Sunday, May 6, 2012

CARAMEL BUDINO WITH SALTED CARAMEL SAUCE

EATING CHEZ MOI – it is all about the food


Oddly enough, for all that I bake, for all that we cook and for all that I eat…with passion, desire, necessity… I write less and less about the food. Our life is in upheaval, what with the almost new home that desperately needs a kitchen and bathroom, so many projects on all of our desks, the waiting and working and more waiting for each of us, so many distractions. Yet we take succor and comfort in the kitchen and the table, gathering around a meal like a time out, the chance to discuss, weigh, tease and laugh. And eat.


Many of my far-away friends and readers have a romantic, dreamy idea of how we eat chez moi; they envision a constant flow of gorgeous, elegant meals à la française, an endless array of healthy, soulful dishes accompanied by bottles of France’s best wines bought for mere pennies at a local épicerie or directly from our favorite vigneron. Platters of fragrant, flavorful chèvre, Roquefort, tome and Camembert served with boulangerie-fresh loaves and seasonal fruits end each meal followed swiftly yet gracefully by a decadent dessert, s’il vous plait. As I continually espouse the healthy and the homemade and eschew the prepackaged and the industrial, at least where blog posting is concerned, I fear that I have given my friends and readers a somewhat distorted vision of This French Life. Well, sort of.

The bottles of wine are all true…



No matter my blog filled with homemade dishes and sinful or homey treats, we, like all families with grownup children each with their own life and schedule, too many projects with not enough time and much too much on their plate, often turn to convenience foods, indulge in take out or simply count on a catch-as-catch-can meal: boxed (yes, in France it is boxed, not canned) soup, a plate of pasta or prepackaged tortellini, grilled cheese sandwiches for the sons and sardines smeared on buttered baguette for the husband. And ah, that soulful, delicious, decadent, greasy kabob frites finds its way to our table much too often than I would like to admit. Salads and homemade pizza have become our easy go-to foods for lunches and dinners we are just too lazy to think about in advance or for lack of time on our hands, but happily both are healthy, chockfull of good things and prepared with love and attention. Breakfasts often mean packaged Madeleines and Pains au Lait, snacks bread and cheese, fruit and yogurt or matzo with jelly (my weakness) when there aren’t homemade goodies to be found. Yet for all the convenience of mealtime, the sporadic, often desultory rhythm of cooking we have recently fallen into, the kitchen has become a meeting place, where our paths cross during hectic days and weeks, whether we share the same meals or whether or not our plates are filled with the same food. During times of stress, when the weather in this midseason is dark and rainy, the dreariness seeping in through the windows, the kitchen has replaced the hearth, the oven and stove the burning flames of a cheerful, comforting fireplace.

When we do cook, he derrière les fourneaux, at the stove, or I measuring, stirring, tasting, it is more and more good old-fashioned comfort food; a rich Beef Stew or Potato or Vegetable Gratin or hearty Cannelloni, something that is big in flavor, warming both body and soul. We find joy in setting aside an entire morning or afternoon to shop, filling our basket with fresh, local, seasonal ingredients alongside a good bottle of wine, slipping on an apron and chopping, slicing, tossing in herbs and spices and watching with pride and joyful enthusiasm as it simmers, the sauce thickening, or bakes, bubbling up and crisping around the edges. Ripping off chunks of fresh baguette or dense, earthy pain bûcheron to pop into our mouths as we wait, arranging the balanced selection of cheeses on a platter for the end of the meal, pulling cork out of the bottle of wine and tossing the salad with a tart homemade vinaigrette is pure pleasure. We call the sons to the table, laugh as Marty plants himself in his usual spot just over the sill just in case, and together we dig in.



We are, after all, food people. I have more cookbooks than I can count and more enter the house every week. I stock the bookshelves with food-related memoirs of chefs, food writers and critics or simply the food passionate while he buys food-related history books. Magazines are scattered around the house, slithering off the edge of the sofa, piled around the bed and covering most every table and desktop; we subscribe to two: American Saveur and French Saveurs, and each and every trip through an airport finds me filling carry-on luggage with Food & Wine, Bon Appétit, Delicious and Donna Hay while trips into the center of town have me scrutinizing the shelves of our local news kiosk for the latest issue of Elle à Table. Photos pop out of glossy pages, begging to be made; I hold up one for husband to look at while he hands me another and asks if I couldn’t possibly make this one sometime soon.

Every family needs a break from cooking and baking from scratch, yes indeed, and we are no different from everyone else. I must admit that living in France does mean less convenience and prepackaged foods and Fast Food is something we rarely, if ever, even consider. Even without preparing a proper meal, we still enjoy fresh salads and fruits, great cheese on spectacular bread, and if we succumb a tad too often to that kabob (and don’t we know the best in Nantes?!) or take out Vietnamese, or dash over to our favorite pizzeria more often than we should, we do attempt to approach what we eat thoughtfully, cheerfully and intelligently. So as my Lamb Tagine simmers, I wait for a freshly prepared, oh-so decadent Salted Butter Caramel Sauce to cool for this stunning dessert I did indeed take the afternoon to make.


The Caramel Custard recipe is from the September 2011 issue of Bon Appétit. They do suggest using a good-quality packaged chocolate cookie for the crust, which I did as well, although I have offered a link to my favorite recipe for homebaked chocolate wafers (fabulous to keep all that you do not use here on hand to eat just as they are or for an incredible ice cream sandwich). I have also decided to use my own delicious and easy recipe for Salted Butter Caramel Sauce as theirs uses corn syrup, which I neither own or use (it is not easily available in France, I have to say). And I will eventually be using the leftover Caramel Sauce for another dessert.


The Budino – the custard – was much lighter both in flavor and texture than I had expected and balanced out very well with the thick, salty caramel, the slightly sweet whipped cream and the crumbly, crunchy, chocolaty cookie crust. My first bite and I was reminded immediately of the budini, puddings, that my son absolutely loved and clamored for morning, noon and night when we lived in Italy. And if serving this lovely, elegant, very adult yet very kid-friendly treat as a dessert for those who don’t like Caramel, the Salted Butter Caramel Sauce can most definitely be replaced by a dollop of Chocolate Ganache or a beautiful, smooth Mocha Sauce.

Note: My problem with the Bon Appétit recipe was that it made much more custard than the recipe claimed; I had the perfect amount of cookie crust to go around – 2 tablespoons per 8-oz glass/jar/ramekin – yet when I poured ½ cup (as the recipe indicated) of custard in each glass, I had enough leftover to add a couple of tablespoons again to each glass (I didn’t want to add more custard than could be comfortably eaten for a dessert) and 3 or 4 more. 

CARAMEL BUDINO (CUSTARD) ON CHOCOLATE CRUST 
WITH SALTED BUTTER CARAMEL SAUCE


Cookie Crust:

1 cup finely ground chocolate cookie crumbs (try my fantastic Chocolate Wafer recipe here, or use classic Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers. I used locally-made Palet Breton au Chocolate)
2 Tbs (30 g) unsalted butter, melted
1/8 tsp fleur de sel

Caramel Budino (Custard):

3 cups (700 ml) whole milk, divided
¼ cup (@35-37 g) cornstarch
¾ cup (170 g) packed light or dark brown sugar
5 large egg yolks
3 Tbs (45 g) unsalted butter
1 – 1 ½ Tbs dark rum, optional but recommended
1 tsp fleur de sel

My Own Salted Butter Caramel Sauce (Caramel au Beurre Salé):

1 cup (200 g) granulated white sugar
3 ½ Tbs (50 g) salted butter
1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream

Prepare 8 (see note above) 8-oz (1 cup/250 g/250 ml) Mason jars, glasses, ramekins or similar; as you will be pouring hot liquid custard into the glass make sure that it is heatproof.

Prepare the Cookie Crust by blending the finely ground (done in a small grinder or processor) chocolate cookie crumbs, the melted butter and the fleur de sel in a small bowl thoroughly; all of the crumbs must be moistened. Place 2 tablespoon of the Cookie Crust into the bottom of each jar, ramekin or recipient and gently tap down. Put aside Prepare the Caramel Budino or Custard by first whisking ½ cup (125 ml) of the milk into the cornstarch until smooth and lumpfree; set aside. Heat the remaining milk in a saucepan just to a simmer; set aside.

While the milk is heating, prepare the Caramel for the Custard by placing the brown sugar with ¾ cup (185 ml) water in a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat slightly and cook without stirring until a thermometer reads approximately 215°F (100°C).

Whisk the 5 eggs yolks in a large, heatproof mixing bowl. Gradually whisk in the hot milk and then the cornstarch milk. Slowly whisk in the caramel. Return the mixture to a large saucepan over medium heat (or medium-low depending on your stove and your level of comfort) and, whisking constantly, cook for 3 to 4 minutes until the mixtures thickens and a thermometer reads 175°F (80°C). Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the butter until melted and blended, the rum and the fleur de sel.

Using a ladle (which I personally just find the easiest method), spoon ½ cup (125 ml) or one ladleful of the custard into each glass or ramekin on top of the chocolate cookie crust. You can add more custard to each serving if you like. Cover each glass with plastic wrap and refrigerate to set, at least 4 – 5 hours or at best overnight. These can indeed be made a day ahead for a dinner or a party.

Prepare the Salted Butter Caramel Sauce enough time in advance for it to cool to room temperature to thicken but also so you do not find yourself spooning hot caramel on top of chilled Budino.
 
Melt the sugar in a medium-sized saucepan over low heat and cook until completely melted and caramel in color. Still on low heat, whisk in the butter in about 3 or 4 additions. Continuing to whisk, add the heavy cream in a slow stream; the caramel may foam up, but keep whisking, as it will calm down once all the cream is added and will turn to… a smooth caramel. Once it is smooth and creamy, remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature befor spooning about 2 tablespoons of the Sauce over each Caramel Budino. *


Just before serving, beat chilled fresh heavy whipping cream with a tablespoon or two of powdered/confectioner’s sugar until thick and stiff. Top each dessert with a tablespoon of the Whipped Cream then dust with more chocolate crumbs.


* If serving the Salted Butter Caramel Sauce with or over cake, a tarts or other dessert, allow to cool at least to tepid before serving to avoid burns as well as allowing it to thicken a bit.

36 comments:

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

A lovely post full of honesty and reflecting reality! We are people after all and we can't always be perfect... My meals are far from always being exciting, even if they are always homemade. Sometimes they are just practical (like pasta, fried liver and sautéed veggies).

That is a wonderfully comforting dessert!

Cheers,

Rosa

Terra said...

Oh My Word, that looks sinful!!!! I am loving the different gorgeous layers:-) Beautiful! Hugs, Terra

Barbara | Creative Culinary said...

My friends will comment, 'You must have the best meals' but the truth is, I put one favorite and often decadent dish and one cocktail on my blog per week. The rest of the time it's salad or something quick on the grill. I've had nights of complete exhaustion when all I've managed is a bowl of Cheerios...so here's to blowing our cover; I'm betting a lot of us are right there with you!

As to this dessert? What can I say? Love every single thing about it and if I had to eat just one thing for a week; this I could manage!

WiseMóna said...

I think we live a similar existence Jamie.
There are plenty of times where it would be easier to opt for carry out but ith the four kids and Mum it would be quite expensive and you would never please them all!

We tend to do the homemade pizzas and salads when we do not feel like 'cooking'.

I hope your upheaval with moving in to your new home passes soon and you are settled again xx

Lisa said...

This is why I don't blog often - if I cooked/baked and blogged every day..or even three times a week, we wouldn't be the healthiest on the block, plus, I do like to fit into my clothes.

I meant what I tweeted, I want to drown in these. Caramel Budino, cookie crust, Salted Butter Caramel? This is yet another dream dessert for me - caramel makes me giddy..I can't get enough of caramel 'anything'. Had thick caramel sauce on partially melted ice cream last night. :D

Laura said...

This is a combination made in heaven, they look soooooo good. I love making salted caramel too - I can't do it too often though as I have been know to eat it straight out of the jar.

Cake Duchess said...

We also don't eat over the top amazing every night. Most nights I'm cooking and it's mostly something Italian (lots of pasta/pizzas)and then we celebrate when F is home to cook;)LOVE your rich budino. That caramel is out of control wonderful.

VU Design Studio said...

This is fantastic....what an amazing dessert. Can't
wait to make it next weekend....

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Jamie, you always keep it real and I love that! I also love the fact that we'll be meeting in real life soon!:D

Baker Street said...

Thanks for sharing Jamie! I feel most bloggers must feel the same, I know I do.
I hope you get settled in your new home soon. The dessert is to die for. LOVE homemade salted caramel sauce.

wendy@chezchloe said...

I could drink caramel. And the rest is lovely too.
Our three years in Paris was a wonderful experience but with two kids in school and work... it's really life almost like anywhere... ok maybe not exactly but life and routines are just that.
I love those french publications and have been getting the German Saveurs. I also love Germany's Food and Travel.

Jamie said...

@wendy@chezchloe: I find it funny when people talk to me about living in France as if it was some magical, fairytale land when in fact it really is like everywhere else....almost. Happily the food and the eating habits are pretty special! Whenever I decide that I want to leave France, change habits, I start thinking about what great things are here and wonder if, in fact, I do want to leave.

Kulsum@JourneyKitchen said...

A great post Jamie. I'm always encouraging people to prepare meals from scratch but I often also say don't be too fussy. We are but human. But I must admit being a conscious eater will always make you feel guilty when you do so even out of necessity. And it is important to feel that way so we don't fall back into the trap modern food industry is making for us. Now pass me a spoon for that salted caramel sauce please!

Lael Hazan @educatedpalate said...

Yum, glug, want, etc.... lovely as always and leaving me wanting more.

I take issue with the fact that everyone is saying pasta isn't a "homemade" healthy meal. As someone who can't go a week without pasta, we've tried and failed miserably, I know it can be quick but that doesn't mean it isn't good or good for you. A quick fresh tomato sauce is marvelous, and pesto takes very little time. The same goes for grilled items. I still don't understand why people feel that unless it has 15 steps it isn't worthy. Hhmn.... maybe it is the French influence :)

Jamie said...

@Lael @educatedpalate : I totally agree with you and I hope my post didn't give the impression I considered these lower quality or unhealthy choices. What I meant was they were indeed quick, go-to choices when we didn't have the time to shop and spend have a day making an involved, complicated meal. Pasta is indeed a great meal we enjoy a couple of times a week but I just assume that readers thick that unless it is matched with some great sauce or homemade it isn't blog worthy. And when I grill a slice of lamb or serve pasta with just a drizzle of olive oil and a dusting of Parmesan it usually isn't. Just our simple, everyday meals.

Nancy Baggett said...

Love the pics and the story. Happy week, happy Mother's Day to you, Jamie.

Barbara Bakes said...

What a beautiful dessert. I need to do more simple layered desserts. I'm still a bit jealous of the food shopping in France.

Sarah, Maison Cupcake said...

These look fab! I love a good cold custard and I like the layers here. Can't wait to see what you do with the left over caramel.

lisa is cooking said...

You wrote "for those who don't like caramel," and I seriously cannot imagine who someone could not like it. I'm that addicted. This dessert looks amazing, and even your simplest meals at home sound delightful!

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Even when life doesn't present particular challenges (moving is the greatest upheaval), we all take a bit of help from the local baker, pizza maker, and good quality prepared foods available at the market. What's important is the regrouping at the end of the day that happens around the food.

Tanya said...

Y'know, I'm not overly fond of salted caramel, but this... THIS sounds (and looks) absolutely divine. Mmm-mmm!

Parisbreakfasts said...

Danger ahead for me here!
Caramel is my downfall...
falling, falling, falling into that little pot of freshly-made caramel.
Made me think instantly of the sel de Guerande guy at the marche Bastille - what fun to play with his sel..

Amanda said...

Seems like we are at similar stages in life, Jamie. My kids range from 15-21 years old now and seem to be all over the place. There is a great deal of coming and going so our regular evening meal has become not-so-regular as everyone pursues their busy lives - and I end up driving the kids to these lives a lot of the time!
This dessert is just divine and is now on my Evernote list of things which must be made, although I worry that the salted caramel won't make it past my tasting spoon!

Sanjeeta kk said...

Sinfully perfect dessert to end a weekend meal! I remember a friend of my hubby mentioned that my house would be well stocked with all the goodies that I post on my blog!
Enjoy your new home.

Beth said...

"Salted butter caramel sauce". Could anything have a better name?

Lora said...

Caramel anything gets my full attention. I love the layering in this dessert. Perfection!

Denise said...

I love your description of family eating and how it can be totally different from day to day. If France was a bit closer, I would love to sit at your table now and then:) This dessert would be perfect! I love the combination of caramel and salt (it's my favorite ice cream and bonbon flavor), so this dessert is really something I wanna try soon!

Priscilla @ShesCookin said...

We'll be moving at the end of the month and I'm not sure I'll be able to cook/photograph/write at all for a few weeks!How about the egg salad sandwich with radishes that I had for lunch? I think we (bloggers) can all relate, Jamie. Hope you get settled in and don't skip dessert, OK?

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

This is the first time that I have been to your blog and just wanted to let you know how much I love it. I so enjoyed this post and the recipe.

A tavola insieme con...Daniela said...

Hi, just discovered your amazing blog...love your posts and your recipes. bye daniela

tasteofbeirut said...

Totally agree! It is impossible to juggle all that you both do and sit down to a 5 course French classic meal! Hmm! The difference is in France convenience food tastes better! You can get carrot salad from the charcuterie and it is fine! Love that dessert, will make a budino soon, it sounds so easy too!

Jamie said...

@Karen (Back Road Journal) & @Daniela (A tavola insieme) Welcome and thank you both so much for your kind words! I hope to see you back here often!

@Priscilla (She's Cookin): Yay for moving! We still have no idea when our new apartment will be free for us to move into so egg salad sandwiches for us too! How exciting!

@Denise : Me too...

Company said...

Jamie, you really made my Friday with these soo heavenly receitp!Caramel Budino with cookie crust and Salted Butter Caramel is something that just feels right and I can stop imagining how it would taste! The mouthwatering images and your so sincere and really profound thoughts are making your blog a place for me, where I can really find a sweet treat for the heart, mind and soul!Hugs!

Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen said...

That sounds about right! I remember having a couple petit pains au lait and jam for breakfast, mmmm..... and yogurt and fruit and cheese, all perfectly good meals options!

bunkycooks said...

I am in the same place. What started as a love of cooking, has now become more about writing and I cook very few times a week. Many meals are quick, but still healthy. A roasted chicken, fresh vegetables, a salad. However, I miss the more complicated dishes that I now do not have time to prepare. I will, however, find the time to try this dessert! It looks fabulous! :-)

Carole said...

Jamie, thanks for your saucy contribution. Fantastic. Cheers

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