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Crema Catalana Recipe

I’m not going to wade into the debate over whether the French invented crème brûlée first or the Catalonians invented crema Catalana first. Some subjects are simply too hot to touch. Suffice to say that the techniques for preparing them are identical, though the flavors and textures are not. Crema Catalana, in addition to vanilla, has citrus peel and cinnamon in it, which give it a nice liveliness. It’s not the showpiece for cream that crème brûlée is, but then it’s made with milk anyway. The extra eggs yolks compensate for the lost fat, in addition to giving this custard a somewhat looser texture.

Stirred up — versus being allowed to set in ramekins — crema Catalana makes a phenomenal filling. If you’re planning on using it for that purpose, you can simply do the final heating of the custard mixture in a saucepan. It’s a rough-and-ready treatment for a delicate custard, but it works very well for the purpose. If you’re serving your crema as a dessert, you can heat the custards gently in a water bath in the oven, which will ensure the very silkiest result. You’ll need:

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Fresh Strawberry Filling

This general approach works well for many kinds of fruit, though strawberries have quite a bit more water in them than fruits like plums or even raspberries, so a little more reduction is called for here. The recipe comes by way of Rose Levy Beranbaum, the queen of cakes. She calls this preparation “strawberry conserve”, and uses it to flavor buttercreams and spread on cake rolls. Compared to a typical jam or store-bought filling it has a good deal less sugar and more real fruit flavor, and there’s nothing wrong with that. You’ll need:

4 pounds fresh or frozen (no sugar added) strawberries
8 ounces (generous cup) sugar
12 ounces (1 1/2 cups) water

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About Fresh Fruit Fillings

Most of the time a simple jam filling is enough for us pastry people. Jams are great between cake layers, in coffee cakes or in Danishes. But sometimes jams just don’t cut it. Jams are thick, they’re also sweet —depending on the application, they can be far too much so — and have only small pieces of fruit, which can be, quite frankly, disappointing. Should they be a little loose or soupy, as many homemade jams are, they can weep into whatever you’re spreading them on.

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Hard Boiling Eggs

A lot of requests for a tutorial on this. It makes sense given that most hard boiled eggs end up sticking to the insides of their shells, and/or with that blue/green film around the yolks which signifies over-cooking. The first problem is best solved by time. Sticky shells result when you boil very fresh eggs. Easy-peel eggs can be had by either aging the eggs in the fridge for 10 days or longer, or letting the eggs sit at room temperature for about 24 hours. The aging loosens the membrane that surrounds the white from the inside of the shell, and that does the trick. Note that before you hard boil your eggs they should be chilled again, at least for this method, which assumes cold eggs.

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Sfogliatelle Filling

This filling is mostly used for sfogliatelle riccia, but works nicely as a bake-in filling in other applications. It’s a touch on the fussy side, but the results are worth it. You’ll need:

2 cups whole milk
pinch salt
4.5 ounces (3/4 cup) semolina or 3.5 ounces (1/2 cup) durum flour
7 ounces (1 cup) ricotta cheese
4 ounces (generous 1/2 cup) sugar
2 egg yolks
3 ounces (about 1/2 cup) candied citrus peels or candied cherries, finely chopped
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

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Chocolate Génoise Recipe

OK, I decided.

Chocolate génoise is the foundation upon which a great Black Forest cake is built, and is good for a number of other things besides. Like a classic génoise it’s rather dry, but then it’s whole reason for being is to be soaked liberally with syrup.

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3.5 ounces (3/4 cup) cake flour
0.75 ounces (1/4 cup) Dutch-process cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 eggs, room temperature
5.25 ounces (3/4 cup) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

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Making Caramelized White Chocolate

This stuff is really delicious. I confess that I generally don’t go out of my way to eat white chocolate, but keeping my spoon out of this as I was baking it was a serious challenge. It is, as you’d expect, very caramelly in flavor which leads me to conclude that low temperature caramelization is indeed going on here. I highly recommend that you undertake the experiment. All you need is about a pound of white chocolate, a sheet pan and an oven set to 260 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Making Toffee/Butterscotch Sauce

I use the slash because, while there is a clear difference between toffee and butterscotch candies there is little if any difference between toffee and butterscotch sauce. Butterscotch is generally a bit lighter in color I suppose. To produce that effect all you need to do is use light brown sugar instead of dark brown. Otherwise the procedure is the same. You’ll need:

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