Mine is Flan.
Not the custard dessert, but the hold-in-your-hand kind that is baked in a shortbread crust, and sold by the slice in every pastry shop in France.
Flan Patissier, flan aux cerises, flan aux abricots. Every pastry shop has their specialty. I'm not picky, but I DO like the cherry or apricot studded flan the best. It's the perfect afternoon snack.
In the 1970's, while living in Paris, I ate a slice of flan almost every day on my way home from work. My job as a kitchen apprentice started at 7 a.m. By the time I left work at 3:00, I was tired and hungry, with dinner several hours off, My journey passed no fewer than three pastry shops, and each one beckoned with flan in the window.
As it turns out, the reason all French pastry shops sell flan is quite simple. It is made from crème pâtissière (pastry cream), something every bakery makes every day. Each morning, the pastry cream from the previous day is poured into a pate sable (shortbread) crust and baked, then sold in the afternoon as flan. Kind of like left-overs, only better.
Crème Pâtissière is a custard used as a base for fruit tarts, milles feuilles, profiteroles and many other pastries. It is made made with whole eggs, egg yolks, sugar, milk and flour. My first recipe came from a pastry chef (in Paris) in 1978 and is classic:
Pour 1 litre de lait (for 1 liter of milk)
- 250 g de sucre (sugar)
- 100 g de farine (flour)
- 6 jaunes d'œufs (egg yolks)
- 2 œufs entiers (whole eggs)
- 1 gousse de vanille (vanilla bean)
You mix the sugar, flour, eggs and egg yolks with a whisk until light. Then bring the milk and vanilla to a boil and mix it (pouring a thin stream) into the egg mixture. Then return all to the sauce pan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes until thick and smooth. Cool it with a pat of butter melted over the top to prevent a film from forming. Technically, you can keep it in the refrigerator for up to a week, but it's best used right away, or spooned into a spring form pan lined with shortbread dough and baked at 300 degrees fahrenheit for about an hour until firm to make a flan.
Unfortunately, the pastry cream recipe in most modern cookbooks calls for cornstarch as a thickener. That's fine for pastry cream in tarts or profiteroles, but it makes for a very bad and runny flan. If it's a good flan you are after, you've got to use flour as the thickener.
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Today is day 61 of the voting marathon, officially known as the Get Back To Scratch contest. We're competing to win a big new mixer for the bakery. We are currently in the lead but there are 32 days left, plenty of time for just about anything to happen.
Get Back To Scratch is a movement that supports and encourages the passion of bakers and chefs. Folks who invest the time and materials bake with real flour and sugar and eggs instead of pre-prepared and par-baked items. It was created by Hobart, the folks who make large commercial mixers. The movement is supported and promoted by an online network of culinary and baking professionals, including Buddy Vallestro, TLC's Cake Boss.
Vote for us at http://www.getbacktoscratch.com/directory/profile/?id=268 through August 21.