Candy cane crème brûlée

My affection for custard is well-documented. I made this on Sunday, for no particular reason aside from the fact that I just wanted some. It’s still winter (faux-spring if you live in Toronto) which means it is still candy cane season and adding crushed candy canes to my crème brûlée seemed like a good idea.

Good to know before you start:

If this is your first time making crème brûlée, fear not! I have covered this before. Read my earlier posts about my first time making it, and my pumpkin flavoured variety to see the technique in action. You’ll need to make a water bath, and a kitchen torch.

Time required: 2 days

Yields: 6 portions

Cost per serving: $4.59

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $27.59

Special kitchen implements I used:

  • mesh strainer
  • 6 ramequins
  • baking pan: 9″ x 13″
  • a dish towel you don’t mind getting wet
  • fire-proof surface (ie: marble slab or glass cutting board)
  • awesome kitchen torch™

Ingredients:

  • 2C heavy cream, room temperature
  • 5 egg yolks, room temperature
  • ⅓ C granulated white sugar
  • half of one vanilla bean, split & scraped
  • ⅛ TSP fine sea salt  (normally I use table salt but I was out)
  • ⅛ TSP ground cinnamon
  • 1-2 TSP demerara sugar per portion (do not add until serving)
  • 1 crushed candy cane

Instructions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 325°F / 162°C, using centre rack.  Fill kettle with water and simmer for later.

2. In a heavy-bottomed sauce pan, add cream, cinnamon, and vanilla bean (pods and shell). Heat on LOW until scalded then remove from heat.  When scalded, the bubbles have just started to form and break the surface.  (It’s normal for a skim to form.)

splitting like mad!!

Watched pots never boil and all, but the instant you turn your back it’ll burn. Not that I burn anything, by the way. Just observing.

3. In a medium bowl, mix sugar and salt together.

4. Separate the yolks from the egg whites, and gently whisk yolks into sugar mixture until just combined.

5. Pour the hot cream through a strainer as you temper it into the egg mixture; add about a third of the cream, gently stirring between each pour. (Doing this slowly prevents the egg from scrambling.)

6. To prepare for the water bath, fold a dish towel until it sits evenly in the bottom of a 9″x13″ pan, and place your ramequins atop the towel. This will prevent the cups from slipping.

7. Use a spoon to scrape the bottom of bowl, where all the vanilla bean has sunk, and make sure each ramequin has a fair amount of the bean; then pour the liquid into the ramequins.

8. Place pan in oven, and create your water bath by carefully filling the pan with hot water from the kettle, until the water reaches at least halfway up the sides of the ramequins.

9. Bake for 35-40 minutes until the edges of the custard are set. Test for doneness by shaking, the centre should wobble like Jell-o. If the whole surface shakes give it 3-5 more minutes. If nothing shakes it’s overdone.

10. Remove from oven, and carefully remove ramequins from pan. Set them on a rack to cool for at least one hour.

11. Cover each ramequin with plastic wrap, and chill overnight.

12. Remove from fridge 30 minutes before you want to eat them.  After 20 minutes, remove the plastic wrap, and use a folded piece of paper towel to gently blot the surface to remove any condesation.

13. Add the topping, sprinkling the demerara sugar on top, tilting and tapping each ramequin to cover the entire surface, and then repeat with the crushed candy cane.

14. Place the ramequin on a fireproof surface  and torch that sucker, using a low flame held 1-2 inches from the surface. Start in the middle and slowly go in clockwise circle to the edges. Oooh, pretty!

15. Return to fridge for 10 minutes, then eat.

Verdict: Father forgive me. It had been 90 days since my last crème brûlée and I was helpless to resist the siren song of the heavy cream in the fridge. I succumbed.

Christ, I’m glad I did. I love this stuff. It’s delicious.

This was good. Objectively speaking, you couldn’t really taste the candy canes. Boyfriend says he couldn’t taste them at all, but I distinctly remember tasting candy cane in two bites. (The cane I used was from last year, maybe it went stale?)

I had planned to add a drop of peppermint oil but decided against it, not wanting to overwhelm the cinnamon, which had a gentle hint of flavour.

Heavy cream and vanilla beans are expensive, but if you wait until the cream goes on sale and get the beans in bulk, making crème brûlée does not cost you much. Buying it in a restaurant can start at $8.00 for one tiny bowl, so when you think about it, making it at home is the fiscally responsible thing to do. Canadians are in record levels of debt, so… you’re welcome!

Playlist: Barenaked Ladies – Call and Answer

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Eggnog

For reasons I cannot fathom, Boyfriend loves eggnog. I do not, and when someone offers me a glass of eggnog, I have terrible flashbacks to a night involving a childhood illness and my father’s questionable decision that eggnog was what the doctor ordered. Ugh. To this day the thought of drinking eggnog makes me queasy.

A few days ago Boyfriend bought some eggnog, but he drank it all and has been moping around.

“Sigh.”

“Why are you sighing?”

“We’re out of eggnog.”

“You mean you’re out of eggnog.”

In a burst of Christmas generosity I was moved to make homemade eggnog for him. I googled around until I found something that looked promising. I made a few changes to the recipe.

Time required: 1 hour

Yields: 3-4 large glasses

Cost per glass: $4.00

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $25.00

Special kitchen implements I used:

  • Nemo the KitchenAid

Ingredients:

  • 2 C milk
  • 1 C heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 1 TSP nutmeg
  • 4 egg yolks, 4 egg whites
  • ⅓ C sugar + 1 TBSP

Instructions:

1. Separate yolks and whites. Place yolks in mixing bowl, set whites aside for later.

 

2. Beat yolks until colour lightens.

3. Gradually add ⅓ C of sugar to the yolks, beat until thoroughly dissolved.

4. In a sauce pan, add milk, cream, nutmeg, and vanilla bean. Scald mixture, then remove from heat.

5. Strain and temper hot cream into yolks, adding about one third at a time.

Once the cream and yolks have been mixed, return to sauce pot and heat to 160°F / 71.1°C. (I switched to a fresh pot for this.)

Don’t forget to stir. I forgot to stir, and I got a scrambled eggs on the bottom. Oops.

6. Remove from heat, transfer to mixing bowl, and chill.

7. Meanwhile, in another mixing bowl, beat the egg whites to soft peaks. (I used the 3rd setting for 2-3 min.)

8. Add 1 TBSP of sugar to whites, beating until stiff peaks form. (Took 2-3 min on 4th setting.)

9. Whisk whites into chilled mixture.

Whisking got boring so I used the wire-whip attachment in the mixer to do this for me.

10. Chill and… drink I guess.

Verdict:

Boyfriend assures me it was delicious. I’ll have to trust his judgement, I have no intentions of drinking that swill. After he drained the glass I confessed that I didn’t stir it enough and found eggy mixture in the bottom.

“Oh. I thought I felt something kinda solid in there.”

“But it was okay, yeah?”

“Yeah. It was really good, despite the eggs. Best homemade nog I’ve ever had!”

“I’ll take your word on that.”

Playlist: The Vision of Escaflowne OST

Patty’s peppermint bark

I’ve been making peppermint bark for a few years. It’s my Christmas specialty. I’ve experimented with different brands of chocolate, candy canes, and peppermint extract vs. peppermint oil, and when I make my annual trip to buy mass quantities of Belgian chocolate, inevitably the shop keeper and other patrons ask me what I’m making. This sparks interesting discussions in the line-up about the best way to achieve a perfect bark, like so:

I send it to my family and Boyfriend’s family. This year, I wanted to make bark, plus a surprise that Boyfriend and I collaborated on. The surprise will not be unveiled for a few days, but I’ll teach you how to make bark today.

One popular bark flavour is using all-white chocolate with red canes, but I prefer a bark that is 2 parts white chocolate to 1 part semi-sweet, using the traditional red, green, and white candy canes per batch.

Good to know before you start:

The chocolate must be tempered, so review my how-to guide before trying this.

Buying candy canes after Christmas is an exercise in futility, lots of places sell out. I buy the canes in Nov, and pick up the Callebaut chocolate in Dec. Whether or not to use peppermint extract or peppermint oil depends on your taste preference, I prefer the oil which I order online from Golda’s Kitchen.

Working with chocolate, you must make sure EVERY dish and implement is completely dry. A drop of water will cause the chocolate to seize.

Wear latex gloves while handling chocolate to prevent the natural oils in your skin from blemishing it. The heat of your hands will also melt it, wearing gloves helps reduce the heat a bit.

this is a lot of chocolate

(By the way, that picture is all the chocolate I purchased this year, not just the portion I used for my bark. I just like looking at all of it together.)

Time required: 5 hours

Yields: enough for 7 households

Total cost: depends on the quality of chocolate, and since it’s a gift I’m not going to say

Special kitchen implements I used:

  • chocolate thermometer
  • 2 cookie trays: 18″ x 12″ and 14″ x 10″
  • wax paper
  • hammer
  • large freezer bag
  • gloves/tongs

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz semi-sweet chocolate
  • 16 oz white chocolate
  • a few drops of peppermint oil (I use LorAnn oils)
  • 6 jumbo Allan peppermint candy canes

Instructions:

1. Line baking trays with wax paper.

2. Use a serrated blade to chop the semi-sweet chocolate. Weigh out 8 oz, and divide it between two bowls: two thirds in one, one third in the other. Temper the chocolate and stir in one drop of peppermint oil.

3. Pour the chocolate into the trays, spreading evenly with a spatula. Chill in fridge for at least 10 minutes.

Take a break to wash and dry your bowls and chocolate thermometer, they must be bone dry.

4. Unwrap the candy canes, place into freezer bag, and HULK SMASH!! Hammer away until you’ve got a bag of itty-bitty pieces, and set them aside.

5. Chop the white chocolate, and temper it too! Stir in 2-3 drops of peppermint oil.

6. Stir crushed canes into white chocolate.

7. Immediately pour onto first layer and spread evenly with spatula.

Let the trays sit on the counter for 15 min, this gives the white chocolate time to bond to the semi-sweet. Once I forgot to do that, and the white never really adhered to the bottom layer. :[

8. Chill in fridge for at least 3 hours.

9. When you are ready to cut it into pieces, remove the wax paper from the bottom and let it sit on the cutting board for 10 minutes. Use a heavy blade to cut into strips.

10.  Place into tins, separate each layer with a piece of waxed paper.

11. Keep in the fridge. Allow the pieces to sit at room temp for 10 minutes before eating.

12. See all that bark dust on the cutting board? Save it as a garnish for hot chocolate with steamed milk, or pancakes!!

Verdict: When I started out making bark, I used to make it with equal parts of each chocolate. My sister Chocoholic suggested decreasing the semi-sweet. I followed her advice and was really pleased with the result. Bark has a strong flavour so a thin piece is fine, using the 2:1 ratio results in perfect, delicious bark. Merry Christmas!

Playlist: Type O Negative – Hey Pete

Chocolate truffles

Yesterday Hobby Victim invited me and Boyfriend over for a day of food, video games, and chocolate making. She had a godly supply of fine chocolate, truffle shells, and liquor. I arrived with a bag of equipment and flavouring oils. We quickly got started:

You can make truffles by rolling them by hand – which is difficult –  or by using truffle shells.  A truffle shell is a hollow chocolate sphere, with a hole in the top, which you can pipe a filling into.  It yields a more even and professional look.

Each truffle consists of a filling of rich dark chocolate ganache, a shell of white or dark chocolate, a coating of milk chocolate, and a lovely garnish. We made 4 flavours:

  • Triple Sec and orange cream
  • Baileys Irish cream
  • Peppermint
  • Crème de Cassis (black currant) and raspberry

To prepare the ganache for the fillings, Hobby Victim scalded the cream while I chopped the chocolate. She tempered the hot cream into the chocolate and whisked it up.

We divided the ganache into 4 bowls, and added the liquor and essential oils to taste.

An essential oil is a pure concentrated oil, whereas flavour extracts are a mixture of oil and alcohol. The oils are about 4 times stronger than extracts, yielding a much more intense flavour. You can find these oils in specialty shops or online.

The fillings were cooled in the fridge for awhile, then transferred into piping bags, and the ganache was squirted into the open hole in the top of the shells.  Back into the fridge for awhile to set.

We made second batch of ganache to use as a final coating.  Each truffle was dipped in the bowl and transferred to a cookie sheet, where various decorations were added while the coating was still soft, so when it hardened it would look like so:

peppermint truffles with candy canes

Aren’t they lovely? They remind me of little ornaments.

truffles with sprinkles, white chocolate, and sugar

I’m pleased to report they all tasted delicious.

truffles, truffles every where!

These took awhile to make, but I had a great time. Baileys shots makes any lengthy task worth doing. I will definitely make these again, and when I do, I’ll post some how-to pictures for you.

What type of chocolates do you want to see next?