Tag Archives: creme anglaise

MEYER LEMON BAVARIAN CREAM PIE

The local farmers’ market has just gotten going seriously for the season. A couple of weeks ago there were only a few stands with limited choices. Now there are several rows of canopies and lots of choices. There are spring vegetables: asparagus, green peas, leaf lettuce, and radishes. The big stars, though, continue to be citrus of all sorts. There are fruits that are seldom seen outside of Southern California. Pomelos as big as grapefruits! (That’s supposed to be a joke. Pomelos are often bigger than grapefruits, and on top of that they are thick-skinned close relatives.), blood oranges, many varieties of clementines, and my favorite – Meyer lemons.

The Meyer lemon was originally found in China and thought to be a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange.  It was brought to California and popularized by a guy named – you guessed it –  Meyer. When Meyer lemons were found to be symptomless carriers of a virus that destroyed other citrus trees, the lemon trees were chopped down wholesale, not to be grown again until a virus-free strain was discovered. Now they are widely available.

Meyer lemons are beautiful. They are larger than other lemons with a dark yellow-orange skin and a beautiful fragrance. They are sweeter than the usual lemon, but they are still more sour than an orange. They are juicy and usually contain a number of seeds, so they really lend themselves to cooking with the juice and/or zest.

What could be a better use than in a Bavarian cream? Bavarian cream is a classic dessert. Julia Child devotes pages to its many variations. At the same time, Bavarian cream is really just another classic – crème Anglaise – doctored up with flavoring, meringue, and whipped cream all stabilized with gelatin. One more step is to put the Bavarian cream into something to hold it. Charlottes lined with lady fingers are common, but a pie shell works just as well and is a lot easier.

So, that’s what I wound up doing with the beautiful Meyer lemons I found at the farmers’ market.

RECIPE

Meyer Lemon Bavarian Cream Pie

Ingredients

  • 1 prepared 9 inch pie shell (purchased or use your favorite recipe) in a glass pie pan
  • 2 ripe Meyer lemons, juiced and zested
  • 2/3 cup sugar, divided
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 envelope (¼ ounce) unflavored gelatin
  • 3 egg whites
  • ¾ cup heavy whipping cream

Method

  1. Bake the pie shell according to instructions and set aside.
  2. Juice and zest the Meyer lemons, straining and reserving ½ cup of the juice. Set aside the measured juice and zest.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together 1/3 cup sugar and egg yolks until well combined.
  4. In a medium, heavy saucepan, heat the milk over low heat until it comes to a simmer. Gradually pour the heated milk into the egg mixture, stirring constantly. Return the egg mixture to the saucepan over low heat.
  5. Stirring frequently to avoid curdling of the bottom, heat the mixture gradually over low heat until it thickens enough to coat the spoon. Check frequently with a thermometer to avoid exceeding 170°F. The yolks will curdle at a higher temperature, and you will have to start over.
  6. Meanwhile, pour the reserved lemon juice into a medium bowl and sprinkle the gelatin on top. Let the gelatin bloom for at least 5 minutes. Pour the hot, thickened egg mixture over the gelatin and lemon juice. Stir for several minutes to make sure the gelatin is dissolved.
  7. Set the bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice and water. Stir constantly until the mixture is cool. Then strain through a fine-meshed sieve into another bowl. Stir in the reserved lemon zest.
  8. Beat the egg whites with a rotary mixer until they form stiff peaks. Stir in the remaining 1/3 cup sugar and continue to beat until the sugar is completely incorporated. Fold, by thirds, into the custard mixture. Folding gently, making sure the meringue is completely incorporated.
  9. Whip the cream into soft peaks. Fold in, making sure the mixture is completely combined.
  10. Pour the completed custard into the reserved pie shell. Cover lightly with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and chill overnight in the refrigerator.
  11. Serve plain – or better – with whipped cream.

Cook’s Notes

  • The unflavored gelatin is a key part of the recipe: not enough and the Bavarian will not set while too much and it will be rubbery; not properly bloomed and it will never completely dissolve; if it is not completely stirred in, the cream may separate. Gelatin comes in several forms. The most common is granular, packaged in small packets, but there are also liquid as well as sheets that are used by professional bakers. I don’t know what equivalents might be.
  • Be patient! Don’t try to rush the custard with high heat. You will end up with scrambled eggs.
  • It is very important to strain the thickened custard mixture. No matter how careful you are, there will be bits of curdled yolk that will take away from the smoothness of the finished custard.
  • Obviously, stir in the zest after you strain the custard.
  • You can add a little liqueur if you like. Limon cello is the obvious choice – 1 or 2 tablespoons.
  • You shouldn’t try to rush the chilling; otherwise the Bavarian might not set up properly. Overnight is best; four full hours might work in a pinch.
  • The need for bowls and saucepans is intensive. You should definitely set up mis en place for your ingredients and plot out a strategy for cookware. A scanning thermometer is very handy.

 

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FRENCH VANILLA ICE CREAM

It is definitely the time of year to make ice cream at home. It always tastes so much better than what you buy at the store, and these days it is easy to make.

When I was a child, in the hot summer we often sat out on the back porch with the ice cream churn,  a burlap sack of ice, and a big box of rock salt. My mother would set a tinned canister filled with a sweet cream mixture in the middle of the wooden churn bucket, and my father would pack it with ice and rock salt in layers so that the melting ice would stay as cold as possible. Then the kids took turns turning the crank so that the dasher inside the canister would scrape the cream as it froze against the side. The process seemed to take a long time, and no single kid could finish the whole effort. At the end, some grown-up – usually my father – would turn the crank until it wouldn’t turn any more. The dasher came out. The kids took turns licking it, and the ice cream was put back into the ice to firm up a bit before everyone got their own bowlful of the ambrosia.

Next in the evolution of the home ice cream maker was one with an electric motor. Ours never survived very long, because the motor would burn out when everyone forgot to watch it carefully.

Now, there are all sorts of choices and all sorts of prices. We have had our machine for many years, and it continues to work just fine. One advantage is that we can make ice cream whenever we want it. We don’t have to wait for summer. We stick the canister in the bottom of our freezer and forget about it until it is time to make a batch. Then we fill it up, put the dasher in, fasten down the cover, and turn on the motor. In about half an hour, we have ice cream that tastes better than anything one can buy. Our machine cost about $50 when we bought it.  It’s probably a little more expensive these days, but not much. You can buy versions with built-in freezers and elaborate adjustments. Those can easily run to well over $300. In my view, you have to eat a lot of ice cream to justify the expense, but someone must be buying those machines.

This recipe comes from our family cookbook. It is called French vanilla ice cream. I always thought “French” referred to some kind of fancy vanilla, but it turns out that “French” implies that the ice cream is made from custard. That makes me think that the proper name for the dish should be vanilla French ice cream. I don’t look for that change to occur.

Crème anglaise is probably the most common custard base used for ice cream. This recipe is actually based on a modified crème anglaise that uses whole eggs instead of egg yolks. But the same warning applies: don’t let the custard get too hot or the eggs will scramble. Even if you don’t do that, you should always strain the custard before you chill it overnight as invariably there will  be tiny little clumps of egg, and you want the finished ice cream to be as smooth as possible.

RECIPE

French Vanilla Ice Cream

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Method

  1. In a bowl, using an electric beater, cream the eggs and sugar together until pale yellow and smooth
  2. Add milk and beat until completely combined
  3. Place the mixture in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium low heat. Stir constantly until the mixture has thickened and coats the spoon. It should reach about 160°F. Do not boil or the eggs will scramble and you will have to start over. Remove from the heat and cool for about 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in the cream and vanilla. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve into a storage container and refrigerate, covered, over night.
  5. Place the mixture in an ice cream maker and spin according to directions.
  6. Transfer the finished ice cream to a container and place in the freezer for an hour to temper. Serve.

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MEYER LEMON BAVARIAN CREAM PIE

I saved three of my farmers market Meyer lemons to make something sweet. I didn’t want to make lemon curd or a regular lemon chess pie, as those seem to be what most folks make. Instead, I decided to make a Bavarian cream and turn it into a pie, with a few modifications of Julia Child’s recipe in volume 1 of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The Bavarian cream uses crème anglaise as the base so it takes a bit of effort.

I thought the pie turned out pretty well. The test of that was my wife, the Dessert Queen, who had a piece for breakfast, lunch, and dinner – with an occasional bedtime snack – until it was gone. The pie is not something you want to try in the afternoon before a dinner party. The good news is that it is so rich that it can easily serve 16 people.

RECIPES

Almond Pie Crust

Ingredients

  • butter to grease the cake pan and foil liner
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup almond flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup lard
  • 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/3 cup ice water

Method

  1. Prepare an 8-inch  false-bottom cake pan by buttering the inside generously. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, almond flour, salt, and sugar.
  3. With a pastry blender, cut in the lard until the mixture has the consistency of coarse corn meal
  4. Add the almond extract and ice water. With a dinner fork, blend until the mixture comes together. With your hands, gather up any loose crumbs and form a ball. Cover the ball with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  5. Divide the chilled dough in half. Because of the almond flour the dough may be slightly sticky, so work on a floured surface. Work quickly, rolling out the dough into a circle that is large enough to line the prepared cake pan. Save the remaining half of the dough for another pie.
  6. Line the buttered cake pan with the rolled dough, pressing it firmly against the sides and bottom of the pan. Prick the bottom and sides with a fork. With a paring knife, trim the top of the pie shell, tucking in edges and forming a decorative edge with the back of the knife. Then press a well-buttered sheet of aluminum foil against the dough, and fill the foil liner with pie weights or beans.
  7. Bake the pie shell in the middle of an oven for 10 minutes in a preheated 400°F oven. Remove the foil and beans. Prick the bottom and sides again with a fork, and return to the oven for 4 minutes or when the pie shell has begun to brown lightly. Remove from the oven, and set aside until you are ready to fill with the Bavarian cream.

Meyer Lemon Bavarian Cream Pie

Ingredients

  • 3 large Meyer lemons
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 7 egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1½ cups milk
  • 5 egg whites
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • ½ cup whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons Limoncello liqueur

Method

  1. The night before you plan to make the pie, wash and dry the lemons. Nestle them in a bowl containing the sugar and cover tightly. The lemons will perfume the sugar, but their moisture will also make it rock-hard, so you will need to break it up with a sharp knife.
  2. Zest all three lemons with a micro plane, and set aside.
  3. Juice the lemons. Strain the juice into a measuring cup. You should have about ¾ cup juice.
  4. Sprinkle the gelatin onto the juice and stir lightly so that the gelatin can bloom for 5 minutes or so.
  5. In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks with an electric mixer until smooth. Gradually beat in the sugar until the mixture is pale yellow and forms a ribbon. Beat in the cornstarch.
  6. In the meantime, bring the milk to the boil in a non-reactive 4-quart saucepan. Gradually pour the hot milk into the egg mixture, beating constantly. When the milk has been completely added, return the mixture to the saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon, being careful to scrape the bottom of the pan, until the mixture is thickened and coats the spoon. Use a thermometer to make sure the mixture does not exceed 170°F, otherwise the eggs will scramble and you will have to start over.
  7. Remove from the heat and immediately stir in the lemon juice-gelatin mixture. Stir vigorously to make sure that the gelatin is completely dissolved. Rinse out the mixing bowl and return the cooked custard to the bowl. Stir in the lime zest.
  8. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites and salt until they form stiff peaks. Beat in the sugar, and then fold gently into the custard. Cover with plastic wrap and set in the refrigerator. As the mixture thickens, stir occasionally to prevent separation.
  9. When the custard has nearly set, beat the whipping cream until well-thickened. Stir the whipped cream and liqueur into the custard.
  10. Fill the prepared pie shell with the custard. Return to the refrigerator and chill overnight or until set.
  11. Unmold the pie by loosening the edges of the false bottom and placing the pan on a small bowl so that the rim falls away. This may require a little encouragement. With a large spatula, remove the false bottom and transfer the pie to a serving plate.  Serve.

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CHOCOLATE VELVET ICE CREAM

Our older daughter, Carol, loves to cook. During our recent visit to help her unpack, we thought that we would order a lot of take-out, but she insisted on cooking in the midst of unpacking, dealing with repairmen and installers, working as a full-time attorney, and serving as scheduler and chauffeur for many adolescent activities. Never mind her role as a health care activist.

Carol is a great all-around cook, but her specialty is desserts for which she always gets her kids to “help”. Mostly because of that, we usually gain at least five pounds on any visit to Los Angeles.

This time, she made some delicious outdoor meals (It is summer near the beach in Southern California, after all.) along with two outstanding desserts: a cherry/peach tart made from fruit she bought at the farmers market, and this chocolate velvet ice cream.

The original recipe for the ice cream was published in the August, 1997 issue of Gourmet magazine. It is now on the web at the Epicurious web site where it gets a four fork user rating, and 88% of correspondents say they would make it again. . It has enough chocolate for even the most serious chocoholic and is amazingly creamy and smooth. Chocolate ice cream is my grandson’s favorite dessert, so he was in heaven and enthusiastically helped with the preparation.

You will need an ice cream maker, but the handy little Cuisinart countertop model will work just fine.

The original recipe called for Dutch-process cocoa, which I was unable to find in my local grocery stores. The so-called “natural” cocoa is more common in the USA, although you can probably find the Dutch version if you look hard. You can also order it on the internet. According to Harold McGee in his classic On Food and Cooking, Revised, Scribner, New York, 2004, p. 705 “dutching” is the process of alkalinizing cocoa with potassium carbonate. That gives it a smoother taste, but it also means that in baking you may need to use baking powder because the cocoa won’t react with baking soda to give a rise. Since there is no baking here, it’s fine to substitute natural cocoa in this recipe although it may give a sharper, more bitter taste to the final product. In my view, that is not enough to worry about.

Also, you will notice that the recipe for the custard is basically a chocolate crème anglaise finished off with a ganache. How can you possibly go wrong with that combination? After you have chilled the custard you will see that it is quite dense. For that reason, it is important to beat it until it is lighter and more fluffy before you spin it in the ice cream maker. In the end, the ice cream is like eating a frozen chocolate pot de crème because that is basically what it is. This recipe makes about 1 quart of ice cream.

RECIPE

Chocolate Velvet Ice Cream

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces quality bittersweet chocolate or bittersweet chocolate nibs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup unsweetened  cocoa (Dutch-process preferred)
  • 1½ cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 large egg yolks

Method

  1. Chop the chocolate or measure out the chocolate nibs and set aside.
  2. In a 4 quart heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, cocoa, cream and milk with a whisk. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to the boil, stirring occasionally.
  3. In the meantime, beat the egg yolks until smooth  in a bowl large enough to contain the milk and cream mixture.
  4. Whisking the eggs continuously, pour the hot milk and cream mixture very slowly into the beaten yolks. You may scramble the eggs if you add the hot mixture too quickly. If that happens, you will have to start over.
  5. Return the mixture to the saucepan, set over medium low heat, whisking constantly. Use a thermometer so that the temperature does not rise too quickly, especially toward the end of cooking. Otherwise, you will again get scrambled eggs and have to start over.
  6. When the mixture reaches 170° F (79 °C) , remove from the heat and stir in the chopped chocolate. Continue whisking until the chocolate is completely melted.
  7. Strain the mixture into a clean bowl. Use a sieve, chinois, or tamis. Cover the custard with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least three hours or overnight.
  8. When you are ready to spin the ice cream, beat the custard with an electric mixer until thick and fluffy. Then transfer to the freezing vessel of the ice cream mixer and spin until the ice cream has reached the desired consistency, probably about 45 minutes.
  9. Ripen the ice cream by transferring it to an air-tight container and storing in the freezer until hard – at least 2 hours.

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THE PRESIDIO SOCIAL CLUB

The Presidio is one of the jewels of San Francisco. It is hard to believe that it was once an army base; it is easy to believe that it was one of the most sought-after postings in the army. Several of my military friends were stationed there, and they describe a wonderful life.

Now the Presidio has been taken over by the National Park Service. The apartments for enlisted men and NCOs have been substantially upgraded and are now available for rent. Many of the officers’ homes have been converted into boutique offices or upscale housing. The base hospital has been turned into very stylish apartments. I have been told that the base commander’s home now rents for more than $30,000 per month. From the outside it is a grand house, and the views of San Francisco Bay are amongst the best in the city.

There are tennis courts, a beautiful golf course, and miles of walking and biking trails woven amid great stands of eucalyptus and pines as well as huge beds of native plants.. All of this is left over from army days. Not hard at all to see why the Presidio was such a choice assignment.

Some of the administration buildings have been converted to tourist attractions. These include an interesting Walt Disney museum, George Lucas Productions, a bowling alley, and a conference center. The Crissy Field airstrip has been turned into a waterfront mall of dark green lawn, perfect for flying kites or for outdoor events.

Walt Disney Museum in old administrative buildings

Walt Disney Museum in old administrative buildings

The scenery is spectacular. The Golden Gate Bridge is right there; the Marin Headlands are a beautiful view; and the imposing cliffs of Land’s End rise from the other direction. I forgot to mention Baker Beach, popular with the whole city.

With all of this activity and the wonderful attractions, there are not many places to eat. Fortunately, there is the Presidio Social Club near the Lombard Street Gate. During the Second World War, a barracks building was converted into clubhouse for enlisted men and women. Over the years, it had become a bit shabby and then with the imagination of the Park Service the place was refurbished and opened as a charming restaurant and bar.  The walls are covered with images of people from past days having a good time. The rooms are furnished with old-timey lights and spare-but-trendy chairs and tables. There is a nice but limited selection of wines, and it is a good place to get that old San Francisco classic, the Negroni. The food is well-prepared and includes some creative takes on comfort food – deviled eggs, meatloaf, grilled cheese, and chicken salad – as well as some more substantial offerings.

More famous San Francisco restaurants like Greens are not too far away, but the Social Club is definitely a great place for a break during your visit to the Presidio.

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SAN FRANCISCO AND THE PRESIDIO SOCIAL CLUB

San Francisco is one of the great cities of America with endless things to see and do. Of course, the Golden Gate Bridge is iconic, but the beautiful bay, the wonderful Victorian houses, cable cars, winding Lombard Street, the Marina and Fishermen’s Wharf, the Ferry Building Farmers Market, and Coit Tower are all landmarks on most tourists’ check lists.

Often the Presidio gets overlooked, and that’s too bad because it is one of the real treasures of the Bay Area.

The Spanish established presidios (military garrisons) to protect their territories as they moved further and further into what eventually became the American Southwest. Their advance into California was relatively late, and San Francisco Bay was not discovered until 1774. The Presidio at San Francisco was established in 1776 to protect what was then called La Boca del Puerto de San Francisco – the Mouth of the Port of San Francisco – a name that continued until the 1840s. In 1846, the straits between the Marin Headlands and Land’s End on the San Francisco side were renamed by the famous explorer, John C. Fremont, who said they had the same importance as the Golden Horn in the Bosporus. The renaming occurred two years before the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill. I guess Fremont knew what he was talking about.

The Spanish also established a small pueblo named Yerba Buena to support the presidio. The little town was in the area now known as the Mission District where the Mission Dolores still stands. These were the beginnings of today’s modern San Francisco.

The garrison was a constantly occupied military base for over 200 years, under the jurisdiction of Spain, Mexico, and then the US, until it was decommissioned in 1995. At that time, the Presidio was turned over to the US National Park Service with the charge to develop the facility as if it were a national park but with the requirement that, unlike a park, it must generate enough revenues to make it self-sustaining.

That charge has been taken seriously. Military housing has been converted into apartments and beautiful residences which are well-maintained, highly desired, and often available only after spending time on a waiting list. Barracks and the world-famous Letterman General Hospital have been converted into office buildings, museums, and workshops for such companies as Disney and George Lucas Productions. There are public golf courses, abundant hiking trails, campgrounds, and beaches open year-around to the public.

Scenery is spectacular. The famous Golden Gate Bridge has its southern access from the headlands in the Presidio. The view to Land’s End, with crashing surf, rugged rock outcroppings, is a gorgeous part of the walk along the ridge leading down to Baker Beach. There are hawks, hummingbirds, many other bird species, coyotes, and smaller mammals. Chances are pretty good that you can catch a glimpse of at least one of these creatures. Flowering plants, towering trees including the beautiful but invasive eucalyptus, and plenty of herbs fill the woods along the trails.

Converted nineteenth century barracks filled with displays and museums

Converted nineteenth century barracks filled with displays and museums

Golden Gate Bridge from the East Battery

Golden Gate Bridge from the East Battery

View of the Golden Gate Bridge from near the Main Post

View of the Golden Gate Bridge from near the Main Post

The Park Service has not ignored the stomach. There are several restaurants and more in the process of development. The Presidio Social Club may be the most popular, because it is close to the Walt Disney and George Lucas facilities and is a popular place for business lunches. Still, it is large enough that you may not need to wait too long for a table.

The restaurant is actually housed in a converted barracks that once served the famous African-American “Buffalo Soldiers” who played such an important role in opening up the American West.

The Social Club  serves both lunch and dinner.  The menu is not large, but you should be able to find something to suit your fancy.

For a recent lunch, I got a grilled meatloaf sandwich with melted Gruyère cheese. The sandwich came perfectly grilled on real pain de mie, not white sandwich bread. The meatloaf was juicy and cut to just the right thickness. Gruyère cheese and Dijon mustard set it off to a T.  The side salad of baby greens was dressed exactly as it should be with enough vinaigrette to flavor the lettuce but not so much as to be cloying. Susan got the Dungeness crab Louie salad which came with mollet eggs in a very large serving with lots of fresh crab. The only downside was that there were several shells that had been missed when the crab was picked over. Sarah says that to avoid that unforgivable restaurant sin, Rich Table uses a black light which causes bits of shell to glow a bright blue – who would have thought!

For dessert we split an order of brioche beignets served with creme anglaise. There are actually four beignets to an order, but they looked so good that we dived in before I took the picture.

The wine list was small but well-chosen, and the prices were reasonable. Service was excellent, and the surroundings were attractive and historic. The restaurant is a keeper, especially if you take my advice and make a day of visiting the Presidio.

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