How to Make a Super Crusty Sugar Topping on Crme Brulee

In the world of well-known international desserts, one of the best loved and popular for following a formal dinner is crème brulee. The reason for this is its lightness of texture, and the fact that it sweetens the mouth, without being overly indulgent. This French dessert features in most French restaurants, since the emphasis of the meal is on the courses that precede the dessert. The dessert is the “icing on the cake” and intended to give the diner a wonderful  taste of something extra special. 

The difficulty comes when learning to produce this dessert for the first time. The investment in a kitchen blow torch will be a wise one. Although crème brulee can be produced with a broiler, the torch does the trick French style and gives an amazingly crusty finish, as well as the contrast between hot and cold sweetness.

Choosing the right sugar

If you use granulated sugar, the results you will obtain will be disappointing. As any French chef knows, the sugar used needs to be finer than this, though still white. Castor sugar or fine sugar is certainly the choice in France. This proves much easier to manipulate into place and is perfect for the torch to caramelize easily and evenly.

Preparing the crème brulee

The crème brulee is prepared and placed into ramekins in advance. This process is simple and an easy recipe for the crème can be found here, from Martha Stewart.

Preparing the crust for the crème brulee

Sugar is placed on the top of the prepared ramekins, and it will be noticed straight away that this will not be even. Take the ramekin into your hand and lightly shake it, so that the coating of sugar is even all over the crème preparation.

Preparing to flambé the sugar

Be sure that you have an oven mitt or that you have a heatproof cloth, as this will be needed to turn the ramekin as you work. Light the torch and work on the sugar coating until it turns a great shade of caramel, moving the ramekin around gently while you flambé the rest of the sugar coating. There should be no burns, just simply an even golden color.

A kitchen blow torch is a good investment and can also be used for meringue dishes, to give an extra crisp finish. The best thing about crème brulee is that the first crackle produced by the spoon of the person eating it is what determines your success at producing one of France’s major desserts correctly. The sugar should crackle, and lead to the smooth creamy custard preparation beneath it. To get even better results, leave the crisping up of the sugar until just before serving the dish, having placed the ramekins into a cool shelf in the fridge. This ensures that the combination of warmth and coolness is perfect when the crème brulees are served to guests.

Other methods may have been used such as grilling or broiling, though the best results come from that extra bit of attention paid individually to the dessert using a hand blow torch. This really is the best way to create the crust that people love, and which reminds them  of that sunny afternoon in the French Riviera. Even if they haven’t been, at least they will have had a taste of what French cuisine at its best is all about.

Categories: Cuisine and Food

How to Freeze and Store Bing Cherries

For cherry lovers, enjoyment of these delightful treats doesn’t have to end when the season does. Savor cherries all year long by using a simple storage technique that will help preserve the flavor and texture. Although you can use the following method to store any type of cherry, this article will focus on Bing cherries because they are very commonly found in supermarkets throughout the United States.

To preserve your cherries for as long as possible, and to keep their flavor and texture intact, freezing them is perhaps the best storing method that you can use. Bing cherries make great frozen cherries because they are large, juicy, and keep their shape well. They are also popular because they have a great combination of sweet and tart flavors.

First, you will need to clean the cherries in preparation for freezing them. Cleaning the cherries now will eliminate the time needed to clean them later. When you want to bake a pie or cobbler with them, you don’t want to have to pick through them to pit them or pull out stems. Cleaned cherries will be ready to go when you are. Pull the stems out gently and then use a cherry pitter to remove the pits. Although you can use some other technique such as a paring knife to pit the cherries, a cherry pitter is inexpensive and it saves you time. Be sure to put the cherries in a glass bowl because they will stain plastic. Put a kitchen towel over any porous surface when you are pitting cherries.

Now that the cherries are pitted and de-stemmed, it’s time to start putting them into bags. Place the cherries on a baking sheet so that each cherry will freeze. This way, you won’t have a big clump of cherries in your bag. Once each cherry is frozen, pour them into resealable bags so that you can use just a portion of a bag if you want to. Remember to label each bag as follows: the name of the cherry (Bing); the date when you cleaned and put them into the freezer; and any other information that will help identify each bag. For example, you might want to write “pie cherries” on one bag, and “cherry jam” on another, or leave that part blank if you don’t yet know how you will use the cherries.

Cherries can be kept frozen indefinitely, as long as they are in a working freezer that does not defrost for more than 24 hours (this is true for most anything in the freezer). When you freeze your Bing cherries, you can enjoy them even in the middle of winter!

Categories: Cuisine and Food

How to Fold Wontons for different Types of Recipes

Wontons can be folded in a variety of shapes that range from utilitarian to decorative. The best way to fold wontons will depend on how they are going to be cooked, and the way they will be presented. Wontons served in soup should be folded as simply as possible, since it is likely the skins will suffer tears and stretching when they are cooked. Wontons that will be steamed can be folded into simple designs, but any shape with loose edges will end up looking misshapen. Fried wontons are the most versatile. With careful cooking, most folded shapes will stand up well to frying. The folds described in this article are meant for square wonton skins.

No matter how wontons will be cooked, they must be folded so the filling is sealed in the skin. If they are not properly sealed, the filling will leak out into the water or oil leaving you with empty wontons and a big mess. Traditionally, egg yolk is used to moisten the edges of wonton skins and seal them together. For people who don’t eat eggs, water serves as a good substitute. However, water is not as sticky, and doesn’t cook into a cement like egg yolk. To make water into a little bit better glue, it sometimes helps to add a little flour or cornstarch to it. If you opt for water, be sure to press the edges together firmly to ensure a good seal.

1. Basic triangle

The most basic fold is a simple triangle. It is made by moistening two adjacent sides of the skin. Fold the skin in half, corner to corner, making a triangle. Seal. Several other shapes use the triangle as a base.

2. Crown

From a triangle, wontons can be folded into the crown shape often seen in restaurants. Simply moisten the tip of one corner of the folded edge and fold it towards the center of the triangle. Bring the other corner in to meet it, and press them together.

3. Three-point crown

This shape is also based on the triangle. Moisten a point about halfway up one sealed edge. Moisten the back of the same edge slightly lower than the spot on the front. Make an accordion fold in the edge and press to seal the fold. Repeat on the other sealed edge. This should make a wonton that has three points sticking up.

4. Flower

Moisten about two-thirds of two adjacent edges of an unfolded wonton skin, skipping the tips. Fold the skin in half, but adjust the tips so they are off center from each other. Moisten the inside edges, if needed, to cover any holes. The wonton should have six points in a rough fan shape.

5. Mini egg roll

To make your wonton look like a mini egg roll, begin by turning the skin so it resembles a diamond. Place the filling in a rough cylinder about two-thirds of the way to the tip nearest you. Fold that tip over the filling, allowing it to overlap onto the inside surface of the skin a little. Pull the corner and filling to you to tighten the roll. Fold the sides in, trying to keep them tight and even. Moisten the remaining inside edges. Roll the filling and folded edges towards the remaining tip, keeping the shape firm and even. Press the whole shape with your hands to seal. Allow it to rest on the outside sealed edge while making the rest of the wontons.

The last three shapes described here are best suited for frying. They are more delicate than the other shapes, and may not stand up well to deep fryers. Instead, pan-fry them in oil deep enough to cover all but the very top of the wontons. Spoon hot oil over them to cook the tops.

6. Envelope

This fold is a bit harder to execute, and takes a little practice. Fold one tip of an unfolded skin over the filling in the center. This will be the bottom of the envelope. Moisten the adjacent edges of the side points. Fold them in, and press the moist edges onto the bottom of the envelope. The wonton should look like an open envelope. Moisten both edges of the top flap. Fold it down to overlap the sides and press to seal.

7. Purse

To make beautiful purses, draw a rough circle around the filling in the center of a wonton skin with a generous amount of yolk or water. Bring all the edges up, like a sack. Twist the edges gently, and press very firmly to seal.

8. Candy wrapper

To begin, place the wonton skin so that it is squared off to you. Place the filling in a rough cylinder about two-thirds of the way towards the bottom edge of the skin. Moisten a line along each side of the skin, about a half-inch from the edge. Fold the bottom edge of the skin over the filling, and pull it towards you lightly to tighten. Use your hands to make the roll even. Moisten the top edge of the skin. Roll the wonton into a cylinder, sealing along the top edge. Pinch each end of the cylinder at about the moistened line on the inside. Twist the ends gently, and press firmly to seal.

With a little practice, wontons can be made into beautiful appetizers that make an attractive and tasty addition to meals. For wonton recipes and cooking instructions, please refer to related articles.

Categories: Cuisine and Food

How to know what organic foods you should buy

The foods that you should buy in organic form are the ones that you need to substitute because they are, in normal growth conditions, found to be the most pesticide-laden. Your diet is one area where you are able to take full control regarding the amount of pesticides you ingest or assimilate.

Given that fruits and vegetables contain so many vitamins and antioxidants, it makes sense to buy them in their purest form, especially when they are such nutritional powerhouses. When you can eliminate anything that interferes with their medicinal abilities, it behooves you to do so in order to be able to absorb their nutrients in the purest form.

Some foods found to contain higher levels of pesticides than others (in no particular order) are: Peppers, cherries, spinach, celery, strawberries, apples, green beans, grapes, nectarines, pears, carrots and cucumber. While citrus foods typically escape the list, you will undoubtedly find that when you eat organic citrus fruits (as opposed to nonorganic) there is an immense difference in the quality of fruit. The organic oranges and grapefruit are often sweeter, larger, juicier, and richer in flavour; all of these combine to make the experience more palatable while still reducing your consumption of toxins.

While some people feel the purchasing of organic produce is not be necessary (because you can remove the residues by peeling apples, for example), more and more people are discovering the taste benefits, as well as the nutritional benefits, of organic produce. Rather than peel fruits and vegetables to remove unhealthy residue, it is far more efficacious to acquire all their health benefits by consuming the entire fruit or vegetable, particularly when so many of the benefits are found in the peels, or directly under the peels.

While you hear more about fruits and vegetables that make the list of less healthful foods, you do not always hear about the importance of consuming organic dairy products. It is also important to purchase organic milk, butter, and dairy whenever possible, particularly as more people seem to be having trouble with milk and dairy sensitivities. While organic milk and dairy are not always seen in the marketplace to the extent that organic fruits and vegetables are, one reason it is imperative to try and purchase these products is that the animals have been raised in health-promoting conditions. Also, the animals are grain fed and they are normally free from hormones and antibiotics. If animals are given antibiotics and hormones, they will be collected and concentrated in their fat tissues. As consumers, you will be eating these when you purchase the nonorganic byproducts.

To strategize economically when purchasing fruits and vegetables, here is the list of the fruits and vegetables “likely to have the fewest pesticide residues” (according to the Environmental Working Group): Papaya, broccoli, cabbage, bananas, kiwi, frozen peas, asparagus, mango, pineapple, frozen corn, avocado, and onions.

Categories: Cuisine and Food

How to Fry Tortillas

Tortillas are great just as they are, but if you want to make your own tortilla chips or a crispy vessel to hold toppings or salads, you might consider fried tortillas. It is very easy to fry tortillas, and once you learn how, your mind will spin with all of the tasty concoctions using fried tortillas.

The first thing that you might consider when you want to fry tortillas is the kind of tortilla you will use. Generally, there are two types: corn and flour. Flour tortillas can be made with plain white flour or whole wheat flour. Corn tortillas can be made using yellow or white corn. For the instructions in this article, you will need white corn tortillas. Any size will do, as long as it is the size that is appropriate for the recipe you are using.

Next, you will need some type of oil in which to fry the tortillas. It is best to use an oil that has a high smoke point past 350 degrees F. Corn oil and peanut oil come to mind, but you can also use olive oil. Corn oil is a good choice because it will not leave a strong taste on the corn tortillas, since they are made out of the same ingredient. However, peanut oil is also popular because it leaves a light flavor.

Depending on the size of the tortillas that you are frying, you will either need a deep fryer, a frying pan, or some type of sauce pot that is deep enough to hold at least 2 inches of oil. For example, if you are going to fry whole, large tortillas, you may want to use a frying pan. If you want to make tortilla chips, you can use a deep fryer, frying pan, or sauce pot.

For the following instructions, you will need a cast iron skillet, approximately 10 inches in diameter, a candy thermometer, peanut oil, and corn tortillas. Place the skillet over a medium-high flame. Pour in enough oil to cover only 1/3 of the pan’s depth. This will allow room for the peanut oil to expand as the oil becomes hotter. Attach the candy thermometer to the pan so that you can monitor the oil’s temperature. Once the oil has come up to 375 degrees F, you can start adding the tortillas. You can fry the tortillas whole one at a time, or you can cut them to whatever size and shape that you want. To make tortilla chips, cut each whole tortilla in half, then cut each half in half. Now, you will have quarters in a pie piece shape. Cut each quarter in half if you want slimmer chips.

Fry the tortillas until they are golden brown on each side. This may take up to 1 minute on each side, depending on how hot your oil is. Try to keep the oil at 375 degrees F. If the oil becomes too hot, turn the heat down or cook each tortilla for a shorter amount of time.

Place fried tortillas on a plate lined with paper towels. Eat them as is, or use them with dips, salsas, salads, etc.

Categories: Cuisine and Food