If you’ve ever wondered how French pastry shops make cream puffs with that distinctive decorative crackly topping, look no further. (If you’ve never wondered, you can skip to the next entry.) The topping is called craquelin, a simple dough that’s easily put together and is a nifty little trick to gussy up ordinary cream puffs.
Results tagged brown sugar from David Lebovitz
Marion Cunningham was a big promoter of American food and cooking, which included some of the peculiarities of our style of eating. There was a funny story recounted by Kim Severson way back in 2001, that when Marion came to France, she insisted on having a cup of coffee before dinner at a three-star restaurant. Which, of course, perplexed the waiter. But Marion always insisted on doing things the right way (or at least, her way) and once she told me that she went to teach a class in making pie crust at the Ritz in Paris, and she brought along a can of vegetable shortening, which prompted the French chef to take a look into the can, and ask her – “What is this sh*t?”
When I lived in San Francisco, the baking community was a very friendly group and we all mingled easily. One of the people who I particularly admired and liked was Emily Luchetti, who was also a pastry chef and cookbook author. Her desserts were known for their stunning simplicity, which highlighted bold flavors as well as local ingredients, and whose recipes walked a balance between home-style and sophisticated. And even more importantly, she tends to like two of my favorite things – chocolate and caramel – and she uses them frequently.
Emily’s newest book is The Fearless Baker, a book of 175 easy-to-make desserts that won’t intimidate anyone. I asked her if she would be interested in doing a guest post, and when she suggested something combining…you guessed it, caramel and chocolate brownies, I couldn’t wait to share the recipe with you. Please welcome this guest post by Emily Luchetti. -david
A common dilemma for chefs who participate in out-of-town events is what mise en place to take and what to prepare on site. Making dessert for 500-1000 people at a walk-around tasting away from your familiar work place takes logistical and advanced planning. If I have a couple of events within a month of each other, prepping the same dish is easier the second time around. I have a much better idea of how to pack it all. Since different audiences are at each event, it’s not like I am serving identical desserts to the same people. (It only took me 20 years in the business to figure this out!)
My dessert for offsite events this winter/spring was Brownie Brown Sugar Parfait. Originally I created it for the opening menu at Waterbar in San Francisco. It is perfect road trip dessert. There are 4 components brownies, caramel sauce, toasted pecans and a brown sugar pastry cream that’s lightened with whipped cream. Most of it can be made ahead of time and put together later in Connecticut at The Mohegan Sun Casino, or in Miami at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival.
Not to stereotype, but one of the great things I’ve noticed about Indian cooks is that whenever you make or try out one of their dishes, instead of combing through the ingredients or instructions looking for cultural missteps, they’re always thrilled that you’re interested in cooking their cuisine*.
A while back I made Tandoori Chicken, which was one of the first – and only – Indian dishes I have ever made. Sure it’s not very inventive, but it was fun learning about the spices and other ingredients on my trip to the Indian market, and folks left a lot of encouraging comments and tips in various venues for me, offering advice and enlightenment.
For some reason, fresh fig season seemed to have slipped right past me this year. Either that, or I wasn’t looking very hard because normally when I see fresh figs, I can’t help bringing home a big sack of them and snacking on them all week. Figs have two seasons; the first is usually late summer and the second begins mid-fall. The second crop is better-tasting and toward the end of the season, the prices drop as the bounty increases.
Last weekend at the market I saw some very nice looking figs and even though I thought the season had passed me by, I sneaked a squeeze when the vendor wasn’t looking and I could feel through their skin the juiciness of a ripe ‘n ready fig, so I took a gamble and bought a very big bag. And when I got home, I was happy to find that when sliced open, they were a bright ruby-red inside and indeed, just perfect. So to make them last a wee bit longer, I decided to oven-roast a portion of them to conserve my late season windfall.
My recent banana windfall gave me the chance to play around a bit with various banana ice cream combinations. Although I loved the taste of this one, frankly, I wasn’t sure I should post the recipe.
Since bananas are such a natural partner for coconut, I reasoned, “Why use milk or cream when there’s coconut milk? So I reached for a can of it. Continuing with that train I thought, I had a bag of jaggery, raw cane sugar that’s used in Indian cuisine.
I’d bought the husky, ultra-dark sugar up near the gare du Nord, in the Indian and Sri Lankan neighborhood, for no other reason than I was attracted to its rich color and the aggressive scent that wafted through the bag when I pressed it against my nose. When I moved to Paris, I remember people telling me to avoid that neighborhood, that it wasn’t safe. But it’s become one of my favorite quartiers, mostly because of the lively ethnic communities that have settled there. (As well as being the home to the Paris chapter of the Hell’s Angels.)
Many people who tackle French recipes get stumped by the sugars, which don’t necessarily correspond to the sugars available elsewhere. All supermarkets in France carry white granulated sugar and there’s often unrefined sugars, such as cassonade, which grocers stock and are widely-available. In America and elsewhere, bakers often have to do a bit of hunting around to find the corresponding sugar.
French brown sugars are quite varied and don’t always neatly fit into substitutions. In general, if you have a recipe that calls for brown sugar, you can use moist cassonade, vergeoise, or any unrefined amber-colored sugar that’s not granulated. For the sake of these descriptions, moist brown sugar is sugar that clumps together easily if you pinch it. Crystallized sugar is granulated, or free-flowing, and pours easily.
For caramelization, you need to use refined white sugar; impurities in unrefined sugars will cause crystallization. There’s some controversy in the pastry community that sugar refined from beets, which the majority of the sugar in France is, will give you difficulty if you try to caramelize it. But I haven’t experienced any problems.
I’ve listed a few places outside of France where these sugars, and others, are available at the end of the post. Depending on where you live, your best bet is to search online or find a store that specializes in baking ingredients for professionals or dedicated home bakers. There are also links to various sugar companies and websites where you can learn more about these sugars.
Sucre cristallisé or sucre cristal
This is plain white sugar, whose crystals are a bit larger than what’s considered granulated sugar in the United States. You can use this sugar for almost all baking and cooking applications.
Sucre semoule and Sucre en poudre
This is sugar whose crystals are very fine. In America, this would be similar to what is called superfine or baker’s sugar. In other countries it’s called castor or caster sugar. Its fine texture means it melts quickly and will give a finer crumb to many cakes, meringues and cookies.
You can make your own by pulsing granulated sugar in a food processor or blender a few times until it’s in smaller crystals.