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National Caramel Custard Day

National Caramel Custard Day

Caramel Custard, a.k.a Creme Caramel, Flan, Crema Caramella.  A light, egg-based custard baked in a caramel mold (no, not as in “mould”, the green stuff that grows on bread and kills bacteria; “mold” as in how they get the caramel inside the Caramilk bar). Not as good as a Creme Brulee if you ask me, but pretty tasty nonetheless.

I considered a variety of takes on the classic creme caramel: banana, mango, coconut, persimmon, apple, coffee … the list is endless.  However, by the end of the day, when I was racing around the grocery store with my tired, hungry, haven’t-slept-in-days-verging-on-total-meltdown 16 month old son in tow, making caramel custard from scratch seemed a little daunting.  Maybe like it might not even be fun anymore.  That’s when I saw it:Creme Caramel from a box?I don’t know what came over me.  I guess I must have been in late Friday afternoon grocery store panic.  I tossed it in my shopping cart and then, for good measure, I added 1 can of evaporated milk, 1 can of sweetened condensed milk, 500mL of 18% table cream, and 250mL of whipping cream – none of which I needed or ended up using. Never, EVER shop without a list.

Once home, in the midst of the flurry of activity that surrounds feeding child, dogs, cats, adults, while also making Dr. Oetker’s version of creme caramel from a box (exceedingly easy to do by the way – mix, heat, stir, pour, chill, done), I realized there was going to be no persimmon in my immediate future (probably because there weren’t any at the grocery store, but that’s not the point).  Instead, I decided to go classic.  After all, Dr. Oetker had done it, so could I!  It would be a taste challenge! I busted out Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” and got to work.

First you make the caramel sauce:

sugar and water in a pan about to become golden, gooey, goodness

sugar and water in a pan about to become golden, gooey, goodness

Then you put the caramel sauce into some ramekins:

note the artful placement of Julia's seminal tome: "Mastering the Art of French Cooking"

note the artful placement of Julia's seminal tome: "Mastering the Art of French Cooking"

In the meantime, you are heating milk to just before the simmering point and leaving it covered and not quite simmering while you start beating eggs and sugar and then bit by excruciating bit whisking the hot milk into the egg and sugar mixture:

Action Shot!

Action Shot!

Pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into the ramekinsLayers

and bake in a hot water bath for … the book said 20 minutes, but that didn’t really seem to work for me, so I say, following my usual very exacting cooking technique, bake ’em until they look done.

looking done

looking done

hot water bath

hot water bath

From the oven, to the fridge.  Julia says you can put them in a cold water bath for 10 minutes and then serve them warm, but I opted for the fridge option since I had to take a time out to put the child to bed.  And besides, eating Julia’s version warm would have given her an unfair advantage over poor Dr. Oetker who never saw the inside of an oven.  After chilling (or setting in the case of Dr. Oetker), tip ’em out onto a plate and try to artfully slosh the caramel sauce around.  If you have leftover caramel sauce (which I did, lots), try to do fancyshmancy things with it.  It seems that this variety of caramel sauce is really hard candy so you have to heat it back up a lot to decrease its viscosity (from rock solid to something that would work well as a depilatory).  I ended up making some fun sugar strings – like spun sugar except I’m not that good.

Creme Caramel from a Box

Creme Caramel from a Box

Classic French Creme Caramel

Classic French Creme Caramel

FACE OFF!!!

End result?  Dr. Oetker’s version might be a little more uniform in appearance (I did rush Julia out of the fridge before she was all the way set), but the classic made from scratch version was hands down the winner.

B

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Mushroom_soup

World Vegetarian Day has been celebrated since 1977: http://www.salagram.net/VegeWVD.html

To celebrate, I cooked up a giant batch of woodsy wild mushroom soup, recipe courtesy of rebar modernfood in Victoria, BC: http://www.rebarmodernfood.com/. Can’t post the recipe (copyright) but the cookbook’s worth picking up anyway.

Decided to use sherry instead of wine (so much better with mushrooms). Wasn’t sure if I had enough, so on the way home from work, stopped at my local cold beer and wine store. Couldn’t find any sherry on the shelf, so asked an employee for help. She said, “uh, yeah… we don’t really carry it? because it brings in a certain demographic?”

Dude.

Stretched the (not enough) sherry I had at home by throwing in some red wine. Guess I’ll drag my “certain demographic” ass to the government liquor store to replenish my supply. Better stock up on the bourbon, too: think we used the last cup making barbeque sauce (wonder what that says about my demographic?)

Despite clerk’s derision, the soup turned out fantastic! Perfect for the first day of Vancouver rain season. Highly recommend hunting down the porcinis the recipe calls for. They do give of a slightly bacon-esque aroma but add so much richness: the aroma of the soup was itself esculent.
Throw-down
: many so-called vegetarians have a secret bacon habit (you know who you are).  Are porcinis a road to sin-free satisfaction? Discuss.

Served the soup with a toasted brie, heirloom tomato and rocket (don’t you just love that word? so much better than “arugula”) sandwich on organic multigrain bread.

My husband, who is a thorough carnivore (shameless bacon-eater, too), said it was delicious – for a first course.

E

P.S. Apron was “Betty Boop” in black and red (thanks, Mom).