A while back I read a recipe on crème brûlée (CB) and I thought I would never be able to make it. The whole thing sounded so incredibly hard to do! You had to separate yolks from eggwhites, and you could NOT let the whole thing boil, or else!
Anyway, I thought it was too hard for me. Besides, you needed some instrument that could possibly burn down your entire kitchen: a bunsen burner of some kind. I died thinking I had to handle something like that. But… I decided to get one last check before I would lay down the idea of making CB forever. I would check if my bible, The Joy Of Cooking, would have a recipe for it. If it did, I would definitely try.
Man-oh-man-oh-man! They did have a recipe. And instead of making it sound deliciously difficult, it was simple, easy, anyone could do it. No separating eggs, just a little scary burning the house down. I could handle that, I thought.
I ran out the door screaming with joy, off to the shops, buying my kitchenburner. That is: after I found out these things only cost 15 euros. I would’ve thought you had to invest several hundred euros before anyone would allow you to burn the kitchen down. It wasn’t. It was simple as simple could be.
I have been making CB every week since then. The first time I was in heaven. It went so incredibly well. I followed the recipe, I burnt the sugar, life was heavenly. And then the second time, I went experimenting. I learnt my lesson: don’t do that! Don’t ever do that! I didn’t have CB, I had some poor tasting horrible sauce that didn’t even remotely smell of CB. But still, without the experiments, I wouldn’t have tweaked the recipe in the right places and made some kick ass CB. I will share with you what I do to myself every week.
Mind you: my tastebuds die, go to heaven and never return. But my love handles (non-existing prior to the whole CB ordeal) have come to stay, forever. There’s a down side to everything, but it’s worth it!
You need (for 2 portions of CB):250ml cream (for making whipped cream, just don’t whip it)2 eggs (no separating)lemon zest of half a lemonvanilla sugar (1 portion of 7g)kitchen-burning-down-aid2 CB bowls
Heat the cream right until it cooks. Mix the eggs, lemon zest and vanilla sugar in a bowl. Mix in the hot cream. Stir well with a wire whisk. Put the mixture back in the pan and on low heat on the stove. Whisk constantly, make sure you also stir the edges. Let it slowly heat. They say ‘DON’T LET IT BOIL!’ and make it sound dramatic. The trick is not to boil it immediately, but slowly increase the heat. Keep stirring, don’t be made about it, but keep stirring. If it’s not going quickly enough, up the heat a little. Keep stirring, keep stirring, keep stirring. There’s no way I can tell you enough to KEEP BLOODY STIRRING. Don’t stop it.When you keep going, you will find that the mixture will turn into custard. It will thicken. This is what you want. Right at the point of thickening, it isn’t a crime if it blobs (boils) a little. Your CB won’t die and fail and you won’t be punished by going to hell. I wasn’t, at least. I’ve lived to tell the tale. Keep stirring though. Turn down the heat a notch if you feel comfortable. If it’s all thick and creamy and wowza nice, take it off the heat entirely. Place the pan on the cold countertop of some sort. And don’t forget: KEEP STIRRING. This is vital. Because the bottom of the pan will still contain heat, it will also continue to heat the custard. It is of the utmost importance that you keep stirring for about a minute. Just stir (or whisk, don’t be sensitive about which term I use).Finally: put the custard in the two bowls, and place those in the fridge for a few hours (at least 4, but honestly, if you can’t wait, no one will blame you for just finishing it right then and there). Useful tip: make sure your fridge doesn’t contain smelly things like garlic of onion, these scents will get into your CB and that is NOT good. Onion CB, nah, doesn’t seem too cool.After it’s cooled down, put a layer of (light) brown sugar (which is not your usual sugar) over the custard. Fire up your burner, burn the sugar. It should just melt. That’s it, that’s your CB ready to be served.
How local:Well, pretty local. Only lemons and vanilla aren’t grown here, but the rest is. Teehee!
PS: I think the separating of the eggs is to make the cream more light or white in colour. Which is nice, but totally unnecessary.My next endeavour is to switch the lemon zest for coconut thingythingies (don’t really know what it’s called in English all of a sudden). That should be delicious as well!
Crème Brûlée August 27, 2010
A while back I read a recipe on crème brûlée (CB) and I thought I would never be able to make it. The whole thing sounded so incredibly hard to do! You had to separate yolks from eggwhites, and you could NOT let the whole thing boil, or else!
Two cook-ups, one save December 9, 2009
At least, that’s what I think.
Yesterday for dinner I decided to get wild on the avocados I bought last week. Errr… no I didn’t. I just checked my supplies and wondered would could be in the brown paper bag surrounded by other fruits. I felt it and it felt squishy. And I remembered the avocados that were in there. And my heart sank (I typed sang, but that’s just wishful typing). Because squishy avocados usually are bad. A little squishy, yes, too much squishy and you’re doomed. You spent all this money on import fruit and then you go and let it rot because you forgot. I didn’t exactly forget, I just figured that it would take at least two weeks for my avocados to be squishy enough for consumption. But they did it in about 5 days.
So here I was, with two very soft avocados that gave in easily under any pressure I applied. I dug out the big old Knife, the biggest knife on the block in fact. I cut one delicious green fruit of paradise open, all the while noticing it’s extreme softness. And my heart sank some more. But then I did the magic trick, i opened the avocado and I actually saw what it looked like from the inside. I’m used to really soft and ripe avocados to be, well, spoiled. they’re brown. The brown might taste alright, but I’ve never tried it, I only eat the green. And those two halves looked majestically green to me. Not a spot of brown to be seen. Not one spot! I immediately dug in with my spoon to check the rest of the fruit. Green as any avocado should be! Wow. Amazing.
On to the next avocado. I was afraid that to pay for my neglect this one would be completely spoilt. But again, it wasn’t. Miraculously unspoilt avocados were at my disposal. So I squeezed a lemon. One whole lemon. While I added the juice I thought: “Hmm, that might be a bit much…”. And you know what I did? I shrugged. I shrugged at my own insightfulness. No! But yes, I did. I have a theory that it might not have been too bad, had it not been an organic lemon of which the juice was now totally masking the avocado flavour of two most delicious avocados on earth, but I guess I’ll never know. (The theory is that in my opinion (supported by all taste buds I have available) all organic produce is tastier than their non-organic counterparts. Apparently including the lemons…). I had only one option: add a whole lot of other stuff to conceal the sour lemon (it was a great lemon, don’t get me wrong, but it totally ruined the greatest of great avocados). I thought I had nailed it, so I spread it on my bread and ate it. But upon finishing my super spoilt me said: no. This was not a real save. This wasn’t good. This sucked actually. Unless you prefer lemons over avocados, but who would do that? Is there anyone in their right minds who would? (Lemons are nice, but come on, avocados win hands down!) I’ll write down the recipe sometime, because with a little less lemon this is just perfect!
Yesterday I made porridge, because I had milk left that was in real need of someone to save it, before it went sour. I like porridge. Not everyday, but usually it’s real nice. It’s not really complicated, anyone can make porridge, but the thing is, once you think it’s easy peasy, you risk ruining it. I did’nt ruin it. I stood by the pot and I watched the milk’s every move. I stirred it constantly and I did not get distracted by textmessages (ok, I did once, but I regained focus quickly and in the time I was texting, no horrible milk disasters ensued, and I still stood next to the stove, with the actual milk in view). You should know that there’s no real secret to making porridge. The burning is the big non-secret. The secret to the non-burning is a watchful eye. Turn down the heat the minute you see water evaporating. Because that is your clue that the milk is hot, and depending on what kind of stove you have (mine is electric), it will warm some more. Leaving the heat on is disastrous. Secondly, you need space where you can quickly move your hot pan of boiling milk should it go wrong despite your watchfulness. Thirdly: you need to stir like a madman. Constantly. Even when you’re not feeling like it, or don’t see the need. There is always a need for stirring with porridge. So that’s what I was doing when I was texting: stirring. With my left hand. Which was quite disastrous, except nothing went wrong. I’m a great multi-tasker when nothing goes wrong. It happens every once in a while. I can enjoy that. When the milk is close to boiling you rest your stirring for a second to throw in a few spoons of oats. Then you stir vigorously. Or not exactly vigorously, as long as you keep stirring. And make sure you touch the bottom. That way, you can feel when the porridge is starting to go wrong in all the wrong places. Because it first forms a thick layer of hard porridge on the bottom of the pot. When you leave that for too long and you keep the heat on… that’s when it gets burned. And when it gets burned you ruin all the porridge. Not just the bit stuck at the bottom. No, you’ll have this delicious burnt taste in every bit of porridge you have. So stirring is in order. Porridge hardly ever fails when I’m making it. It only fails when I’m not just texting, but I decide to check my e-mail. That’s exactly when I know I shouldn’t be making porridge. I deserve starving to death in those cases.
Anyway, the porridge wasn’t the save either, because it was great. No, the save was when I decided to make wentelteefjes. I only had about 300ml of my milk left, I had some old bread and I had eggs and cinnamon. I checked the bread for mold, because that’s something you don’t want to eat, right? Examination did not reveal any mold. So I mixed one egg with 250ml of milk, added cinnamon and started getting the bread ready. I checked again for any suspicious specks. And sure enough, there were. So, no wentelteefjes. But what do you do with milk mixed with egg and cinnamon? I checked the freezer for another bread. There wasn’t one. Oh. Porridge for breakfast again? Sure, but I had only a little bit of milk left, and the milk mixture. So I did something that probably is a great sin against all things culinary: I made porridge with cinnamon-egg-milk. There is a ponit in life when you just don’t care. I figured cinnamon would be good with porridge. I was a bit worried about the egg, though. Wouldn’t that totally screw up anything porridge-related? I’ll keep it short: it didn’t. And I saved the day. Well, my day anyway. It feels good when you can undo a bit of a cook-up. I know now that I should have scrutinized every slice of bread before starting on the real deal of mixing ingredients. You can call me really stupid, but once there’s something moldy with the bread, I’m not going to eat any of it. I probably still could, but I won’t risk it. It’s like the burnt porridge, I’m afraid the rest of the bread will be bad too. I probably wouldn’t die of eating some moldy bread, but still. I do draw the line there. Not really on expiry dates. The milk was two days past its expiry date and it was great. Those dates don’t mean your food is instantly completely inedible. And it also doesn’t mean it’s always completely edible before such a date. I know, because I’ve been there (well, I didn’t eat it, of course, I threw it out).
So, some other time for the wentelteefjes, promise. Oh, and the good recipe (with some good measures on avocado vs. lemon juice) for the avocados. But I’m sure I don’t need to supply a recipe for porridge, now, do I? Just boil milk, throw in a few spoons of rolled oats. Stir, wait until it thickens (at least two minutes, keep the milk close to its boiling point), if it doesn’t add some more oats. I’m not good with measures. I guess a lot (and that’s why I guessed one lemon would be really good on two avocados… so I do guess wrong sometimes, haha!).
Blueberry Muffins December 5, 2009
My birthday is in the fall. I’m not the biggest fan of fall. It’s kind of depressing to know that nature’s taking a rest because of what’s yet to come: winter. The rest of fall isn’t too bad, only in November do the horrible rains start and does the temperature drop below anything reasonable (well, usually it’s October, but due to global warming it’s been November for the last few years). I love the colours, I love the blue skies, I love the sun, I love almost everything, it’s just the prospect of winter that gets me down. I’ve learnt a few things about fall: you do have fruits (ah, the lovely apples and pears!), vegetables don’t get so depressed that they abandon the earth. You can even have lettuce. So, fall isn’t at all bad. Especially because during fall there are blueberries. I’m not really fond of blueberries themselves, but I’m a freak when it comes to fruit. I prefer my fruits cooked or baked. So never mind me, just trust me on this one: blueberries rock in anything baked. They do!
For my last birthday I decided to get really childish and bring something for my fellow pay-slaves. But what to bring? Candy? Some cheap-ass cake from some horrible big chain? No, I wanted to do it like the olden days, bake something myself. When I was a tiny little girl, my mother would bake something, but I’m all grown up now (I’m almost as old as my mum was when she had me, so, yikes, that’s old!), so I can bake my own treats. But what to bake? And I remembered two things I had in London when I was stalking Starbucks: carrot cake and blueberry cake. Carrot cake is nice, but the blueberry cake Starbucks served was… well, to die for! So I decided on blueberry muffins (easy to hand out to all kinds of people, not really messy, until you start munching them down). Which posed a very important existential question: how on earth do you make those things? Which is when I use Google. And Google provides the best of answers to the search query ‘blueberry muffins’: the first hit is a recipe for ‘to die for blueberry muffins‘. That honestly sounds like something worth my while. I’ll keep it short today: they were absolutely to die for. Oh my, oh my! They were so incredibly delicious, I almost die again just thinking of them. Because of my poor math capacities I made so many of these delicious muffins that I lived on them for days. I could have shared them with more people (like my family), but… I didn’t. I got greedy, I ate them all. I had them for breakfast, for lunch, for dinner. And I doubled my weight, but it was so worth it!
I don’t think that blueberries are still in season, but I must admit that I haven’t checked if they’re still available. It’s because they’re crazy expensive. Don’t get me wrong, they’re more than worth every cent I spent on them, but it’s not something I should do on a regular basis, I’d be so broke I’d live in a cardboard box on the street, but with blueberry muffins. I just haven’t decided yet if living on the street is worth it, it might be. But I’ve practiced restraint, and I’ve managed to live on.
Today I figured something else out. These muffins were absolutely great with blueberries. But maybe, just maybe, these muffins would be quite alright with apple? So that’s what I’m trying out now. As we speak the beautiful smell of cinnamon and baked goodness is filling the room, while I’m listening to Christmas songs. And all is right. I have a sneaking suspicion that these apple muffins will be just as great. And if you’re not totally freaked out by the thought of raisins, you might want to add those, as well.
So, they’re done, and I’m sorry to say that apple isn’t quite the same as blueberry. Blueberries are a bit sour, tangy. Apple lacks that. Still, the crunchy top layer and the smooth and soft and mushy rest of the muffin are still brilliant. My next try will include raisins. Since I’ve got enough ingredients, my next try will be later this week!
You’ll find the original recipe here. It’s just great the way it is. What I did was I left out the blueberries, I put in one apple (regular size, haven’t weighed it) and lemon zest to the muffin dough. The rest of the recipe was left the way it was. Oh, and I bake them for 30 minutes, somehow that’s what they need in my oven.
Oh, and you’ll never believe it: I screwed my measurements up BIG time. I wrote down the recipe a few months ago with the amounts I needed to feed an army (which I didn’t, I just fed myself for ages). And today I took those measurements and started. Only realising a little late that I had more than twice as much as I needed. I already mixed up the dry ingredients, so I totally did something you’re never supposed to do: I mixed the ingredients, took half out, and continued on my merry way. It probably doesn’t matter, but still… don’t do that!
Sugar: Netherlands (who knew we made sugar!)
Oil: packed in Belgium
Cinnamon: far away
Baking soda: Netherlands
Eggs: local farm (2,5km)
Watergruwel or Krentjebrij December 4, 2009
Let me start by saying that this is probably the worst day in my life. Not because it’s a bad day, which it really isn’t, all that’s wrong today is the weather, it’s dull, gray and very depressing, and it’s not even raining. No, it’s the worst day in my life because a few days ago I already decided what I’d make: a dutch dessert. No! Yes! I wrote up the recipe for some other reason and I thought to myself: wow, this is something I’ve never eaten, in my life. And in some dark second following that thought I decided it would be a perfect day to eat something new, this Friday. Which is today. So, by now I’m freaking out. BIG time freaking out here.
The reason I’m freaking out is that ‘watergruwel’ has a very ominous name. Water is water, that’s not bad. But ‘gruwel’ looks and sounds a little too much like ‘gruwelijk’, which means horrible. There is a chance that in some Ye Olde Dutch Dictionary ‘gruwel’ might have an alternative meaning, but I don’t own such a dictionary and I’m not good in Medieval speak anyway. So I’m scared the word ‘gruwel’ might actually mean it’s horrible. ‘Krentjebrij’ sounds better, it’s still the same dish. So possibly some sneaky parent called it that, and hoped the children would finish their horrible dessert because they were being tricked into thinking it wasn’t horrible.
I do come prepared. I bought all the ingredients. Which is a great start when you’re trying something new. I usually improvise something. But not today, not this time. Over the past few days I’ve searched for ‘gort’, and found it. It’s not at all common, nobody uses it anymore. It makes me wonder, might there be a reason we all stick to pasta and potatoes? I’ve bought unsweetened juice (why? Why? WHY? Who drinks unsweetened juice these days? And most of all, why?). Yesterday I asked my utterly Dutch mum about it, I casually dropped ‘watergruwel’ in our conversation. She was ecstatic, it’s a good thing to eat, it’s healthy. My sister, who happened to be in the same room with us started screaming and making vomiting sounds. She yelled things like ‘eeeewwwww, grosss!’, and asked me ‘WHY?’ on numerous occasions. Apparently something’s lacking in my upbringing, which didn’t exactly lack in hers. She knows the stuff. She didn’t start screaming immediately, she asked a very modest question: ‘Is that the stuff with the raisins in it?’ I said it was. And then she started screaming. And she said it was verrrrrrrrrry slimey, which is horrible.
Now, this pristine hour before I start cooking the stuff, I have serious doubts. First, why? Ok, that’s not really a doubt, but seriously, WHY? I read this recipe and I noticed the raisins. The swollen raisins of doom. I hate raisins. Well, not the dried raisins themselves. But I truly hate raisins that have been cooked, are swollen and bloated and then enter my mouth. The thought is nauseating. It’s the only reason I hate raisins. This recipe is full of it. A lot of raisins. Why? Raisins aren’t even Dutch. They’re not local. They’re shriveled Frenchmen in disguise, asylum seekers in our rustic Dutch cuisine. They’re not welcome in my Dutch cuisine! But here I am, with raisins in my cuisine. And I’m going to cook them for over an hour, in water. They’ll be bloated and swollen and gross by the time I eat them and that sucks.
Another doubt of mine arose only a few hours ago, when it finally hit me that I’ll be using 1 L (yes, one whole Liter) of water. One! Whole! Liter! And I read on and it said that this Dutch Dessert was… a drink! Ok, I don’t get that, drinks for dessert without a truckload of alcohol in them, so: why? But it also means that if this stuff is really as gross as my sister so fervently pictured, I’ll be stuck with one whole liter of the stuff. That thought is unbearable. So I’m cutting down the recipe, I’m using half of the ingredients. I just can’t handle the thought of utter grossness in that amount. Even if it’s good for hydrating.
The other concerns are only mild. Like, what do I do with all the gort and raisins and stuff that will be left after I tried this recipe? Can I think of a way to eat those raisins? Are there other recipes with gort? What is ‘gort’ anyway?
I use Google to answer all my existential questions, including these. I know that I can’t live without knowing the answer. ‘Gort’ is barley. And today I’ll be using ‘pearl barley‘. (Which makes me sing (there’s light on this dark day anyway): You’ll remember me when the west wind moves /Upon the fields of barley. Thank you Sting!) I’m so glad I know this now. And that it might relieve depression (through serotonin, who knew?). This might be a good day to eat ‘watergruwel’ after all! And it might explain why the Dutch ate so much barley, winters can be quite depressing up here in the low lands!
And yes, you can use gort to make other things. Another dessert, or maybe a breakfast called ‘karnemelkse pap’ or ‘gortepap’. Which is a porridge made with ‘karnemelk’ (which is buttermilk). And that might be an even bigger problem. I don’t like buttermilk. My mother mentioned ‘karnemelkse pap’ to me and she shivered. She hated it as a child and she has some dearly disturbed memories of it. The memory of ‘karnemelkse pap’ made her say ‘eewww’ and ‘gross’. I was brave and I said ‘But it’s Dutch, right?’. And she gave me some heartfelt advise after that. First she asked if I liked buttermilk. I said ‘no’, and I added ‘eeewww’ and ‘gross’. And my mum said: ‘Then stay away from the ‘karnemelkse pap’, you’ll hate it’. She meant: you’ll die of misery when you attempt making it. And I will bloody well not save you! Thanks mum!
So, on to the cooking!
Ok, lemon zest might be one of my favourite ingredients. That smell! It reminds me of cake and other deliciousness. Maybe this isn’t going to be too bad. I don’t mind the currants and raisins one bit, either. Promising, promising. But I’m still worried, what happens to gort when it’s cooked? Will it be terribly slimey?
The finished product looks a little, well, weird. It’s watery and basically the swollen pearl barley and raisins and currents are sort of swimming in there, hanging on for dear life. The fluid is amazing! You can taste the cinnamon, the red currant juice, the sugar and it’s so balanced and nice, it’s truly amazing. So, on to a bite of the swollen gooey stuff that’s swimming in there. I’m a bit lost for words here. It’s not gross, but it’s not amazingly nice either. The taste is a bit more stingy than just the juice, and there’s barely any texture. It’s not exactly slimy, but it’s not exactly chewy either.
All in all, it’s not bad, but it’s not exactly great either. I’ll live & it’s ok.
100 g pearl barley
75g sultana raisins
75g zante currants
zest from 1 lemon
pinch of salt
300ml unsweetened red currant juice
Read the packaging of your barley, some barley needs to be soaked for hours on end, and check cooking time. Bring water with salt to boil, then add barley, raisins, currants, zest and cinnamon stick, cook for one hour. Remove cinnamon stick, bring to flavour with sugar and red currant juice. Can be served hot or cold.
Lemon: over 1000km more southward
gort: 100km? (definitely Dutch, but where?)
raisins: anywhere between 300-1000km (La Douce France, at least that much more South)
cinnamon: sailed in by the VOC, doesn’t count (it’s ‘so far away from me’, thanks Dire Straits!)
red currant juice: