Friday, August 11, 2006

Frangelico crème caramel with hazelnut praline

If you live here in Oz, you might have seen this recipe in the food pages of last weekend’s Australian Magazine. The minute I saw it, I drooled. I’ve knocked up a few crème caramels in my time, but this twist looked and sounded just sumptuous. The recipe is the creation of the recently crowned Lexus Young Chef of the Year, Beau Vincent, who rattles the pans at Restaurant Assiette in Surry Hills, Sydney. More about him in a future post. Frangelico is an Italian hazelnut flavoured liqueur.

The recipe as printed didn’t quite do it for me in terms of texture and depth. As an all milk version, it was a little thin and watery, not as rich and creamy as this dessert is traditionally presented. So here is my revised version which I think steers the dish more towards a lush crème. I’ve also added a few more cooking clues for anyone who hasn’t made this beast before. And if you haven’t, it’s a very easy preparation and brings miles of enjoyment to your tastebuds.

The toffee:
200g sugar
Splash of water just to moisten the sugar

Put this on the stove in a small saucepan and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Use a metal or pale ceramic pan, not a non stick pan, because if the pan is black you’ll never be able to tell when the toffee gets to the right colour. Let it come to a medium boil and bubble away for 10-15 minutes until the liquid sugar starts to go from clear to golden brown. It’s really important that you don’t touch the boiling sugar. Just let it bubble and don’t go near it with a spoon, despite crusty sugary bits forming round the sides of the pan. You can muck around with brushing the sides with a silicone brush or monitoring with sugar thermometers, but you really don’t need to bother. As the sugar changes colour, don’t leave the pan. Watch as it colours and take it off the stove when it reaches a dark golden brown. About the colour of honey. The sugar will keep cooking as you work, so take it off earlier rather than later if you're in doubt. Hold your ramekin in your hand, protecting it with a tea towel or mit. Liquid toffee is very hot and the heat transfer from the ramekin may burn your hand. Pour a little sugar into the base of the ramekin – about 1-2 tablespoons. Put the toffee pan down and turn the slightly tilted ramekin with your hand so the toffee coats the inside of the ramekin as well as the base. It will set very quickly and harden up the sides. Keep going til you’ve coated all the ramekins. My ramekins are 150 ml capacity and I found this recipe made 4 generously filled desserts. You could stretch it to 6 with a bit less filling in each.

Once the toffee is in, place the ramekins in a baking dish lined with a folded over teatowel. You’ll be baking in a bain marie and this helps protect the delicate custard from burning.

The custard:
250 mls whole milk
250 mls full fat (35% milk fat) cream
60 mls (3 tablespoons) of Frangelico
1 egg
3 egg yolks
80g caster sugar

Mix the milk, cream and Frangelico together and warm through for about 5 minutes – don’t let it boil. Whisk together the eggs and sugar (only whisk the eggs and sugar at the last minute as sugar can ‘cook’ egg yolks if they’re in contact for too long and you’ll end up with little hard bits in your custard) and pour in the warm cream mixture, whisking constantly. Fill the ramekins (I find it easier to pour the mix into a jug with a good spout and fill them this way) and then pour boiling water into the baking dish so it comes half way up the sides of the ramekins. Bake in a 160°C oven (140°C fan forced) for 35-45 minutes or until the custard is set. Remove from the oven and dish, allow to come to room temperature then chill for several hours or overnight.

For the praline, roast 300g hazelnuts in the oven, rub their skins off with a teatowel, place them on a baking sheet lined with baking paper, then cover the nuts with another batch of sugar toffee, made exactly the same way as described above. In fact if you’re really organised you can do the nuts and the ramekins with the same batch of toffee. Let the toffee set hard, break into pieces and blitz it in the food processor until you have fine praline crumbs.

The reveal: Take the caramels out of the fridge and gently with your thumb or fingers pull the custard slightly away from the sides of the ramekin all the way around. Fingers are better than knives here as you’re likely to hack up the custard with a knife if you’re not really careful. Place your serving plate over the caramel, hold the ramekin, and flip it the right way up. Give it a vertical shake while holding the ramekin onto the plate and you’ll here the squelch as the caramel releases from the ramekin. As you lift off the ramekin the golden liquid toffee will drizzle over the caramel and the plate, revealing the pale custard and brown sugar-stained top. Ooooohhhh Errrrrr.

Sprinkle over the praline and serve with a little glass of Frangelico. Yum scrum.

(Also, any left over praline is fantastic stirred through good vanilla ice cream. Yum x 2).


Blogger Helen (AugustusGloop) said...

Argh. Why do you torture us so?!?

I have a feeling I'd prefer the praline with ice cream as a separate dessert though. I love the satiny smooth feel of creme caramel just melting down my throat, but I'm weird about liking my crunchy and smooth textures separately =)

1:38 PM  
Blogger Reb said...

Me too usually, Helen - but this really did work well. Crushing the praline fine makes it almost melt into the runny toffee and you can still have alternate smooth/ crunchy hits. It's torture, but sweet torture :))

2:18 PM  
Blogger neil said...

I'm livin' in the 70's,
eatin' fake food under plastic trees - oops sorry, just had a skyhooks flashback.

About time for a revival and you are so right to fatten it up. Looks lovely!

7:33 AM  
Blogger Reb said...

Indeed - I may even serve a plate of smoked oysters on Jatz and pop on the Georges Zamfir pan flutes album :) Steak Diane for main, of course.

7:59 AM  
Anonymous Mae said...

Oh, drool.

What can i substitute a Frangelico? Incidentally, i don't mean to be an ignoramous, but what is Frangelico? Is is some sort of liquior or something?


10:31 AM  
Blogger Reb said...

Hi Mae. Yes Frangelico is a liqueur from Italy and is hazlenut flavoured. You could use Amaretto (almond flavour) or Nocello (walnut flavoured) instead

6:00 PM  

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