Flour Girl: Pull Up to the Pump
I recently found a product in the baking aisle that intrigued me: pumpable vanilla paste. The South African spice company NoMU has come out with this convenient way to get concentrated flavor into your baking. Instead of scraping and steeping vanilla beans -- a lot of time and effort -- you simply pump the thick, syrupy paste. Knowing that it’s made from as many as 50 to 100 hand-harvested Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans helps explain why the NoMU vanilla paste, housed in its light-blocking aluminum dispenser, costs $19.99 for 3.38 ounces.
Other companies also offer vanilla in paste form. Nielsen-Massey makes a similar product. What makes NoMU's paste different are its easy measurement (5 pumps equal 1 teaspoon) and no-mess dispenser.
To really let the vanilla flavor come through, I tested it in creme brulee. There are all sorts of bells and whistles you can add to the custard dessert, but I’ve always preferred the unadorned classic. When you mix cream, eggs, sugar and vanilla, it’s pretty hard to get in the way of good.
The creme brulee recipe from Michel Roux’s “Eggs” caught my attention because it doesn’t use the usual bain-marie (water bath) to cook the custard cups, a technique that insulates the eggy custard from cooking too fast. Instead, Roux calls for a low oven temperature.
It worked like a charm. The finished brulees were not as firm as some I’ve had, but they definitely held together and had a silky mouthfeel. As for the vanilla paste: The proof really is in the pudding -- er, custard. A lot less trouble with a very deep, mellow, floral flavor.
When I make creme brulee, I use teacups instead of ramekins. Cups with handles are easy to hold and come in a great variety. If you don’t have a culinary blowtorch (and, let’s face it, most of us don’t), you can run the cups under the broiler; no worries. Watch them carefully and pull them out as soon as the brulees start to crust and brown. Truth be told, there is no way to get an even, crackly crust without an aimed flame, but having used the blowtorch I inherited just once in the past three years, I can’t say it’s a kitchen necessity.
The NoMU vanilla paste is available at Whole Foods Market. The recipe for the creme brulee is after the jump.
-- Leigh Lambert
MAKE AHEAD: Baked custards may be covered with aluminum foil and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Finish with the sugar topping just before serving.
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar, plus 4 to 6 tablespoons for sprinkling
4 large egg yolks
10 pumps of vanilla paste, such as NoMU brand (may substitute 2 teaspoons vanilla extract)
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Place four 6-ounce cups or ramekins on a baking sheet.
Combine the milk, cream and a scant 1/4 cup of the sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; whisk until well blended, then slowly bring just to a boil.
Meanwhile, combine the egg yolks and 1/4 cup of the sugar in a bowl; lightly whisk to mix well.
As soon as the milk mixture comes to a boil, gradually pour it into the egg mixture, whisking constantly, to form a custard. Ladle it equally among the cups or ramekins. Bake for 50 minutes, or until just set. Transfer the cups or ramekins to a wire rack; let cool to room temperature, then chill until ready to serve.
Just before serving, sprinkle each brulee with the remaining sugar (1 to 1/2 tablespoons each). Use a culinary blowtorch to caramelize the sugar until it’s browned and bubbling, or place the creme brulees under a broiler to achieve the same effect. Serve hot.
NUTRITION | Per serving: 467 calories, 10 g protein, 43 g carbohydrates, 29 g fat, 17 g saturated fat, 302 mg cholesterol, 125 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 41 g sugar
July 16, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories: Flour Girl , Recipes , Shopping | Tags: Leigh Lambert, creme brulee, vanilla
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