Baked Creme Brûlée



    Item:

    Creme Caramel


    Description:
    Perhaps better known as Flan, the Creme Caramel is a firmer custard that is baked in molds on top of a layer of caramel. After the custard is baked, it is put in the refrigerator for several hours so that the caramel in the bottom of the mold can melt into a sauce. The dessert is served unmolded and inverted so that the caramel pours over the custard as a sauce.

    In contrast to the custard of a Creme Brûlée, the Creme Caramel custard includes egg whites and milk. The egg whites contain proteins which give the custard more structure. The reduced fat content in the milk (as compared to heavy cream) also makes for a firmer custard. As a result, the Creme Caramel can be easily removed from its mold after baking, and it will retain its shape. 

    Focus Techniques:
    Creating a "Self-Saucing" Caramel. Before the custard is prepared, a simple caramel is poured into the bottom of each mold. The caramel quickly sets into a hard disc. Once the caramel is fully set, the mold is filled with custard and baked. Leaving the custard in the refrigerator for several hours (or ideally, overnight) allows the caramel to dissolve, creating a sauce that pours over the dessert when it is unmolded.

    Creme Caramel


    Unmolded Creme Caramel

    Unmolded Creme Caramel with Quenelle of Whipped Cream



    Item:

    Chocolate Pot de Creme


    Description:
    A Chocolate Pot de Creme is a mixed-egg custard (i.e. both whole eggs and egg yolks) into which chocolate has been added, similar to preparing a ganache. The resulting creme is a very rich, pudding-like product that is traditionally served in glass serving dishes to showcase the dessert.

    We did not have any remaining stomach capacity at the end of our degustation to sample this one, so the Chocolate Pot de Creme was put in the refrigerator for next session.


    Chocolate Pot de Creme

    Chocolate Pot de Creme

    Chocolate Pot de Creme with Quenelle of Whipped Cream


    Next - Session 70: Ice Cream, Granite, Caramel Sauce, Caramel Syrup, Fruit Coulis, Orange Butter Sauce and Sabayon Sauce


    Previous - Session 68: Chocolate Tempering Test


    Take a look at the full syllabus




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