This month for the Secret Recipe Club I was assigned a lovely blog written by Katherine Martinelli, a food and travel writer, photographer and wanderer.One thing I have always appreciated, even more so now that I have designed my own blog, is a clean, easily navigable site. Katherine’s is a delight to wander through, with a ton of recipes and articles that I can’t wait to come back and explore more in depth.
Katherine is a force to be reckoned with. She is an internationally published food and travel writer and photographer, a native New Yorker currently living in Israel. She grew up watching her father preparing family dinners; she took the skills she learned by watching him to college and made elaborate meals for her friends with her hot pot and grilled cheese maker.
Following her passion for food, she started with an editorial internship at a culinary magazine, which became a full time job. She spent the next two years traveling the world, photographing food and events, and then turning those experiences into articles. She recently moved to Israel and is using her blog as a journal for her adventures and as a way to keep in touch with family and friends.
Katherine’s Italian/American heritage along with her travels have influenced her selection of recipes. She has shared a plethora of international favorites with choices that range from Turkey-Date Meatballs with Lentils and Yogurt Sauce to Garlicky Roasted Chickpeas with Feta and Mint and Miso-Glazed Tofu and Eggplant. There is a natural bent toward Mediterranean recipes and ingredients, which makes total sense when you know her background. But she also has many that would be considered mainstream here in America. There is truly something for everyone. One recipe is definitely on my radar … her Sunchoke and Fried Halloumi Salad. I can’t wait to come back and try that one!
Today’s recipe immediately caught my eye because it is traditional with a spin and definitely something that is holiday-worthy. Katherine came up with this concept when she was participating in some of the Food52 challenges. With a little encouragement from a friend and the foundation of a solid recipe from cookbook pundit Dorie Greenspan, Katherine tapped her creative juices and came up with a wonderful new creation.
Her pots de crème are full of spice without being hot and plenty of chocolate to appease all of my wonderful chocoholic readers. I love the Mexican chocolate-like flavor (due to the chile and cinnamon), and think these would also be very successful with ginger. I can just see chopped candied ginger sprinkled over the tops of these beauties. Yum… next time!
The puddings are wonderful just as they are, but with the addition of the maple whipped cream and candied bacon, I soared straight to heaven! Using maple syrup to lightly sweeten the whipped cream has been done before, but Katherine really hit upon a winning combo by combining it with the chocolate and bacon. Talk about Umami! A little sweet, a little salty, loads of chocolate and a touch of spiciness … can you say sublime? I can! For chocolate purists, leave out the cinnamon and chile powder; no harm, no foul. The vanilla will round out the flavors nicely.
The bacon is surprisingly easy to make and yet looks and tastes like something a professional chef would turn out. I put the slices on a rack in a baking sheet and drizzled them with the maple syrup. Popped them in the oven and baked them at 350°F. until they were crispy and glazed. OMG, my new favorite. Oh, and use good quality bacon – you will thank me. I used Niman Ranch which never has any added hormones or antibiotics and is all vegetarian fed. Plus humanely raised. It is worth the cost … one bite and you’ll never go back!
I really appreciate that these can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator, making them a busy hostess’ saving grace. You can make the puddings and bacon a day ahead then pull them out about 30 minutes to warm up a bit. Whip the cream when you are ready to serve, plop a dollop on each pudding, sprinkle with the crumbled bacon and your guests will swear you’ve been slaving over the hot stove for hours. My kind of dessert!
One thing that seems contradictory and a bit alarming is covering the roasting pan with plastic wrap and then putting it in the oven. Don’t worry, it is an old chef’s trick and it won’t melt. Just be sure to poke air holes for the steam to escape. If you are using pot de crème cups with their adorable little lids, you don’t need the plastic wrap.
Another caution for you my friends, always use the same size containers so that everything cooks evenly. I wanted a to use a larger Le Creuset baking dish because it looks so pretty in pictures, but the puddings in the little ramekins were a bit overcooked. See, everyone slips up now and then, even us old dogs, LOL.
The only drawback for me was the bits of chile and cinnamon that somewhat marred the appearance, but that was easily fixed with a large dollop of the wonderful whipped cream :o) Oh shucks, you mean I have to eat more? I changed the technique a bit to adjust for this by steeping the spices in the cream and straining before adding it to the beaten eggs. I also suggest that you strain the custard again just to make sure you don’t have any “scrambled” egg pieces in the final puddings.
Anytime you are dealing with boiling water and heavy containers there is risk of injury and burns. Be extra careful when you are moving the roasting pan around; sloshing boiling water really hurts! I suggest you find a helpful, strong man to assist … besides being safer, they are just plain fun to have around, LOL.
For me the trickiest part is figuring out how to get the ramekins out of the screaming hot water without burning myself. First of all, use a roasting pan that won’t be damaged by metal utensils. Then grab a strong metal spatula that is fairly stiff. Slide it under the ramekins, lifting them until you can grasp them and lift them out. Thick and cumbersome kitchen mitts can be troublesome with this task; I used some non-slip shelf liner squares that are flexible so I could grab the slippery little devils and get them safely to the cooling racks.
Want to join in the fun? I belong to a fun group of bloggers called The Secret Recipe Club. Each month we are assigned another member’s blog and we can choose any recipe from it that sounds like fun to make. We don’t reveal which blog we were given or what we are making from it. Then on a specific day we all post our recipes. It is fun to see which recipe was chosen and how other people have interpreted it. If you are interested in joining, click here for more information.
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
It may seem silly to transfer the mixtures into a large measuring cup, but having the spout really helps you pour the custard cleanly and smoothly. Pour slowly so you do not create a lot of air bubbles. Tapping the ramekins on the counter or running a knife through the custard before baking will release any trapped air bubbles, so you don’t have large pockets in the baked puddings. And using the same measuring cup to add the hot water to the pan really cuts down on splashing.
Kitchen Skill: How to Separate Eggs
The safest and easiest way to separate eggs is to use your fingers as the strainer. Crack the egg open, and working over a bowl, drop the egg into your cupped hand. Open your fingers slightly to let the egg whites fall through, leaving the yolks in your hand. Drop them into another bowl. You don’t have to worry about puncturing the yolk with the sharp edges of the shell, are less likely to get pieces of shell in the eggs, and actually get cleaner yolks this way. When you are separating a ton of eggs, this is by far the best and fastest way, and the way it is done in professional kitchens.
- Pots de Creme
- 4 oz dark chocolate (60% to 72% cacao), chopped or high quality chocolate chips such as Guittard
- 1-1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1-1/2 cups whole milk
- Pinch of salt
- 1 tsp chile powder (either a “chili” blend or single chile such as ancho or aleppo)
- 1/4 to 1/2 tsp cinnamon, to your taste
- 1 whole egg
- 5 egg yolks
- 1 to 2 tbsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- Candied Maple Bacon
- 4 strips bacon
- 2 tbsp high quality maple syrup
- Maple Whipped Cream
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 to 3 tbsp high quality maple syrup, to your taste
- Make Pudding: Preheat the oven to 325°F. Set out 6 to 8 ramekins or other ovenproof baking dishes and a deep roasting pan large enough to hold all the containers.
- Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. In a medium saucepan, bring 1/2 cup of the heavy cream to just under a boil. Pour over the chocolate and let sit for 1 minute. Gently stir with a rubber spatula until chocolate is completely melted, then switch to a whisk and gently work the mixture until combined and smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.
- In the same saucepan, combine the milk, remaining 1 cup cream, salt, chile powder, and cinnamon and bring to a boil over medium-high heat stirring occasionally. Set off the heat to steep seasonings. Strain through a fine wire mesh sieve into a 4-cup heatproof measuring cup with a spout.
- Rinse out the saucepan and fill 3/4 full with water. Place back on the heat and warm to just below boiling. You will use this water in the water bath for baking the puddings.
- Meanwhile, using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the eggs, yolks, sugar, and salt until well blended and slightly thickened. With the motor running, drizzle in a small amount of the hot cream mixture, tempering the eggs (warming them gently). Slowly pour in the remaining liquid while beating. Feel the bottom of the bowl and when the eggs are warmed you can add the remaining liquid a bit more quickly. Add the vanilla.
- Slowly beat the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture until fully incorporated. Strain through the fine wire mesh sieve into the 4-cup measure; this removes any “scrambled” eggs that may have formed, leaving you with a silky mixture.
- Place the ramekins or other small oven-proof baking dishes into the roasting pan. Pour the custard into the containers, distributing it evenly. Rinse out your 4-cup measuring cup and fill with the hot water from the stove.
- Carefully pour the hot water at the edge of the roasting pan, making sure it doesn’t splash into any of the ramekins, until it comes halfway up their sides. Cover entire pan tightly with plastic wrap, poke two holes in opposite corners with a sharp knife, and carefully put in the oven.
- Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the tops are slightly darkened and the pudding jiggles slightly when shaken.
- Carefully remove the roasting pan from the oven. Let sit, without removing the plastic wrap for at least 10 minutes. Uncover, remove ramekins from the pan, and cool to room temperature. Pots de creme can either be served now or covered and refrigerated for later.
- Make Candied Bacon: Preheat the broiler.
- Arrange the bacon on a Silpat-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with the maple syrup. Broil, flipping once, until crispy and browned. Be careful not to burn. Remove from the broiler and cool. Set on paper towels to drain. Crumble, put in a container, and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Alternately, you can place the bacon on a rack set over a baking sheet. Drizzle with the maple syrup and bake at 350F until crispy, watching carefully so it doesn't burn. No need to flip it, the hot air circulates around it cooking all sides at the same time. Drain on paper towels before crumbling.
- Make Maple Cream: Put the heavy cream in the bowl of your stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, start on low and increase speed to medium-high. Beat for about 1 minute then add the maple syrup. Continue whipping until it reaches your desired thickness.
- To Serve: Spoon a dollop of maple whipped cream in the center of each ramekin. Sprinkle with crumbled maple candied bacon and serve.
- Bon Appetit!
- Yield: 6 to 8 Servings (depending on size of ramekins/cooking containers)
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