I had a revelation this week: pastry cream is basically pudding, with perhaps an egg yolk or two more. Both start off with a milk/sugar base, thickened over the stove top using some combination of cornstarch/flour/egg yolks then flavored with vanilla, chocolate or any other flavor of choice. This recipe, in my opinion, can pass for both.
The first time I had crepes was in Paris in 2006. Kids coming home from school were snacking on this conical things wrapped in paper filled with all kinds of chocolately/fruity goodness. My buddy and I did not hesitate. We got ourselves some crepes filled with nutella and slices of banana and our minds were blown. So delicious and, as I’d soon discover, so easy to make, with such simple ingredients?!
Flash forward to 2017 and I’ve made it 34098734287234 times. I’ve filled them with sautéed mushrooms and swiss cheese to serve to guests. With scrambled eggs and spinach for a savory breakfast. Most often though, with nutella/banana or simply with strawberry jam for my sweet-toothed family. It is the THE most requested breakfast item, surpassing pancakes, waffles, french toast, everything. Which works for me since it’s SO EASY and cooks much faster than all those other options.
I’ve pretty much stuck to Alton Brown’s recipe all these years, tweaking it only by adding whole wheat flour and a pinch of salt (it was the only thing missing). For many years I’ve mixed the batter by hand using a whisk, which was a monumental mistake. You end up with lumps of flour in the batter that only go away after the batter sits for a while, hydrating the lumps away. As soon as I started using a blender, I never looked back.
Enjoy this recipe in any sweet/savory permutation you’d like.
Recipe adapted from Alton Brown.
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 cup all purpose flour (I use half whole wheat flour)
- a pinch salt
- 2 eggs
- 3 tbsp butter, melted
- Melt butter in a small saucepan or in the non-stick skillet. Set aside.
- In a blender, add first five ingredients and blend on low speed, gradually increasing the speed to high. Blend for about 20 seconds. Add melted butter and blend once more for 10 seconds.
- Heat a 9 or 10in non stick skillet to medium heat. Pour 1/3 cup of the batter into a liquid measuring cup. Lift the pan up slightly above the flame and pour the batter onto the pan, tilting the pan around gently so the batter swirls and spreads evenly across the surface. Return to flame and cook for about a minute or until the sides start to loosen from the pan. Flip and cook for 30 seconds more. Remove from pan and set on plate. Continue with remaining batter, stacking the crepes on a plate.
- Serve with nutella, jam, powdered sugar, ,fruit and/or whipped cream.
There’s a story behind these plates: we got them for free from our last CB2 purchase. I’m assuming because no one else would buy them. There are like 4 of them, all rectangular appetizer plates with quirky stick figure/food illustrations. This is the first time I busted them out. Somehow the bite taken out of the cream puff worked perfectly with this ugly little dude. I was inspired to bake these delectable cream puffs after purchasing Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan. There’s so much goodness in this book. I was surprised at how much Moroccan cuisine permeated French food culture (as interpreted by Greenspan). The result is a multitude of really promising mezze/hors d’oeuvres, salads and other veg-centric dishes. The cream puff is made from a standard pate a choux recipe (minus one egg) – serving only as a vehicle for my silky smooth chocolate emulsion. Once I made and chilled the pastry cream, I started it eating it by the spoonful. I couldn’t help myself. That’s when I realized pastry cream is barely different from the more conventional pudding. Not the type of puddings that are thickened by just cornstarch, rather the ones that are thickened (and thus made more rich) by egg yolks. It’s great as a stand alone dessert. I piped these into the cream puffs using a pastry bag fitted with a long tip.
Now I couldn’t just leave well enough alone. It’s not enough to use great quality chocolate and a recipe from a James Beard award winning chef. I had to add a thing or two. In my case it was some instant coffee and vanilla. I added half a teaspoon of each. Next time though, I might try 1 tsp each and see if it accentuates or overwhelms the chocolate flavor. To be continued!
I’ll share one more thing with you: some of them I filled with jaggery (gur), or sap from date palm trees. If you’re South Asian you’ve no doubt seen this sweetener in steamed rice sweets. Or if you’re Muslim, with your pre-dawn Ramadan meal. Think of maple syrup, but thicker and slightly bitter. The flavor is sweet yet complex and pairs surprisingly well with cream puffs! I’ve been adding it to my morning oatmeal for a wonderful change up.
Recipe adapted from Dorie Greenspan.
- 2 cups milk
- 4 large egg yolks
- 6 tbsps granulated sugar
- 3 tbsp cornstarch, sifted
- pinch of salt
- 7 oz bittersweet choc melted (I used 4 oz bittersweet choc and 3 oz semi sweet)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp instant coffee granules
- 2 1/2 tbsps unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, at room temperature
- Warm the milk in small sauce pan until it’s scalding (you see bubbles around the edges).
- In a medium saucepan, whisk together egg yolks, sugar, sifted cornstarch, and salt until it’s blended together. While whisking continuously, drizzle in 1/4 cup of the milk (to raise the temperature of the egg yolks). Then, in a steady stream, add the remaining milk and whisk continuously. Multitasking folks. A flat whisk is great in ensuring you get all the bits around the edges. Bring to a boil and whisk for 1-2 minutes more, until thickened (it should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon).
- Stir in the melted chocolate, coffee granules and vanilla. Whisk until combined. Let stand for 5 minutes. Then add butter and stir until the mixture is smooth. At this point, I like to push the custard through a strainer to make sure it’s uniform consistency. This is optional. Pour into a bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve (at least 20 minutes).
So, I’ve renamed my blog! Kitchen3n.com is now your source for traditional Bangladeshi as well as updated American and Mediterranean recipes. Please spread the word!Also, we have a winner for our giveaway! Congratulations to @DistractedDebra on winning the $50 gift card to Sur La Table! Happy shopping!It wasn’t going to be long before I posted something from my copy of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking (thanks to the hubby for the perfect birthday present!). My first attempts were some of the omelettes, the techniques for which she describes in painstaking detail. I had always heard that eggs were to be cooked low and slow…but she cooks them over very high heat for just a few seconds. And with all kinds of jerking, shaking and flipping action. All of which I failed at, miserably. So, I tried my hand at the ratatouille. Mainly because I had most of the ingredients on hand (a little short on the green pepper so I subbed red pepper). Also, I’d never had ratatouille before and seeing as how I LOVE eggplant, didn’t mind trying it a new way. And yes, that is a ruler you see in the previous picture. She is very specific about cutting the eggplant and zucchini into 3/8 inch slices (if my zucchini looks funny, it’s because TJ’s ran out of regular zucchini and only had baby zucchini left). The total cooking time was 1.5 hrs (active). I’ve never spent that amount of time on a vegetable casserole. But I wanted to do something by the book, and I wanted to make sure I did it just right. I didn’t by the way. In the final cooking, after the vegetables are layered and are set over a low heat to mellow out for ~20 minutes, she says to take care not to scorch the vegetables on the bottom. I scorched the vegetables on the bottom. Like many others, I will probably be making my ratatouille in the oven from here on out. The main flavorings come from the slow stewing with the tomatoes, a little bit of parsley and garlic. I would probably remake in the summer, when the tomatoes are at their ripest and have a lot to offer to the dish.
Not to say that it wasn’t tasty. You can definitely taste all the TLC (tender loving care) that went into its preparation. I would probably add a bit more seasoning next time (increased salt and pepper, perhaps some herbs de provence, more garlic). I’m not sure how it’s traditionally eaten in France, but it was fabulous alongside a piece of baguette and yes, you guessed it, even rice.
From Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking
- 1 lb. eggplant
- 1 lb. zucchini
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 lb thinly sliced yellow onions
- 2 sliced green peppers or 1 red, 1 green pepper
- 2 to 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves mashed garlic
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 lb. firm, ripe, red tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and juiced (you can also use whole, peeled tomatoes in a can, just cut them across and squeeze gently to dispose of seeds and excess juice)
- salt and pepper
- 3 tbsp minced parsley
- salt and pepper to taste
- Peel the eggplant and cut into lengthwise slices 3/8in thick, 3in long, and 1in wide. Prepare the zucchini similarly. Sprinkle the vegetables with salt and arrange on a wire rack over a baking sheet to let the excess moisture out (about 30 minutes).
- Heat up the olive oil in a 10 to 12in skillet over high heat. Fry the zucchini and eggplant, one batch at a time, for about 1 minute on each side until golden brown. Set aside.
- Add more oil to the pan and sauté the peppers and onion until soft (about 10 min). Add the garlic, salt and pepper to taste.
- Slice the tomatoes into 3/8in strips. Place them atop the peppers and onion. Salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook over low heat for about 5 minutes. Then, uncover and baste the vegetables with the juices rendered. I turned off the heat at this point, which is why my ratatouille was saucy, but the original recipe directs to cook until all the liquid has evaporated.
- Layer the casserole in a cast iron or other fire proof casserole dish (2.5 qt): 1/3 tomato/pepper/onion mixture and 1 tbsp parsley, then half the zucchini/eggplant. Followed by another 1/3 tomato mixture and 1 tbsp parsley. Then the rest of the zucchini/eggplant. Finish with the last third of the tomato mixture and last tbsp of minced parsley.
- Cover and cook at low heat for 10 minutes. Uncover and cook for an additional 15 min, basting occasionally with the juices rendered. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.