Monthly Archives: April 2017

An Evening Pick-Me-Up {CtBF}

Crème brûlée is one of my favorite desserts to order in a restaurant.  I find the contrast between the creamy custard and the melted sugar crust a pleasing way to end a meal.  The only other time I’ve made crème brûlée at home was about 5 years ago for French Fridays with Dorie.  When this week’s recipe challenge for Cook the Book Fridays was another version of crème brûlée, this time infused with coffee flavors, I was ready to try it again.

The custard is relatively easy to put together.  The milk, cream and sugar are warmed together, then whisked into egg yolks.  The mixture is flavored with instant espresso powder and coffee-flavored liqueur.  I used an ANCIENT bottle of Tia Maria that my mother gave me when she cleaned out her liquor cabinet over 30 years ago.  Alcohol must be quite the preservative because I tasted it first and it still tasted like coffee liqueur.

You don’t even have to thicken it on the stovetop, worrying about clumping or burning.  Crème brûlée is gently cooked in a water bath in the oven until set.  Mine took almost an hour to get to that point, possibly because I used small ramekins instead of lower gratin dishes, but I wasn’t in any hurry.

The custards wait in the refrigerator until it’s time for dessert.  I sprinkled a heavy layer of sugar on top of each bowl, then I put Howard in charge of the mini-blowtorch.  He seemed to enjoy melting the sugar until it was slightly golden.  After all that bubbling, it’s surprising how quickly the topping hardens.

After my first experience, I think one reason this elegant yet easy treat didn’t make it into my repertoire is that Howard insisted this wasn’t a dessert he enjoyed.  With this latest version, I convinced him that it was like coffee ice cream, which he does like.  He was a sport and tried it.  I think he surprised himself when he liked it.  I filled 6 ramekins, so we shared the leftovers with my in-laws when they visited this weekend.  They liked coffee crème brûlée too!  Maybe we will be making this again, at least the coffee version.

I used the egg whites to make this impressive (and more difficult) dessert, an almond macaroon torte with chocolate frosting from Smitten Kitchen.

If you’d like to give coffee crème brûlée a try, you can find the recipe here on Leite’s Culinaria or on page 253 in David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen.  To see how the other bloggers from Cook the Book Fridays made out, follow the links to their results here.

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Cocktail Hour, Anyone? {CtBF}

What do you snack on with a drink while you prepare dinner?  Or set out for guests while you apply the final touches on a meal?  Depending on the menu or the drink, we typically serve cheese and crackers or chips and salsa.  If company is coming over, I put more thought into it, offering a variety of textures plus accommodations for dietary restrictions or sensitivities.  I’m always looking for new ideas and inspirations for easy cocktail time nibbles.

This week’s recipe for Cook the Book Fridays fits the bill.  I’d describe Salted Olive Crisps as something between a thin savory biscotti and a full-loaded cracker.  You start by making a shallow loaf of something like a quick bread with a healthy dose of Herbes de Provence and oodles of chopped olives and almonds.  After the loaf is baked and slightly cooled, you slice the loaf as thinly as you can and bake the slices again to crisp them up.  Once cooled, you have a treat to offer (to yourself or others) alongside a glass of wine or other beverage.

Though I used a good bread knife, as recommended, to slice the loaf, my crisps weren’t quite as thin as they were meant to be.  I think it’s because the recipe wasn’t clear about how long to cool to bake the loaf before slicing.  I only let it cool until I could handle it, about 10 minutes.  It was still warm.  However, when the recipe said to turn down the oven temperature after the loaf came out of the oven, it seemed like I was meant to bake the slices shortly after the loaf was done.  I felt like if the loaf had cooled completely, it would have been easier to slice thinner.

The slightly thicker slices took longer to get to golden brown and still felt a bit soft.  I baked these after dinner, so they weren’t cool enough to put in a closed container before bedtime.  I put them back in the warm (turned off) oven to spend the night.  In the morning, they were beautifully crisp.

I used oil-cured olives that have a slightly sweet flavor and a chewy texture like moist raisins or prunes.  In fact, I often use these same olives as a substitution for dried fruit in recipes that Howard would otherwise eat.  I can see this recipe serving as a springboard for many other combinations, varying the herbs, the olives, the nuts, and adding other savory ingredients such as sun-dried tomatoes or capers.  I think it would be nice with a combination of sweet and savory ingredients, but I’d have to try that when I’m bringing treats to a friend (refer to constraint above).

If you’d like to try these yourself, check out the recipe on page 42 of David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen.  You can learn more about other bloggers’ experiences with this recipe here.  Or let me know when you want to stop by for cocktail hour chez moi, and I’ll whip up a batch and share!