The Kosher Gastronome

Livin' the kosher dream

Tag Archives: custard

French Toast

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How is is possible that I’ve never written a post on french toast?? We’ve done waffles, we’ve done pancakes, but I’ve neglected my true breakfast love. French toast, if you can hear this, please accept this humblest of apologies.

Anyway, so french toast, why aren’t we making this more often? And even better question, why would you ever buy the pre-made frozen crap? I don’t get it. Listen, as much as I don’t agree, I can understand you saying making waffles and pancakes from scratch is a hassle, but there’s no excuse for french toast. The point of what i’m saying is to make you feel bad about yourself, and  for you to reflect on how poor your decisions are…that’s all…I joke! You’re the best, and that’s why you deserve some french toast, so let’s get some stale bread shall we?

It’s actually a pretty amazing thing.. french toast that is…(are you not following??) I mean you take some old bread which has gone stale (more on that in a second), you add some eggs and milk, and fry. If you really delve into it, there are two things going on, first is the bread staling, which the actual technical term is retrogradation, and the other thing that’s happening is we’re cooking a custard.

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Let’s start with retrogradation. Bread is made up of starch, which is a long molecule made up of smaller glucose molecules, and how those glucose molecules are stacked makes the starch either amylose or amylopectin, which are the two main starches found in bread. When starch and water meet, they gelatinize, which basically means the starch absorbs water, and once that happens the starch starts to undergo retrogradation, which means the starch starts to gel, and slowly start to expel moisture. Once a bread is done baking the staling process starts, and given enough time, it will expel enough water to make it feel dry. This is essential for french toast, because what we then do, is replace that lost moisture with the custard (ie – the milk and eggs). Now we’re not really going to get into the custard part, because frankly it’s not that important here, and we’ve done it before.

So just to recap – we need to expel the moisture from the starch network, and then replace it with awesomeness. One way to do that is allow the bread to stale by drying it out on the counter, which will allow the moisture to leave naturally. However, America’s Test Kitchen did a study and found that if you allow the bread to dry out in the oven, it actually will release a lot more moisture, because the process of retrogradation isn’t really that great, so we end up with a lot of moisture actually trapped inside. Basically, the best way to dry out bread is in a very low oven. That being said, this batch of french toast I made by allowing to dry out on the counter over night. By the way, if you’re wondering, don’t use the bread you buy in the supermarkets that mysteriously take weeks to go stale. There are so many preservatives that it won’t stale properly.

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Once the bread is good and dried, it’s a matter of allowing it to soak up the eggs and milk, and then frying in some butter. So allow the bread to sit in the egg mixture for a minute or two, to make sure it’s sopped up enough liquid, and then fry, over medium heat.

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That’s it. Easy as pie.

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By the way, after I wrote all this I realized that I kind of did cover this, in my stuffing post. Bread pudding, which stuffing is a form of, is like french toast’s step brother. Also while we’re on the topic, can I air out one grievance? You know that dish that people make called: “french toast souffle?” That drives me crazy. First of all a souffle is a specific type of dish (you’re still reading, and want to know what defines a souffle??? Well since some people want to go back to their real lives, I’ll leave it for the comments, just ask away…as usual, I don’t bite)…and it’s a freaking bread pudding, so let’s call it that! Whodathunk I’m such a stickler.

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Anyway, you’re free to go back to real life.

Good Shabbos, Y’all.

Eclairs – January Kosher Link Up

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Another month, and another Kosher Connection Link-Up thingy. This month’s theme – Miniatures, which is great, because I made these here eclairs a little while back, and it was totally on purpose that they came out way smaller than I was expecting. Well then, let’s get going shall we?

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Of course we shall, what a ridiculous question.

Anywhoo, so eclairs, they’re pretty much awesome, correct? So why aren’t we making it more often? Well I don’t know, I guess most people assume that they’re pretty difficult to make, well I’m here to tell you not to assume (you probably think I’m going to say not to assume because it makes an ass out of you and me right? Wrong! You never assume because it makes an ass out of Uma Thurman, and that’s never a good thing). An eclair is simply baked pate a choux, filled with pastry cream, and topped with chocolate, and I intend to tackle each one starting…now.

Pate a choux, which translates into cabbage paste, luckily stuck around even after those damn Frenchies gave it that ridiculous name. Choux paste in it’s most simplistic form is melted butter with some water mixed together with flour, and then mixed together with eggs. It’s really a thing of beauty; It relies on the simple conversion of water to steam to deliver its lift, and what ends up happening is you end up with one giant bubble stuck inside the final product, which is perfect for filling.

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In order to make choux paste. First butter is melted in some water, and when ready, flour is added, and cooked for a little to remove any flour-y taste.

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The resulting batter is left to cool, and then eggs are added and mixed in, which will take a little time to fully incorporate,  and the resulting dough will go from the consistency of a paste to more like a thick pancake batter.

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The batter can then be “cooked” in a few different ways, and one of those ways is to bake it for eclairs/profiteroles. (frying would be another great way which would get you beignets, but that’s another post). I based the recipe off of Michael Ruhlman’s ratio for pate a choux, which means you need a scale (I’m telling you, if there’s one piece of equipment you really should have, it’s a scale, but you know me, I’m not preachy). The ratio he uses (in his book Ratio, which is a great book by the way) is: 2 parts water: 1 part butter : 1 part flour : 2 parts eggs. For me the eggs are usually the rate limiting step, and I base how big/small the recipe will be on the eggs. Since one large egg weighs 50 grams, if you use 1 large egg, you end up with: 50grams water, and 25 grams butter and flour (besides salt, and other flavorings like sugar and vanilla if you want).

For the pastry cream filing, I based it on another ratio in Ruhlman’s book, the ratio for Creme anglais. Creme anglais is a loose custard (whereby custard is defined by – a mixture of eggs and a liquid, which can either be free standing [eg – quiches, cheesecakes…] or not [ex – creme anglais, which includes French style ice creams, creme brulee, pastry cream]). For the non free standing types, there are different ways to thicken the resulting cream, and for our pastry cream (or Crème Pâtisserie if you want to be fancy) it gets thickened by a starch (cornstarch being the first choice since it’s pure starch, but flour, potato, tapioca/cassava would also work). The ratio he uses for creme anglais is: 4 parts Milk/cream: 1 part yolk : 1 part sugar.

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The general idea for making any type of custard usually is to mix the eggs and sugar together, to start dissolving the sugar, and to lighten the eggs with thorough whipping.

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Then the milk is heated up, along with your vanilla bean.

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In our case, I used some ground vanilla bean, which I got so graciously from Bakto Flavors via Kosher Scoop because I’m one of the taste testers…more on that in the future.

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Once the milk is at the desired temperature, it’s slowly added to the eggs a little at a time to temper the eggs (temper means to slowly bring the temperature of one thing that’s colder to the temperature of another thing that’s warmer, but done slowly and gently to avoid overcooking), once tempered, the remaining milk/cream is added to the eggs, and then it’s all poured back into the pot to cook a little more, and if needed strained out. In our case, to incorporate the starch, you first have to mix the cornstarch with some cold milk until it makes a slurry, and then you add the slurry to the heating up milk, and it will then start to thicken (starch only thickens at a specific temperature, which is also why you don’t want to dump it all in dry, because it will begin to thicken the second it hits the hot milk, and form clumps). Set aside to allow to cool.

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To cook the eclairs, preheat an oven to 450, transfer the batter to a piping bag (what you really need is a tip coupler, which can turn any cut ziploc bag into a real piping bag), and pipe onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, although you might want to pipe them a little bigger than I did. (You can push down any irregularities, by dabbing at it with a wet finger)

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Bake at 450 for 10 minutes, and then lower to 350 for the last 10-20 minutes, until nicely browned. Take out of the oven, and pierce with tip of paring knife to allow steam to vent out. When cooled enough to handle, use the star tip to pipe the pastry cream inside the eclairs (this will be hard if you don’t have the tips). Set aside on cooling rack.

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To make the chocolate topping, melt a whole bunch of chocolate in a double boiler with a little bit of some sort of fat (butter, vegetable oil, whatever), and dip eclairs into the chocolate. Allow the chocolate tool cool and it will slightly harden, but not too much because of the addition of the fat. (I tried making a ganache by mixing equel parts chocolate and hot milk, but it didn’t work as I had planned, but if I were to make it now, I would do it this way)

Comments: So I made a few mistake – From the beginning in order of appearance:

  1. The tip I have for my tip coupler was too small, resulting in these “mini” eclairs (which I guess wasn’t that bad of a result, but not what I was trying to do).
  2. I forgot to poke a knife in the eclairs as they were cooling, so they deflated (whomp, whomp)
  3. The pastry cream was way too thick. I think maybe because when I made the pastry cream, I forgot about the starch, so I had to heat it back up, and add the cornstarch slurry, but I think I added to much starch, plus I’ve never used ground vanilla bean, and I wonder if it also thickened the sauce more than anticipating.
  4. Because I forgot the deflate the eclairs, it made them soggy, so it was very hard to pipe the already thick pastry cream into it..so that didn’t really go over so great.
  5. I thought I’d be better off making a chocolate ganache…I’m not really sure why, but I made the ganache, that was too thin, and had to make it thicker, and whatever it didn’t work out either.

And there ya have it – eclairs. So it might seem like it’s a lot, with fancy words like: scale, piping bag, temper…oooh that sounds like it’s too much…too much of a patchke…well, it’s not, and you should do it. But do it better than I did.

And to the three people who read this much and haven’t been referred here from another blog (Hey mom, dad, and fan favorite Phoenix Fresser), don’t’ forget to Check out all the other participants in this months Kosher Link-up, by clicking on the funny frog thin-a-ma-bob under here.



Eclairs

adapted from Ratio by Ruhlman

Ingredients:

For the pate a choux:

  • 25 grams butter
  • 50 grams water
  • 25 grams flour
  • 1 large egg
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Pastry cream

  • I used the ratio 4 parts milk/cream: 1 part egg yolk : 1 part sugar, and used 1 yolk, but I don’t remember how much everything else came out…yet another reason to get a scale.
  • Vanilla (if it’s a vanilla bean, you want to cut and scrape the pods into the milk as it’s heating up)
  • 2 teaspoons corn starch
  • 2 teaspoons milk

For the Chocolate sauce:

  • 3-4 grams bittersweet chocolate chips (I know I’m old, because I find the sweetened ones to generally be way too sweet, and I like the Whole Foods brand which is like 70% cacao, which if I was 15, I would think tastes like bitter terrible-ness, but now I love it)
  • 1-2 teaspoon fat (butter, oil, whatever)

Directions:

To make the pate a choux:

  1. place butter and water in medium sized pot (to be able to accommodate the flour also), and heat over medium heat to melt butter.
  2. Once butter is melted, add all of the flour in at once, and with a wooden spoon, mix together until paste forms. Continue mixing and cooking for another 3-4 minutes to cook out the floury taste. Take off heat and allow to cool, 5-7 minutes.
  3. When cooled, add eggs (one at a time, if using more), and start to mix vigorously. At first it will look like the egg isn’t adding into the dough, but continue beating, and eventually it will all come together…trust me).
  4. Transfer batter to piping bag fittest with widest tube, and pipe large eclair shaped ovals (I guess it’s an oval…)
  5. Bake in a preheated 450 degree oven for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 350, and cook until beginning to brown (about 10-20 minutes).
  6. When done, place on wire rack to cool, and when cool enough to handle, pierce eclairs on the side with a small knife, to allow steam to escape

For the custard:

  1. Mix together yolk and sugar vigorously until the color of the yolks lighten (we’re after incorporation of air (which lightens the color) and for the sugar to start dissolving into the yolk)
  2. Heat milk or cream over medium heat (I hate heating up milk, because if you turn around for one second it will boil over, and make a big mess…true story…like every time I heat up milk), and if using a vanilla bean, cut lengthwise, and scrape the pods from the inside, and heat up until just about boiling…If using vanilla extract, add it to the egg/sugar mixture…I used ground vanilla bean from Bakto, which I got via Kosher Scoop to test out, and it’s really cool…more on that to come…eventually)
  3. Slowly pour a little of the heated up milk to the egg yolk mixture, and whisk constantly, to heat up the eggs  ever so slightly (ie – temper), and once warm enough, dump the rest in, whisking constantly. When fully mixed, add it back to the pan, over medium-low heat, to heat up some more.
  4. While milk egg mixture is heating up, mix together the 2 teaspoons cornstarch and 2 teaspoons milk, until no clumps are left, and add to the milk-egg mixture, and continue cooking until custard has thickened (when you drag the spatula on the floor of the pan, it should leave somewhat of a trail…does that make sense? meaning – it should take a little bit of time for the mixture to fill in the void the spatula created)
  5. Strain through fine mesh strainer, and set aside.

For the chocolate:

  1. Place chocolate chips on double boiler (that is: you take a medium sized pot, fill it a tiny bit with water (like an inch or so), and heat up to a simmer. Place smaller metal bowl over top of it) and heat up chocolate gently, with the fat in it, constantly mixing with a spatula, and stop just as everything is melted, because it will continue to cook, and you don’t want to burn the chocolate)

To assemble -

  1. With star tip on piping bag, pipe custard into eclairs slowly, while back out, and stop when custard starts oozing out.
  2. Dip each eclair into chocolate mixture, and set aside to cool/harden
  3. Eat every last one of them with out shame knowing full well it’s 100% fat free if you make it yourself

Crème Caramel

In my humble probably wrong opinion, proteins are probably the most versatile and important molecule in cooking. They’re responsible for those awesome Mailard reaction flavors that we’ve spoken about before, but they’re also responsible for a lot more. We don’t have to look any further than the ever versatile egg. Want to whip up egg whites? Make an omelet? Yeah that’s right, it’s all thanks to proteins. Proteins are like big balls of yarn, all tangled up and such, and a lot of cooking involves unwinding the big ball, and re-forming them into a cohesive structure.

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When you want to make an omelet, you crack open some eggs, which are a liquid, and put some heat on it, and blammo – you got yourself a solid. The same thing happens when making whipped egg whites, some mechanical intervention, and baddaboom, you got yourself a different structure. But how?

Well heat “denatures” proteins, which is the technical term for un-tangling the ball of yarn, and the newly opened up protein thing-a-ma-bob can now reform into a more solidified thing-a-ma-bob. So basically all there is to it, is the protein denaturing, and re forming. So pretty much, when we cook any protein (think meat, eggs, chicken, etc..) we first have to denature the protein (un ravel the yarn) and then put it all back together, in a way we want it. What’s going on, is imagine this newly unraveled yarn as a long string, and all along that string there are different areas that can now bond to a different unraveled yarn, and when they bond to each other, that gives you the dish’s structure. That’s it.

There is however one caveat, we don’t want all of the different areas that can bond, to actually make that bond, because then the proteins will clink too strongly to each other, which is bad (ie – chewy steak and chicken, rubbery eggs, whipped eggs that weep…), so the trick when cooking pretty much any protein is to not overcook it (yeah I know – thank you captain obvious).

Ok on to crème caramels. Crème caramel is a custard, which has caramel on the bottom of the dish, and then baked, and then turned over so the caramel is pretty much on top of the custard. Traditionally a custard is any egg and milk mixture. It can be baked, served raw, made into an ice cream, and all that fancy jazz. I say traditionally, because it really doesn’t have to be made with milk, and for us on team kosher, we sometimes need to find good substitutes for milk. Since you hate when I talk all chemistry up in this house, I’m going to spare you the details, but suffice it to say, that if it was plain water and eggs, it wouldn’t work, but if you add some added “stuff” to the water, then it will work. (There really is a good enough explanation for it, and anyone willing to risk their brain imploding with information overload, just ask away, and I’ll be happy to explain…by the way, now that I have you here in between these parenthesis, have you checked out The Kosher Gastronome fan page on Facebook yet? Well you should, and you know what else you should do, click on the “like” button over there, because you love me, and there’s no “love” button, so “like” will just have to do it for you…Oh and feel free to comment away over there also, that way people will think there’s a whole party going on over there, and they’ll be jealous…it will be awesome…Ok that’s it for now, I’ll let you go back to reading the rest of the article)

Ok, so if you’re lost, and trying to figure out what’s going on – custard…milk and eggs…don’t really need milk…water with “stuff” is good enough…so basically any parve milk substitute will work. Heck, chicken soup will work, even water with just a few pinches of salt will work…but it will probably not taste all that good.

First make the caramel.

Just to clarify, caramel is 2 parts sugar and 1 part water cooked together to a certain temperature, depending on what your final product is. The stages are – 1) thread, 2) soft-ball, 3) hard ball, 4) soft crack, 5)hard crack, in that order, and of course each one is a description of how the caramel behaves then, and the best way to know you’re at a specific stage is by temperature. So for this dish, we cooked the caramel to the soft crack stage, which is about 280 degrees, although if/when I make this again, I would go all the way to the hard crack stage, which is about 300 degrees. You’ll see why below.

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While the caramel is still hot, and liquidy, pour it in to your dish, and let it cool.

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Now it’s time to whip up the custard part. Most recipes call for the milk substitute to be heated, and then adding it slowly to the eggs while whisking (aka – tempering). You really don’t need to heat up the milk substitute (I’m just going to call it milk, because you know what’s annoying? spelling the word substitute, there’s just way too many “t”s in there), unless you’re trying to infuse a flavor that can’t be readily mixed in. Meaning, if you’re going to use vanilla extract, just mix it all together, and skip the heat up part. However, if you’re so devoted to being a foodie elitist, like myself, and decided you just had to use real vanilla beans, then you will have to heat the milk up.

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You just need to heat it up to a simmer, and let it sit for a few minutes so the flavors blend.

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Whip together the eggs, yolks and sugar until it becomes pale in color.

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Then, if you heated up the milk, it needs to be strained of the vanilla pod, and added slowly to the eggs. The easiest way to do this is, is to wrap a towel around the base of the egg bowl, and pouring the milk into a measuring cup.

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That way, you can pour and mix at the same time, without holding on to the bowl…brilliant!

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See? My mom was right, I am a genius.

Pour the custard over the now hardened caramel, and put all of your dishes into one big baking dish, and pour hot water into the baking dish, so it comes about half way up on the custard dishes.

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Baking the custard in a water bath allows the proteins to cook more evenly, and not over cook.

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Then pop these in the fridge for at least 3 hours, and when you’re ready to serve them, just run a knife around the edges, place a small plate on top, and flip it over, so it pops out.

Look how fancy

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That last picture was from my phone, and if you don’t like the picture, well here at Gastronome headquarters, we’re looking for someone to sponsor a D-SLR camera. I don’t know the first thing about photography, but I can pretend I do with that shiny new camera, and buying it for me will make you feel good about yourself too.

As for the custard, I thought it was great. The caramel top (or is it bottom?) became a little too runny, and I would have rather it stayed put on top of the custard, and that’s why next time, I’m going to cook the caramel to the hard-ball stage. The actual custard tasted great, and I loved the real vanilla in it, and had the consistency of, well, custard. Someone, who shall remain nameless, thought it tasted like “lukshen kugel,” I know, a complete disgrace, and someone poignantly retorted – “no, lukshen kugel tastes like this.” To explain – lukshen kugel (noodle kugel for the inundated), is also a custard, with some noodles baked in it. So, when you’re trying to figure out what it tastes like, just know if it reminds you of lukshen kugel, it’s because lukshen kugel is a type of custard.

Are we done yet?

Crème Caramel

Ingredients:

For the caramel:

  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1/4 cup of water

For the custard:

  • 2 cups of milk substitute
  • 1 vanilla bean (or 1.5 teaspoons of vanilla extract)
  • 2/3 cups of sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 yolks

Directions:

  1. To make the caramel – combine the sugar and water together, and turn the heat up to high, and let it cook until a thermometer registers 300 (for the hard-ball stage)
  2. Preheat the oven to 350, and bring a kettle of water to a boil.
  3. To make the custard – if you’re using a vanilla bean, bring the milk to a simmer, scrape the bean, and it and the pod to the milk, and let the vanilla and milk sit for a few minutes for the flavors to infuse. (If you’re using vanilla extract, just mix milk and vanilla together, and you can add it all at once to egg mixture, once the egg mixture is thoroughly whipped.)
  4. In another bowl, mix together eggs, egg yolks, and sugar, and whisk vigorously until it becomes pale in color.
  5. Add the milk mixture to the egg mixture slowly, whisking the whole time.
  6. Pour custard into your dish of choice, and put that dish, into a larger baking dish, and add boiling water to the bigger dish, to come halfway up the sides of the custard dish.
  7. Bake for 40-50 minutes. The middle will be a little jiggly, and that’s ok. Remove from the water bath, and allow it to cool in the fridge for at least 3 hours.
  8. When ready to serve, run a knife around the edges, and place a plate on top, and flip over to un-mold
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