Archive for October, 2008

Mad about Fruit Tarts

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

              Fruit Tarts

Pâte Sucrée (Sweet Tart Dough)

In my opinion, the most important part of a fruit tart, or most tarts for that matter, is the crust. For fruit tarts, I prefer a firm, crisp, not-so-crumbly that it falls apart on the first bite, sort of crust. The perfect dough for that is pâte sucrée.

Pâte sucrée is a really simple dough to make in your stand mixer or even by hand and there’s really only one rule to follow: Don’t overwork the dough. What I really like about pâte sucrée, is that I can make a huge batch, divide the dough into several portions and freeze them. That way, I have an emergency stash on hand whenever I need to whip up a tart shell in a hurry.

More Tarts

Crème Pâtissière (Pastry Cream)

I’ve always had issues with pastry cream. Most of the time, the cream doesn’t set firm enough. It’d be relatively firm off the stove, but gradually become more fluid as it cooled to room temperature. The first batch I made for these tarts became fluid as expected. I’d followed Dorie’s recipe to a T, so what was I doing wrong?

Initially, I thought it was because I hadn’t cooked the cream to the right consistency and had taken it off the stove too early. Then hubby, who loves his chocolate puddings and has been making them since he was a kid, pointed out that I’d probably stirred the pastry cream too much after it’d cooled past a certain point and broken down the starch.

              Fruit Tarts

I stubbornly insisted that the recipe said to wait for the pastry cream to cool to 60 degrees C before incorporating the butter or the custard would break. *humpf* Besides, he’d always cooked his puddings from Dr Oetker pudding mixes, what did he know about making custards from scratch or about stirring in butter? *grummel* Still, I secretly wondered if he was right.

              Peach Tarts

So for the second batch, I cooked the custard a little longer than usual, very bravely stirred in the butter almost immediately after transferring it to a bowl and resisted the urge to stir the pastry cream while it was cooling. The result: a custard that stayed firm even after cooling to room temperature! Fine, so I was wrong and hubby was right after all. Hmm… I wonder what other tidbits on cooking he has hidden away… Perhaps it’s time to quell the kitchen Nazi in me and share some stove space with hubby!

              Dark Chocolate Tart

An alternative to a pastry cream filling is dark chocolate ganache. I’d have preferred to top it with edible gold leaf, but didn’t have any on hand, so I went with gold luster dust instead.

Note: The design ideas for the blueberry, raspberry and chocolate tarts came from the wonderful dessert spread at Brasserie Les Saveurs (St. Regis, Singapore). The dessert spread is available as part of afternoon tea or Sunday brunch buffet.

Brasserie Les Saveurs
The St. Regis, Singapore
29 Tanglin Road · Singapore 247911
(65) 6506 6866

Daily Afternoon Tea 3:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Sunday Brunch 12:00 PM - 3:00 PM

Mad about Ice Cream

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

              Empty Glasses

This particular ice cream journey began with a spur-of-the-moment decision to visit Island Creamery after a less-than-satisfactory dinner. I was particularly impressed by the burnt caramel and apple pie ice cream that my brother had chosen and wondered if I could reproduce those same delicious flavours at home.

I was a little apprehensive since I’d made ice cream only twice previously, both attempts which produced less-than-ideal results. My very first attempt was made without an ice cream maker. On top of that, I didn’t freeze-then-churn the custard sufficiently. resulting in a slightly icy texture and vanilla specks that sunk to the bottom of the tub. My second atttempt saw a custard recipe that called for double cream. While the ice cream wasn’t as icy as before, it wasn’t sweet enough and left an unpleasant coating on the tongue, presumably from too high a fat content. It was a pretty disappointing waste of very expensive dairy ingredients.

I was determined to make my third attempt a success.

Burnt Caramel Ice Cream

              Home Churned Burnt Caramel Ice Cream

I turned to Michael Recchiuti’s Chocolate Obsession for the burnt caramel ice cream recipe. Having read his instructions very carefully, especially the part about turning on a kitchen fan if I had one, I had this vision of my kitchen filling up with acrid smoke while caramel turned black in my pot. Fortunately, it was nothing like that. Yes, there was some smoking, but just a few wisps and the caramel wasn’t ebony black, but a very dark amber instead.

Burnt Caramel & Vanilla Pods

The truth be told, I began to have doubts about the chosen flavour when I tasted the burnt caramel base on its own; it was bitter and tasted … well, burnt. But once dissolved into the creamy custard, the taste was absolutely fantastic and even better after churning and ripening! The ice cream had a deep caramel taste with mild burnt overtones. The best part was that it was completely smooth and the vanilla specks stayed happily suspended in the frozen ice cream.

Cocoa Nib Ice Cream with Caramelised Cocoa Nibs

Cocoa Nibs

Emboldened by my success with this ice cream recipe, I moved on to another from the same book. The 1-kg bag of Valrhona cocoa nibs, delivered right to my doorstep a couple months ago, was still untouched. The second I’d cut the bag open, the most wonderful chocolate fragrance filled the air. It was just like opening up a bag of roasted coffee beans, except that the smell was that of pure chocolate heaven.

              Cocoa Nibs Caramelised

Oh, how I regret not having ripped open the package the moment it arrived! All this time a heavenly culinary moment was just sitting in a corner of my kitchen, waiting to happen! I had no idea that cocoa nibs smelt this good. I’m not entirely sure how to describe it; somehow I keep thinking the words “pure” and “clean”, certainly not adjectives one usually associates with chocolate, but that was exactly what I felt it was: a very pure and clean chocolate aroma.

Home Churned Cocoa Nibs Ice Cream

The cocoa nib ice cream reminded me very vaguely of Milo and Ovaltine, but there was something different about it. I don’t think it’s a taste I can describe acurately. You’ll just have to try it yourself to find out!

The caramelised nibs mixed into the churned custard tasted slightly bitter as I’d messed up the caramelising process and ended up with small chunks of unmelted sugar and some burnt nibs in the mix. I’ll probably leave the caramelised nibs out of the custard in the future and just sprinkle it over the ice cream.

I’m thinking apple pie ice cream next!

Old School Blackforest Cake

              Old School Blackforest Cake

The photograph here is of the blackforest cake I’d made for my brother’s 30th birthday. It was a little daunting to make since this was the most frequently requested cake in my mum’s cake business while we were growing up. Fortunately, I had my mum’s recipe on hand and some carefully written notes on the side. Still, I wasn’t sure if the cake I’d made would live up to our memories of what it’d tasted like before.

But I’m glad to report that the cake turned out well and mum actually thought it tasted fine, just that I’d been a little too generous cream-wise!

              Old School Blackforest Cake

After having the cake, my brother confessed that he’d never really liked blackforest cake (and I’d thought it was his favourite!) and to be completely honest, neither had I! But I was glad that I gave my mum’s recipe a shot because my dad and hubby thoroughly enjoyed it.