Posts Tagged With: Crème Brûlée

276/365: National Caramel Custard Day

Today we celebrate a food that is known by several names: it is called either caramel custard, crème caramel, or flan, depending on where in the world you are ordering it. Officially, October 3 is National Caramel Custard Day!

Caramel custard is like crème brûlée, but with a layer of soft caramel on top instead of a hard caramel coating. It used to be especially popular in European restaurants; explains food historian Alan Davidson, “In the later part of the 20th century crème caramel occupied an excessively large amount of territory in European restaurant dessert menus. This was probably due to the convenience, for restaurateurs, of being able to prepare a lot in advance and keep them until needed.” Nowadays, it’s harder to find in Europe, but is extremely common in Latin American countries, where it is eaten with dulce de leche.

It’s a little tricky to prepare, requiring the use of a ramekin and a water bath, but at least you don’t need a blowtorch as you do when preparing an authentic  crème brûlée. I’ll admit, I was a little nervous heading into this holiday, because the last time custard was on the menu, it was a near-disaster. It didn’t set right, melted during transport (this was during our spontaneous road trip to Ely), and was an unappealing “watery sour cream” color and consistency. Blech. Easily the most challenging of our challenges to date. Fortunately, we had much better luck with the caramel custard. We bought a packaged flan mix in the grocery store, and Tara prepared it for dessert. This time everything set up perfectly! We found the consistency a little unusual – not as smooth and creamy as pudding – but the flavor wasn’t bad. And it looked beautiful!

National Caramel Custard Day

Categories: Desserts | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

229/365: National Vanilla Custard Day

I’d be pudding you on if I said we hadn’t celebrated today’s food holiday, in one form or another, a bunch of times already this year (and also used the word “pudding” in place of “putting” in at least one previous post). August 17 is National Custard Day!

Custard, a cooked mixture of milk and egg yolks, has been around since the Middle Ages. The name derives from the French word croustade, meaning “crust of a tart.” Early custards could be either sweet or savory, though nowadays sweet, pudding-like custards are the norm. And why do I insist we’ve celebrated custard many times already? Because it forms the base for a wide variety of dishes, including tartscrème brûlée, and quiche. And we can’t forget chocolate custard. Been there, done that. And that, and that, and that. But we haven’t actually had just plain ol’ custard yet, so in that regard, this holiday is a new one.

We are in Ely, Nevada today for a family gathering. A close friend of Tara’s family passed away suddenly and unexpectedly, and we wanted to be here to honor his memory. Now, we always figured we’d celebrate a few of this year’s food holidays in Ely, because we are planning a trip here for New Year’s, which means we’ll actually complete the challenge here. But obviously that is months away yet, and this visit was never in the cards. Ely is hardly the hotbed of civilization; I doubt there’s anywhere in town that even sells vanilla custard. And with everybody pretty busy today, making vanilla custard is hardly a top priority. So again, we had to plan ahead, and made a batch before we left, which we packed carefully in a cooler filled with ice and hauled 840 miles across three states. We are now enjoying it from the comfort of a Motel 6 in downtown Ely. Definitely one of the trickier holidays to celebrate, but where there’s a will, there’s a way.

The photo below is NOT our custard. As I am writing this entry the evening before we leave, the custard is still setting up, and that will take hours. This is what I’m HOPING our custard eventually looks like. As a completist, I’ll probably come back here and add a photo of ours, when we’re back home. I’m bringing my laptop along, but probably won’t have much of a chance to use it.

National Vanilla Custard Day

Categories: Desserts | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

208/365: National Crème Brûlée Day*

Nobody will make fun of you today if you burn the cream. In fact, that’s exactly what you’re supposed to do with today’s food holiday. July 27 is National Crème Brûlée Day!

If you’d rather put on a kilt and speak in a brogue, it’s also National Scotch Day. Just be sure you’re drinking whisky made in Scotland, otherwise, it’s not considered Scotch. Tara is not a fan of whisky, so Crème Brûlée it is! Besides, it’s her birthday, and she should have something sweet and yummy. After all, I got to indulge in prime rib on my birthday.

No fewer than three countries claim to have invented Crème Brûlée: England, Spain, and France all take credit for this delectable dish. In reality, custards had been popular since the Middle Ages, and it’s unknown for certain who first caramelized the sugar on top, the defining characteristic of Crème Brûlée. The name is undeniably French, first appearing in a cookbook published in 1691, but a later version of the cookbook in 1731 changed the name to crème anglaise and it didn’t become popular in that country until the 19th century. The Spanish claim to have invented crema catalana, a predecessor to Crème Brûlée, in the 18th century, though their version is not baked, but served cold with a hot topping. “Bloody Hell, you wankers,” say the British. “We invented burnt cream.” A student at Trinity College in Cambridge supposedly came up with a creamy unsweetened custard that had a caramelized topping sometime in the 17th century, and called the invention Trinity Cream, but many historians say this dish wasn’t sweet enough, and the topping was too thick, to qualify as Crème Brûlée.

While the exact truth remains elusive, we can at least agree on the modern day technique. Crème Brûlée is usually served in individual ramekins; after the custard is baked, the top is caramelized using a kitchen blowtorch (or, alternately, a broiler). I love Crème Brûlée, and have long considered it a decadent and special dessert, so I was looking forward to today’s challenge. There’s a doughnut shop in Portland that specializes in Crème Brûlée doughnuts, so we made a special trip down there to pick some up. Here’s a little tip: never go to a doughnut shop in the middle of the afternoon. They had maybe three doughnuts left, tops. We had no backup plan, but my Yelp app came to the rescue and we ended up at a bakery on the other side of the river that sold actual Crème Brûlée. So we brought some home and celebrated Tara’s birthday in style!

National Creme Brulee Day

Categories: Desserts | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

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