cakes, prose, woes -- the photos, food & thoughts of a french-speaking seattle-native in brazil

In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it. -AB
In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Pandan Crème Brûlée

Hello Codets. Today we must celebrate. We must celebrate a Salty Cod victory. Today, the essence of this very post marks the first time since 2009 that we have managed to return to our once a week (four times a month) quota of posting. Indeed, three barren years of singular, double and triple appearances per month (not to mention the many months of absence all together). But today we break this barrier, today, on this loveliest of Halloweens, we sing a sweet song of victory. Codets! Sound the alarm! We be back yo.

Today is a bit grey in Sao Paulo city. I am glad though, feels more like Halloween. After a few English classes this morning in which we discussed the history of Halloween, i got to recipe testing flavored creme brulee. During my classes we stumbled upon a few articles breaking down Halloween costume popularity; among children the most common are princesses and super heroes. To this, my students questioned, why are there non-scary costumes? I never really thought about it. When i was a young child i was everything from a pumpkin to pooh bear, fairies to bumble bees. Kids don't think about being scary. Original Halloween costumes are intended to simply trick wandering spirits from recognizing you. I highly doubt many wandering spirits would mess with Tinkerbell. I much prefer cute Halloween to scary; reminiscing when my youngest sister at age one masqueraded as a purple Teletubby. I do think it is sad that Brazilian children don't get the fun and excitement of Halloween. Sure, people tell me it is "just like Carnival! dressing up in silly costumes!" but honestly, Carnival isn't much of a children's holiday...which in my opinion is a good thing. Halloween, for American children, is a liberating day. You smell Halloween in the air, you feel it coldly creeping through your too-thin fairy tights and leotard because you didn't listen to your mom telling you to wear a jacket, dinner? unlikely. It is the only day where you know you will have more candy than all other days of the year combined. I do feel lucky to have so many great memories from being a child; from being an American child. On that note i am pleased to announce that my baby niece on her first Halloween will be promenading around as a perky peacock!

Now, being that i am not into making ghoulish pasta or hot dog witches if  there are no children around (though I have a feeling H would probably like it) I decided to run through some recipe testing for pandan crème brulée that I am intending to serve with the dessert course for an event im working next week. The event is a connection social featuring a foie gras purveyor (apparently the lady makes her own foie, erm, in the backyard?) a live pianist, a breathtakingly beautiful venue, and a three course plated sit down dinner cooked by yours truly. The theme is Indochine, meaning Vietnamese dishes that reflect French influences. I won't divulge the full menu as i plan on doing that next week after i've either succeeded or failed miserably. The guest list is estimated at around forty. I have two waitresses and a sous chef to help plate in a timely manner. How the hell i am going to serve forty people simultaneously is going to be the biggest challenge of the event.

Returning; there is no frenchier dessert than crème brulée, so in order to twist its ankle out of cliché overuse at expensive sit downs, I decided to flavor it with something a little more Vietnamese. My first attempt was mixing shredded coconut directly into the cream mixture. The result was tasty but there was concern that "purists" might resent the change in texture (the shredded coconut turned creamy into fluffy) so i nixed the shredded idea. I had been concerned as well that coconut milk might not set as well as cream, so i combined cream and coconut milk together and the texture kept and set just fine. success. But then i kept reading about pandan waffles, pandan crepes, pandan this and that on Vietnamese food blogs. I'd never actually tasted pandan before, but now i wanted it. Pandan extract is very strong, very condensed. much more potent than vanilla. It smells like mossy almonds. very unique. i was worried mossy almond might not translate very well in a creme brulee, but the result was really refreshing and still very much a traditional crème brulée. I tried to mix coconut flakes in with the sugar for the burned cap, but it burned too quickly and tasted like carbonized coconut. so don't do that.

For the dinner event the crème pots will be served on a plate along side miniature banh cam, fried glutinous rice flour balls filled with a sweet and spicy paste and rolled in sesame seeds. Mine will be filled with bananas and cinnamon and be sitting on top of a puddle of coconut cream.

Pandan Crème Brulée
Yield: 10 miniature ramekins or 5 large ramekins

5 egg yolks
300g cream
100g coconut milk
1/2 (American) cup sugar
a small dash of pandan essence (i mean small)
green food coloring

Mix absolutely everything together in a bowl.
Divide mixture evenly among ramekins
Place in a ban marie (casserole dish filled with a few cm or water)
Bake on medium low for roughly 45 minutes
Let cool in fridge until set

 Yes, you are right. Pandan cremes have absolutely nothing to do with Halloween. They're green, mysterious and sweet. So maybe...just maybe. I don't want to ruin the mood, but you could tell your kids that they are slime pots if you really want to get into spirit. These might be a big hit at next year's St. Patrick's Day party though, so keep that in mind.

I will close off this delightful victory post by thanking you, all of you, who are reading this. Salty has been through so much, the world of blogging and particularly food blogging has changed so much since 2007, but it's nice that you are still here. Happy Halloween.


M.Lane said...

The same to you from Halloweeny Florida! I think your dinner and especially the dessert will be smashing.


Mallory said...

I sure hope so! M. Lane, thank you for always stopping by!