Wednesday, February 24, 2010

White Chocolate Cinnamon Crème Brûlée: A Practical Guide

If there is one superfluous thing in the world, it is crème brûlée.
Instead of being content to be a simple cup of creamy custard, crème brûlée is somehow entitled to become a custard with a caramelized top, thus transcending an ordinary custardian experience. Thus, it has become the standard-bearing dessert of upper-crust society, hob-nobbers, and aristocrats.

Truly, such a lofty luxury was beyond the grasp of the less-privileged... until now.
Yes, now even the grubbiest street urchins can taste the sweet delights of the educated classes.
Of course, it's all thanks to this simple recipe:

You will need:

A brief education of the English language
Elementary reading skills
A kitchen
An oven or other enclosed heating implement
One cup of very heavy cream
3/4 cup of milk, preferably from a cow
2 sticks of cinnamon
1/4 cup of sugar
85 grams of white chocolate
4 egg yolks, preferably from a chicken
1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

You'll also need things like spoons, bowls, and hands, but who wants to read such a long list? No one.
First, put your cream, milk, and cinnamon sticks into a saucepan. Cook it over lowish heat until it boils. Don't be discouraged: this will take a very long time. If you are hurried, cook it over high heat and reap the consequences. Regardless, remove it from the heat and cover it, letting it sit for twenty minutes.

If you are a gentleman or lady of leisure, use these twenty minutes to catch up on your correspondence. If you are middle-class or lower, do something constructive, such as preparing the next part of the recipe.

Preheat your oven to 320 (degrees Fahrenheit), and whisk your egg yolks and sugar together with the ground cinnamon. If using ostrich eggs, note that they are large and that you may have to triple the recipe. If using fish eggs, be prepared to use quite a few.

Combine the milk mixture and the egg mixture. Pour the resulting glop back into the pan and heat it until the custard is nice and thick (it will easily coat the back of a wooden spoon or the front of your face).

Here, you have several options:
If you are rich and can afford a quality sieve, pour the custard through the sieve into the ramekins, thus separating the cinnamon sticks from the custard.

If you have no disposable income, use an inferior sieve. The end result will be the same.

If you cannot afford an inferior sieve, hold out your hand and pour the custard through your fingers. Catch the cinnamon sticks as they pass through.

Next, regardless of socio-economic status, place the ramekins in a deep baking dish. Fill said dish with boiling water until the water level is the same height as the custard level. Bake this for 30 minutes or so, depending upon the size of your ramekins. When it's done baking, you'll know. If it is severely over-baked, the fire department will probably let you know.

After you've baked the custard, put it in the refrigerator until cooled (about two hours, depending on the temperature of your fridge). If you have no refrigerator, now is a good time to worry about how you will be storing your cream and eggs.

After you've waited long enough, sprinkle some sugar over your custard and blast it with your culinary torch. More sugar will net you a thicker caramelized topping, obviously.
If you have no culinary torch, you can set your ramekins directly under the broiler for a similar effect. If you have no broiler, use the hair spray and lighter method to approximate a culinary torch.

Good luck with that.

This recipe was scrupulously adapted from an eerily similar recipe at Technicolor Kitchen, by the way.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Outstanding Cranpricot Scones!

It's an exclamatory recipe!

Note: Not really. This recipe was shamelessly stolen from Smitten Kitchen. I did, however, make some slight alterations, but, for the sake of this recipe, I will refer to them as "optimizations" instead.

Now, for the recipe (!):
You'll need:
2 cups of normal, everyday flour
1 tablespoon of baking powder
4 tablespoons of sugar
half a teaspoon of salt
5 tablespoons of butter, cut up into smallish segments
half a cup of dried cranberries, chopped
half a cup of apricots, chopped
1 cup of heavy cream

The directions (!):

Preheat your oven to 425 and put a rack in the middle. If you are able, you may use an autoclave instead, but make sure it is free of any surgical implements first.

Note: Autoclaves generally only heat up to 250 degrees (F), so for this recipe you'll need almost two of them.

Put your flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a big bowl and whisk it up.

If you have one of those fancy pastry blenders, get it out. If not, use your hands. Regardless of tool, add your butter to the pile and use your hands/blender/mandibles to blend the mixture until it looks like coarse meal.

Note: If you don't know what coarse meal looks like, check out this image, which shows a 8-course meal, courtesy of

There will be some larger butter lumps. Ignore them. Throw your fruit into the coarse meal-like substance and stir it up. Then, stir in your heavy cream until the dough forms.

Now, dump all of this out onto the counter and knead it all into one big sticky ball. Use your amazing geometric powers to create eight triangles out of this dough. It should look something like this:

Note: Perhaps you have noticed that I have made six triangles, rather than eight. This is because I like my scones to be a bit larger than usual. Also, for all you know, there could be two additional scones sitting just out of frame. Maybe there are and maybe there aren't.

Slap your scones down on a baking sheet and throw them in the oven. Bake them for 15-ish minutes, then let them cool down a bit before indulging. If you are using the autoclave method, divide the scones between your autoclaves, bake them for 25 to 30 minutes and see what happens.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ultra-Health Special: Peanut Double-Butter Tart

In keeping with the current trend of healthy desserts, I have prepared a low-calorie alternative to eating pure lard. Behold the Peanut Double-Butter Tart!
This nearly sugar-free slice of heaven is so healthy, you'll have to force your friends and family to eat it! Cringe at the near-tastelessness of its rich dark-chocolate fudgey topping! Cower in fear of the nutritious Oreo and butter crust! Swoon with apprehension at the salubrious smell of the highly-substantive whipped filling! It's even fortified with at least two vitamins or nutrients!
If you value the well-being of your digestive system or the digestive systems of loved ones, print this recipe now!

Naturally, this recipe was adapted from Bake or Break, and they got it from this book.

You'll need:
One 9-inch fluted tart pan!
30 Oreos!
8 tablespoons of butter!
8 ounces of cream cheese!
1 and 1/4 cups of peanut butter!
1 and 1/4 cups of milk chocolate chips!
3/4 cups of dark chocolate chips!
1/4 cup of corn syrup!
2 tablespoons of vanilla extract!
1 cup of brown sugar!
2 and 1/2 cups of heavy cream!

First, the crust!

Take all of your Oreos and cram them into a food processor. Destroy them. Once they resemble powder, put them in a mixing bowl. Next, melt your butter and put it in with the Oreos. Mix it up with a spatula (or something similar to a spatula, such as a trowel) and press the resulting compound into your tart pan. Refrigerate it.

While your crust is chilling, take half a cup of your milk chocolate chips and melt them in a double boiler. Once melted, spread the chocolate over the crust. I suggest removing the crust from the fridge before you try this. After the inside is coated with a beautiful layer of liquidish chocolate, re-refrigerate your crust. If you live somewhere cold, you could put your crust outside instead.
You are now finished with the crust.

Next, the filling!

Find yourself a sturdy mixer and combine all the peanut butter, brown sugar, and cream cheese. Blend it until it is all one color. You may choose the color. Set that aside and whisk one and a half cups of cream until those highly sought-after "soft peaks" form. Now, fold the whipped cream into the peanut-buttery concoction until you have again reached the uniform color of your choice, such as light brown. Spread the resulting mixture across your tart crust until it looks pretty and stick the whole thing in the freezer (or in an igloo, if you are using the outdoor method) for fourish hours. After that, cover it with tin foil and congratulate yourself on a tart well made.

Finally, the sauce!

Put all the rest of your chocolate in a mixing bowl (heat-proof, obviously) and bring your remaining cup of cream to a simmer in a saucepan. Then, stir the corn syrup into the cream and pour the whole thing over your chocolate. Let that sit for two minutes or so before stirring it up into a delightfully healthy sauce. If you like, you can let the sauce cool and refrigerate it (covered, of course), but it is much more fun to slather it on your tart and eat it then and there.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Dropping H's Everywhere

I, for one, have always wondered what "Soho" meant, so I looked it up. If you are referring to Soho of London, the name purportedly refers to a 17th century hunting call. The SoHo of New York is a portmanteau of "South of Houston Street".
The SOHO Cafe and Bakery of Kansas City, Mo capitalizes every letter of its name, so it could mean anything, even an acronym for Surreptitious Occulators Hunting Omnibuses. Regardless, it's the name of an interesting bakery downtown.
And how about that bakery, you might ask? Well, my experience there was certainly a positive one. Their cafe is high-ceilinged and wide open, as you can see in the artfully captured photo below.
Yes, it's true. The SOHO Bakery actually contains a purple column, which gives them a +1 equity bonus on a second mortgage, should they ever need one.
Now, on to the food. In my usual fashion, I waltzed up to the pastry case and selected an item at random, which turned out to be a heart-shaped chocolate-covered strawberry cake. Also available was a peanut butter mousse tartlette, a cherry tartlette, and a variety of cookies.
This is, of course, a scandalously small selection of baked goods. In their defense, I did not arrive until one o' clock PM, and, as they close at two, there was not a whole lot left of that morning's baking. Most likely, this means that they bake everything fresh every morning, which is definitely a good thing. However, that is not necessarily the case.
Here is a picture of that cake, which rang up at $2.71:

Not bad, eh? Here's a picture of the inside. Also featured is a plastic fork:

Now, you ought to know that this was served on a napkin on top of a floral-patterned paper plate. Naturally, I excluded this from my pictures. Also, please note the color of the cake. If it was strawberry cake, they must have added the fruit with an eyedropper, because I could neither see it nor taste it. Regardless, the cake was tasty and moist, only not in a strawberryesque fashion. The chocolate was thick and creamy, as it should be. Good? Yes. Great? Almost, but not quite. A tad too dull for my tastes and not quite worth $3.

So, atmosphere was excellent, selection was poor, and the food was pretty good. Also, the use of paper plates and plastic silverware is inexcusable. I must add that this place also serves what looks to be a fantastic lunch, complete with homemade soups. Sadly, this is not a lunch blog, so that will not be taken into consideration. Thus, the SOHO Cafe and Bakery nets three and one-half capybaras out of five.

SOHO Cafe and Bakery
310 w. 8th st. kansas city, mo
Mon- Fri 7-2

SOHO cafe & bakery on Urbanspoon