Friday, December 2, 2016

My Dream Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream

And by dream, I mean nightmare. I don’t test recipes. There is nothing in my contract that requires me to only post successful videos, and as you longtime viewers know, I do enjoy sharing the occasional flop, but this new and improved, vanilla bean pastry cream was not a one-take affair.

I’ve wanted to update our old crème patisserie recipe for a while, and long story short, I became obsessed, and ended up suffering through seven non-perfect versions before I was finally satisfied. The key to a great pastry cream is using the minimum of starch. You need enough so the cream holds a shape, but not so much it interferes with the flavor.

I found flour-based pastry creams easy to work with, but they have more of a pasty mouthfeel that gets in the way of the vanilla. That’s why this version is all corn starch, which we need less of to do the same job. Just be careful not to keep cooking it once it has thickened, otherwise you may compromise its thickening powers.

With the holidays, and their associated fancy desserts, right around the corner, what better time to work on your pastry cream game? So whether it’s for Napoleons, pies, tarts, or cakes, I really hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!


Makes about 3 cups:
1 large whole egg
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon kosher salt (1/2 teaspoon fine table salt)
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1/4 cup corn starch
2 cups whole milk
1 vanilla bean, seeded, plus pure vanilla extract if needed
Tip: Save the scraped pods, and stick them in your sugar container for lovely, vanilla-scented sugar!
4 tablespoons cold butter, cubed

Pastry Cream is Coming!

Despite a few minor and uninteresting technical difficulties, the pastry cream video will be posted tonight! Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

“Mille Feuille” (Napoleon) – Short and Sweet

This mille feuille, which I’m sure I pronounced perfectly in the video, is also referred to as a Napoleon, and is the easiest, “fancy” pastry I know. The technique for creating your “thousand leaves” is very simple, especially if you use frozen dough, which any sensible person should do.

Whether you use frozen or homemade dough, the key is to keep it flat. We do this by “docking” the dough, and pressing with another pan. I used a few layers of foil before placing the pan on top, to make sure it was in contact with the dough, and depending on the size and shape of your pans, you may need to do the same.

Most patisseriers will make these well ahead, and keep them in the fridge, so that the pastry softens a bit, as it absorbs moisture from the filling. This is standard procedure, and they are much easier to eat that way, but I actually prefer to enjoy them right away, so as to fully experience the contrast between the crispy, buttery pastry, and the cold, creamy custard. 

Stay tuned for the new and improved pastry cream video heading your way soon. In the meantime, your favorite recipe should work, as well as things like whipped cream, sweetened ricotta/mascarpone, and/or lemon curd. I really hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!


-- Bake at 400 F. for about 15 minutes “pressed,” and then continue for another 10-15 minutes, uncovered, or until browned and crisp. I turned mine once during that time.

-- To make the icing, simply add enough water or milk to powdered sugar, until the right consistency is reached. For the chocolate one, I started with one part unsweetened cocoa to four parts powdered sugar, and then stirred in the liquid. Check this video if you are confused.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Candied Yams – So Good You’ll Forget You’re Eating Sweet Potatoes

While it’s true the “yams” used in this gorgeous candied yams recipe are really just orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, it’s also true that no one cares, “yams” sounds better, and takes less characters to share on Twitter. Like I said in the video, I only mentioned it in case “that guy” is at your Thanksgiving.

I’m not a huge sweet side dish person, but I do make an exception for these candied yams, since it’s, well, exceptional. Part of that, I believe, is using lemon instead of orange juice, since we have plenty of sweetness, and what we really need is some tartness for balance.

Speaking of sweetness, I like to use a Grade B maple syrup, since it seems to have a little deeper maple flavor; or at least that’s what Alton Brown said once, and I believed him. Having said that, any real maple syrup will be just fine.

This will be our last video before the Thanksgiving holiday, and I’ll be taking the next few days off, so just a heads-up that I won’t be around to answer questions on the blog. I’m sure you’ll be fine. Anyway, I want to wish you all a very healthy, and happy holiday, and I really do hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 8 portions:
For the yams:
3 pounds yams, peeled, cut in 2-inch pieces,
2 quarts cold water
3 tablespoons kosher salt (or about 5 teaspoons of fine salt)
For the glaze:
4 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch cayenne
salt to taste
chopped pecans, walnuts or pistachios for garnish