With such a fancy French name, you'd think this week would bring us a complicated recipe that would take three days and involve at least 5 pounds of butter. After making the crème caramel, however, I believe the name is a misnomer. There are basically three ingredients to this dish, and "creme" is generous. A better name, in my opinion, would be "diet flan."
I approached this recipe thinking I was to be making a flan, which I am well-acquainted with, as my mother-in-law makes quite possibly the best leche flan on the face of the planet. Hers is Filipino in origin, using sweetened condensed milk. Others I've eaten have been Mexican, using heavy cream or half-and-half, and solely the yolk of the egg.
This one was different. It used the whole egg: yolk and white. And it called for just 1 tablespoon of sugar per ramekin in the custard. And it called for milk--regular milk. Not sweetened condensed. Not heavy cream. Not even half-and-half. 3.25% fat milk. What I put in my coffee in the morning. Could this really be rich enough to be classified as dessert?
Just a few tips in making this: make sure you don't let your caramel get too dark (I cooked mine a little too much -- aim for a dark copper, not a near-burnt sugar), let it cool in the ramekins at room temperature so the sugar doesn't get soggy, and cool the custard at room temperature once out of the oven (if you throw it into the fridge too soon, you'll get brains like in the last picture in this post). The one tricky part is the same whenever you're cooking custard: knowing when it's done. What you're looking for is an outside rim that is set, and a center that jiggles, but does is not liquid. With this one, it's better to slightly overcook than undercook, but try to take it out just when the center is jiggling.
The result was actually quite delicious. Was it my mother-in-law's leche flan? Of course not. But it wasn't terrible. And it didn't overload me on sugar or fat and make me feel sluggish. It gave me the mild sugar rush I need at the end of the meal, without making me crave more. I stand by that this is a diet flan. But it's not in the same vein as a diet cake, which tastes like cardboard. This is actually worth eating.
makes 6 individual ramekins
160 grams (6 ounces) GRANULATED SUGAR
6 tablespoons WATER
BUTTER, for greasing the ramekins
4 large EGGS
1 teaspoon VANILLA EXTRACT
25 grams (1 ounce) GRANULATED SUGAR
2 cups (600 milliliters) WHOLE MILK
BOILING WATER, for the water bath
HEAVY CREAM, for finishing
1. Preheat oven to 300F and put the ramekins in the oven on a sheet pan
2. Pour the 160 grams of GRANULATED SUGAR and the WATER into a saucepan and dissolve the sugar slowly over a low heat
3. Keep the heat on low and do not stir, as the mixture starts boiling and turns a dark copper color
4. Remove the pan immediately so the caramel doesn't burn and distribute evenly into the warmed ramekins
5. Leave the ramekins out on the countertop to cool completely, until the caramel is hard (do not cool in the fridge, as the sugar will absorb moisture and not harden)
6. Once cooled, butter the sides of the ramekins
1. Whisk the EGGS, VANILLA EXTRACT, and SUGAR together into a bowl until well mixed
2. Pour the MILK into a saucepan and heat over low heat until hot to the touch, but not boiling
3. Pour the heated milk over the egg mixture, while whisking, and continue to whisk quickly until smooth
4. Sieve the custard mixture to separate any egg that may have scrambled
5. Pour the custard evenly into each of the ramekins and place them on a wet paper towel in a baking dish
6. Pour the boiling water into the baking dish until the water reaches halfway up the sides (this is easiest to do with the oven rack pulled halfway out and the dish placed on the rack, so you can just carefully push the rack in, instead of having to carry a dish of boiling water to the oven)--be careful not to get any of the water in the ramekins
7. Cook in the oven for 20-30 minutes until the custard has set around the edges, and is jiggly but not liquid in the center
8. Take the baking dish out of the oven and use tongs to carefully lift the ramekins out of the water and onto a cooling rack
9. Cool completely at room temperature (lest you want your custard bottoms to look like a brain, below), then place in the fridge to chill at least four hours (or overnight)
10. To serve, run a paring knife under hot water and dry the knife, then slip the knife around the edges of the ramekin to loosen; place a serving dish on top of the ramekin and quickly flip dish right side-up, then optionally pour heavy cream over the top
I'm usually intimidated by things that require work post-baking. Things like layer cakes with fondant, or, in this case, anything rolled. I know I can bake something that will taste good, but to make it look good is an entirely different feat with and entirely different skill set needed.
However, I love Hostess Ho Hos, so this gigantic version couldn't have been more up my alley. I do realize it's a Swiss roll, or a "roulade" to Mary Berry, but having grown up in 1990s America, Hostess has historically been way more up my alley than that bougie dessert stuff.
Three bowls, three utensils. This cake could not be easier. And it's very forgiving, too. I even over-whipped my egg whites and forgot my cocoa powder, and it still turned out delicious. It's amazing what a lump of whipped cream will do to turn around a dish, huh?
Recipes that separate eggs and beat them individually, then fold the whites into the yolks are some kind of magic to me. It's all the same ingredients as a traditional cake, just as rich, but ends up so much lighter and airy. Plus, watching the whites and the yolks transform through simple whipping is nothing short of magical. The whites become these stiff peaks of cloud-like consistency, and the yolks (with sugar) get thick and luxurious, leaving a ribbon trail when dripped off a spatula. People are not exagerrating when they call things like this "food porn."
Like I said, the recipe is fairly simple. Get your eggs where they need to be, and mix everything together. Sure, fold it in and be I guess gentle, but you really don't need to worry about it that much. People are usually too ginger in their handling of the folding process. It's just food, you can get in there. Don't be timid.
And then you get to the magic moment where the batter is all ready for the pan and the oven. The whites are all incorporated, and it's light and drips off the spatula.
It was at this point that I started to lick the bowl and spatula (why do you think I bake?) and realized something didn't taste right. The chocolately flavor was... lacking. Why? Because, as so happens, I had forgotten to add the 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder. You wouldn't think a measly 2 tablespoons of anything would make any difference in a whole cake, but it made a world of difference. Another reason baking is amazing: the smallest detail can make the biggest change in a finished product.
The last-minute addition of cocoa powder ended up giving my finished product a kind of cool marbled look. I mixed the cocoa in while the batter was already in the pan, so it was a weird kind of mixing process where I was trying not to shift the parchment paper underneath. It was a deserate Macgyver kind of mixing, because I didn't want to have to do any more dishes. The bottom ends up being the outside anyway though, so the taste is really what matters.
And I was worried about the taste. Sponge cakes to me can sometimes be a bit light on flavor (like they are light in texture). But as I was tasting the crispy edges, I tasted a kind of brownie brittle-like taste to them, so I knew the chocolate flavor would be pronounced enough. And the heaps of whipped cream rounded out the flavor and the texture (because these kinds of cakes can be rather dry).
Then came the rolling, which was a lot easier than I thought it would be. Especially after I watched Mary Berry construct it herself. It was a breath of fresh air when she said, (I paraphrase) "It's okay if it cracks. It's supposed to crack." That said, mine did not crack (much), but hearing her say it's supposed to made this rolling task far less daunting.
And even if it did horribly crack, it's nothing a healthy sprinkling of powdered sugar couldn't fix. A word of warning that cutting this cake into slices is not as beautiful as your average layer cake. Because the texture is so delicate, the spirals will collapse a bit, but if you make sure you have just a thin layer of whipped cream (I used a bit too much), and you roll it tightly, you'll get the right look.
The flavor, as I've mentioned, was delicious. The extra cocoa powder dimensionalizes the chocolate and gives it such a deep flavor. I think this was enhanced because I used Dutch processed chocolate, which I always think amps up the flavor in goods that don't call for baking soda (with baking soda, you use non-Dutch processed; with baking powder, you can use either -- I can go into that in a special post if y'all are interested). The whipped cream, which I actually lightly sweetened with powdered sugar and vanilla, kept the cake from being too dry and gave it the heft it needed to be a fulfilling dessert. And, like I said, it couldn't be easier or come together quicker. Definitely a grade A recipe. Thank you, Mary Berry!
makes 1 swiss roll
175 grams (6 ounces) DARK CHOCOLATE, finely chopped
6 large EGGS, separated
175 grams (6 ounces) GRANULATED SUGAR
2 tablespoons COCOA POWDER
1 1/2 cups HEAVY WHIPPING CREAM
POWDERED SUGAR, to dust
1. Preheat the oven to 450F and grease and line with parchment a 13x9 inch pan
2. In one bowl, melt the DARK CHOCOLATE in a double boiler
3. In another bowl, whisk the EGG WHITES until stiff, but not dry
4. Put the EGG YOLKS in a bowl with the CASTER SUGAR and whisk until thick and creamy, and the mixture leaves a thick ribbon-like trail when beaters are lifted
5. Pour the cooled melted chocolate into the yolk mixutre and fold until combined
6. Gently stir 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to loosen the mix, then fold in the remaining egg whites in two batches
7. Sift the COCOA POWDER over the top of the mixture and fold it in completely
8. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out into an even layer
9. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until risen and the top is firm and slightly crisp
10. Remove cake from the oven and leave it in the tin to cool -- it will fall and crack a little
11. Whip HEAVY WHIPPING CREAM until it holds its shape
12. Lay down a piece of parchment in the size of the cake and dust it with POWDERED SUGAR
13. Turn the cake out onto the paper so its lining is on the top, then peel the paper off of the cake
14. Spread the cake with whipped gream, leaving a border of about 3/4" all the way around
15. Make a cut scoring along the short edge facing you, about half the depth of the cake
16. Roll the cut edge closest to you over away from you to tightly start the roll, then use the paper to help continue the tight rolling, pulling the paper away from the cake as you roll -- the roulade will crack, as it should
17. Finish the cake with the join underneath, dusted with powdered sugar
A personal challenge to conquer every technical challenge, and select signature bakes, from The Great British Bake Off
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