Posts Tagged ‘caramel’

I was super stoked to prepare the recipes in the 30th episode of Good Eats. Why, you ask? Though I do love quiche and flan as much as the next girl, I was most excited to make these recipes because I got to use our brand new range for the first time. When we moved into our house, we were greeted with the original, 25-year-old, drop-in Tappan range (I had never even heard of the brand before!). I cook often enough that a range with roll-over numbers (stuck permanently at 4:44), a broken burner, and an oven door that would not shut just was not going to cut it.

The old range. You can't tell in this photo, but the oven light is permanently on since the door won't shut.

The old range. You can’t tell in this photo, but the oven light is permanently on since the door won’t shut.

Old range with a broken front burner.

Old range with a broken front burner.

Ta-da! Enter our new smooth top Samsung electric range.

Isn't she pretty?

Isn’t she pretty?

We considered putting in gas, but the venting, etc. just wasn’t going to be feasible, and we would have lost cabinet space. So far, we are loving our range!

Refrigerator Pie

The very first thing I cooked in our new oven was Alton’s recipe for Refrigerator Pie, AKA quiche. I had my share of quiche growing up, as it was something my mom made on a fairly regular basis. Alton’s version is particularly easy, in that it uses a frozen crust.

Ingredients:  frozen pie crust, spinach, cream, eggs, cheddar, cubed ham, Kosher salt, nutmeg.

Ingredients: frozen pie crust, spinach, cream, eggs, cheddar, cubed ham, Kosher salt, nutmeg.

To start the recipe, you whisk a cup of cream with two eggs (this is called “Royale”) and you place your frozen crust on a baking sheet (to avoid any spills in the oven).

The Royale.

The Royale.

You sprinkle your choice of toppings over the crust, mixing them with your hands; I opted for spinach, shredded cheddar, and cubed ham since that is what Alton did in the episode.

Spinach on the crust.

Spinach on the crust.

Topped with cheese.

Topped with cheese.

And ham.

And ham.

Ingredients tossed together.

Ingredients tossed together.

To your Royale, add a couple pinches of Kosher salt and a few grates of fresh nutmeg. My whole nutmeg seed decided to take a dive into my Royale, which necessitated fishing it out. Butter fingers!

Nutmeg and salt added to Royale.

Nutmeg and salt added to Royale.

Pour your Royale over your ingredients. The egg will expand when it cooks, so you do not want to fill your crust all the way to the top; I had the perfect amount of liquid for my crust.

Royale poured over toppings.

Royale poured over toppings.

Bake your pie in a 350 degree oven for 35-45 minutes, or until it is set like Jell-O and no liquid comes out if you poke a small hole with a toothpick. My quiche was done in 37 minutes.

Obligatory dog shot.

Obligatory dog shot.

Baked Refrigerator Pie.

Baked Refrigerator Pie.

Great filling, but needs a better crust!

Great filling, but needs a better crust!

You do not want to overcook this. Ideally, allow the quiche to cool for about 15 minutes before eating. The filling on this quiche was the best I have ever had because it was so much lighter and fluffier than any other quiche I have had. We liked it so much that Ted made one for breakfast a few days later. My one complaint was about the crust, as it wasn’t as crispy as I would have liked. Alton did not mention pre-baking the crust, so I did not pre-bake mine either, and it seemed a little doughy. When Ted made his quiche, he did pre-bake it, but it was not significantly crispier. I did buy a generic brand of pie crust, so maybe a different brand would yield better results. Seeing as we will be making this again for sure, I will have to play with different crusts. The filling, though, is already a winner. I foresee that we will be making this when our refrigerator is poorly stocked but we still want to eat something good! Seriously, best quiche filling ever.

Flandango

And what was the second thing I made with our new range? Alton’s flan, of course. For some reason, my only childhood association with flan is of an unpleasantly jiggly, overly gelatinized, dessert served at bad Mexican restaurants. I have a distinct memory of my family going to a Mexican restaurant with another family, and at the end of the meal the other family got super excited to order flan. I had no idea what flan was, but their enthusiasm made me think I SHOULD know what flan was, so I feigned excitement and ordered a flan. I should have gone with the churros. Creme brulee has since been my custard of choice.

Still, I was excited to make Alton’s flan, as I figured that pretty much everything Alton made on Good Eats was fantastic, so this was likely to be my best opportunity to have, and make, a good flan.

Flan ingredients:  whole milk, half and half, vanilla, sugar, eggs, blueberry jam, and fat-free (doh!) caramel.

Flan ingredients: whole milk, half and half, vanilla, sugar, eggs, blueberry jam, and fat-free (doh!) caramel.

For this recipe, combine whole milk, half and half, sugar, and vanilla in a saucepan over medium heat at a bare simmer.

Whole milk, half and half, sugar, and vanilla in a saucepan.

Whole milk, half and half, sugar, and vanilla in a saucepan.

Milk mixture at a bare simmer.

Milk mixture at a bare simmer.

Meanwhile, add 1-2 T of your chosen topping(s) to eight ramekins, and place them in a roasting pan that allows an inch between them.

Caramel and blueberry jam in ramekins.

Caramel and blueberry jam in ramekins.

Ramekins in roasting pan.

Ramekins in roasting pan.

For my toppings, I chose caramel ice cream topping and Alton’s blueberry jam I wrote about here. Unfortunately, I made the horrible error of accidentally purchasing fat-free caramel. Yuck! I did not have time to make a homemade caramel, so I had to go with the fat-free junk and hope for the best. In retrospect, I probably should have opted for plain flan. In a bowl, whisk three eggs and three egg yolks until they are thick and light.

Three eggs and three yolks.

Three eggs and three yolks.

Eggs and yolks whipped until light and thickened.

Eggs and yolks whipped until light and thickened.

Slowly drizzle about a quarter of the cream mixture into the eggs, whisking. The key here is to go slowly. Once the eggs are tempered, add the egg mixture back to the cream, whisking again.

Tempered eggs.

Tempered eggs.

Tempered egg mixture added back to milk mixture.

Tempered egg mixture added back to milk mixture.

Strain the custard to get rid of any curdled egg or any chalazae (the tough “strings” in eggs that keep the yolks suspended).

Strainer to remove any lumps.

Strainer to remove any lumps.

Strained custard.

Strained custard.

Pour the custard into the ramekins and place the roasting pan in the middle of a 350 degree oven.

Custard in ramekins. I wonder which ones are blueberry? So much for mystery.

Custard in ramekins. I wonder which ones are blueberry? So much for mystery.

2-20-15 030 Pour boiling water into the roasting pan, bringing it up almost to the level of the custard in the ramekins.

Water up to almost custard level.

Water up to almost custard level.

Bake for 25-40 minutes. Alton explains in the episode that the slower you cook the custard, the lower its setting temperature will be. My flans were done right at 40 minutes. They are done when they wobble and a pairing knife comes out cleanly. Remove them from the water bath with tongs, allow them to cool to room temperature, wrap them tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate them.

Flans after 40 minutes in the oven.

Flans after 40 minutes in the oven.

Completed flan.

Completed flan.

2-20-15 034 When ready to serve, you can eat them straight from the ramekins, or you can run a pairing knife around the outside and invert them onto a plate.

Caramel flan.

Caramel flan.

Caramel flan.

Caramel flan.

We ate the flans for dessert, and shared a couple with my parents. The caramel topping was indeed unfortunate, but the custard was really good. The only flan I have had previously has had caramel topping, so the blueberry topping was very different. My mom commented that the blueberry flavor really surprised her, as she too envisions flan with caramel. Though I would still opt for creme brulee, Alton has redeemed flan for me. The texture was smooth and silky, and the flavor was creamy, sweet, and slightly eggy. There is a pretty good chance that I will make this again in the future, though I will make Alton’s caramel sauce next time. If you are a flan fan, you likely would think this recipe is flantastic! Okay, that was bad.

I was very excited for this episode of Good Eats because my dad made this recipe for Ted and me several years ago. I remember telling my dad about Good Eats, thinking he would really love the scientific approach to food. My dad’s first reaction to Alton Brown,  however, was to ponder who the “nerdy” guy in the Hawaiian shirt was. After watching a few episodes of the show, he became hooked and was a true Good Eats devotee. We went to my parents’ house for dinner one night several years ago and Dad told us he would be making a special dessert of Alton’s. Sure enough, it was Alton’s banana split. Dad was critical of his recipe outcome, but we all thought it was great. Needless to say, I was excited to try making this dessert myself.

Banana Splitsville

The star ingredient of the 25th (Have I really done that many already?) episode of Good Eats is sugar. One recipe is featured in this episode, but it features sugar in a few applications. To start this recipe, you make the candy garnishes, or “doodads” as Alton calls them, for your banana split. You put sugar in a saucepan, adding water until you have the consistency of wet sand. The online recipe calls for a full cup of water, but this will give you a consistency that is far thinner than what you desire. I used a half cup of water, at most. Oh, and you want to add ~ 1 T of corn syrup to this mixture, as it will prevent the sugar from recrystallizing.

Sugar, corn syrup, and water.

Sugar, corn syrup, and water.

Heat this sugar syrup over high heat until the sugar dissolves. If you have a candy thermometer, you will want to use it at this point. I made a mistake in using too wide of a pan, so my thermometer was not submerged.

Heating the sugar syrup, but my thermometer was not submerged enough.

Heating the sugar syrup, but my thermometer was not submerged enough.

This left me to go by my eye, but I do not recommend that method if you have not made candy or caramel before. While your syrup heats, prepare two sheet pans by turning them over and covering them with parchment paper. When your syrup hits ~300 degrees, you can begin to swirl the pan. Until this point, you want to leave the syrup alone. You will know that your syrup is approaching 300 degrees, as it will start to turn amber in color.

Around 300 degrees.

Around 300 degrees.

When your syrup reaches 340 degrees, remove it from the heat. It will be a deep amber by this point. Stir the mixture slowly, as you do not want to incorporate too much air; this can result in cloudy candy. Continue to stir the mixture until it falls from a spoon in a steady stream.

Around 340 degrees. Cooling the syrup by stirring gently.

Around 340 degrees. Cooling the syrup by stirring gently.

When your syrup has reached this point, you want to make your “doodads” by swirling the syrup over the parchment paper, creating abstract sugar art to accessorize your banana splits. I found that I should have waited an additional minute or so before starting my doodads because they were easier to make as the syrup cooled more. Do not over-obsess about your doodads, as they will likely not be perfect, nor will they all look alike. Once your doodads are made, allow them to cool on the parchment.

Doodads.

Doodads.

Doodads.

Doodads.

While your doodads cool, put the remaining syrup back on the heat until you see faint wisps of smoke; when this happens, remove the pan from the heat and add an equal amount of heavy cream. The caramel will bubble and hiss.

Syrup back on the heat.

Syrup back on the heat.

Cream added once smoke was seen.

Cream added once smoke was seen.

I added nearly 2 C of cream, roughly guessing as to how much cream to add. Put the caramel back over the heat and cook for ~3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not be alarmed if a glob of caramel seems to be in the bottom of the pan, as it will melt again when you put it back over the heat. The sauce for the dessert is now complete. If possible, make this in advance, so it has time to cool down. When ready to serve dessert, quarter one banana per person, leaving the peels on.

Bananas and sugar.

Bananas and sugar.

One banana, quartered, per person.

One banana, quartered, per person.

Rub the exposed surfaces of the bananas in sugar, and then remove the peels.

Bananas coated in sugar.

Bananas coated in sugar.

Place the sugared bananas on a rack over foil, and brulee them with a torch until they are golden brown.

Sugared bananas over foil.

Sugared bananas over foil.

Torching the bananas, with a helper.

Torching the bananas, with a helper.

12-18-2014 026

Golden brown bananas.

Golden brown bananas.

At this point, all of the components of your dessert are ready. For plating, put the caramel sauce in a squeeze bottle and squirt it in a decorative pattern on the plate. Top the sauce with four banana pieces, layered like Lincoln logs in two layers.

Caramel with bananas.

Caramel with bananas.

Add a scoop of ice cream (I used store-bought vanilla, or you could use Alton’s vanilla ice cream recipe), and top with a doodad.

Finished banana split.

Finished banana split.

12-18-2014 032 We ate these banana splits as dessert after a regular weeknight dinner, and the dessert definitely stole the show. The great things about this dish are the contrasting textures and temperatures. While the caramel sauce is smooth, sweet, and smokey, the bananas are warm, moist, and coated with a crunchy shellac. In addition to the bananas, you have cold ice cream and a crunchy doodad. This is a great dessert, and I would definitely make it again. The resulting presentation is impressive, especially given the effort put in. I can see why my dad wanted to make this when he originally watched the episode. It is a great dessert.