Thom & Aimee

Two Hobbits. The Kitchen. The Garden. And trouble ensues.

Tag: creme patissiere

Pear and Chocolate Éclairs (Poire Belle Hélène)

It was one of those days that sudden cravings would hit you in the middle of the night. And all I wanted were some goddamn éclairs. To date, I’ve not eaten any éclair in this tiny island worth traveling a distance for. (Now, if you’re talking about the luscious chocolate éclairs from La Maison du Chocolat – that’s a whole new story altogether. I’d travel to Hong Kong for a day for those babies.)

Éclairs are a classic French pastry and traditionally flavoured with chocolate, coffee or white-glazed fondant. In the recent years, they have been given a makeover from different glazes, exotic flavours and extensive decorations (there are even savoury ones!). At times, you’re just eating half a pastry with tons of cream, puree, candy and what not’s. It doesn’t even look like an éclair anymore but nail art. One can just peer at the windows of Christophe Adam and Fauchon to see collections of extravagant and vibrant little ‘flashes’.

Move over, le macaron, it’s time for l’éclair to shine.

For our own attempt in a fashionable éclair, we wanted to incorporate the flavours of the classic dessert Poire belle Hélène – made with pears served with vanilla ice cream, chocolate and crystallised violets. We had a dilemma on the violets on whether to get fresh ones or the ready candied flowers. No one seemed to sell candied violets and buying them online meant we had to wait for shipping. At long last, we decided to candy our own violets and managed to get fresh edible violet flowers from the market – only to find out that we bought violas instead. No sweat, we’ll just have to make do.

Candying the tiny petals proved to be a challenge especially in this heat and humidity. The moment the flowers were exposed to the open air, their petals curl and shrink in size. And it doesn’t help that they are so fragile. Delicate sturdy hands and a very cold dry room are needed for this operation. The beautiful blue-purple violas don’t really taste of anything but at least they are a sight to behold. A pity though. (Guys, make sure you get the right flowers. Or better still, use the already candied ones.)

The pears (we used Williams in this recipe) were poached in sugar syrup infused with Mexican vanilla pods. The fruits were then cubed into tiny pieces and mixed into the crème pâtissière for piping after. While little rows of choux pastry were baking in the oven, a rich glossy dark chocolate glaze was prepared. I loved the combination of smells coming from the kitchen – chocolate, vanilla and custard. After the éclairs were piped and dipped, the final touches of flowers were pressed into the chocolate top. And voilà, an éclair au Poire belle Hélène was born.

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Warm Plum Clafoutis with Crème Fraiche Sorbet

For the record, I personally do not love shooting any cold desserts of any sort. Especially those that melt almost immediately the moment they come in contact with our local tropical humidity. It will only create unnecessary fuss and unwanted stress to race against time to capture the said cold item in its peak form. I have no bitterness against ice creams, sorbets, granita or semifreddo. I just do not love shooting them. Now I feel better after ranting.

This is another of never-tasted-before dishes that Ned has attempted. The risk of doing something absolutely new was not knowing if we were on the right track. It was like doing a Great British Bake Off technical challenge, but with the full set of instructions. It’s tough to actually be critical of one’s bake without any fore knowledge or experience. We could only leave it to gut instinct and taste buds. Up till now, we aren’t really sure if the consistency of the clafoutis batter was right. (Why aren’t there any clafoutis sold in any restaurants in Singapore?)

Doing my research online, it describes a clafoutis as a classic French dessert that’s almost flan-like, and typically uses black cherries over other types of fruit. Even by comparing our clafoutis against those experimented by Guardian’s Fecility Cloake, we can’t tell if we did the dessert justice or not. For example, our attempt utilises ground almond, which causes the batter to have a less-smooth texture. We know what flans look like, and yet our clafoutis didn’t resemble anything like the said dessert.

Plunging into unknown territory, Ned managed to pull off an enchanting dish – golden brown cake-ish exterior, sliced plum fan out like petals with a brilliant shade of deep burgundy and glossy blood red plum compote. This reminds me of the apple pudding we made a year back: it is just so yummy that I could clean a few off at one go. Topped with homemade creme fraiche ice cream, it created the perfect balance of sweet and sour. The tanginess of the creme fraiche refreshes the palate and reduces the sugary level of the clafoutis. We paired it up with vanilla ice cream as well, but it only made the dessert overwhelmingly rich.

If this was beginner’s luck, we cannot wait to taste what a masterclass clafoutis will be like. Till then, our tummies are pretty satisfied with our own creations.

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Raspberry and Pistachio Tarts

Ned has been pretty obsessed with tart tins recently, resulting in a much unnecessary amount of tins in our kitchen. They come in all shapes and sizes: big, not so big, small, super small, fluted, non-fluted, round, rectangular, removable base and the unremovable ones. I expect this collection to grow even more. It’s pretty odd for someone who used to run away from tart making. Now, all Ned loves doing are tarts. Not that I’m complaining, when there’s always something delicious at the end of the day.

It’s not uncommon to see a variety of immaculate mini tartlets sitting behind a clear glass of most patisseries. They usually are round and at about 8cm in diameter. (No idea why 8cm became the standard measurement for individual tart portions.) And Ned managed to get her hands on some of these particular tart tins after plenty of searching.

Most tarts that feature fruits usually do not incorporate them into the filling (not including my all-time favourite tarte au citron) which I find it rather odd. Be it apple, pear or apricots, the fruits are often made to do their most natural duties of adding a tartness to the dish and being wonderful decor pieces. The raspberry tarts we have made here are no different. But what is interesting here is that the crust contains pistachio, which is a great pair with the raspberries. Having just three raspberries on each tart really is not enough. We kept popping on more of the scarlet jewels into our mouth as we dug into the tarts.

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Apricot Tart

The Apricot Tart. This got us snowballing into chaotic mad bears. It just screams at you to make it, hence the overzealous purchase of apricots.

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Issue 1: Apricots

Why apricots? There is no real reason why N and I chose it. It was just an accumulation of ideas thrown back and forth, and it was either them or peaches. But we were very gung-ho, or  just plain naive. Either way, apricots became our first experiment for Thom & Aimee.

Apricots are strange little fruits. They look like peaches with their yellow pinkish bottoms, and that’s probably where the similarities end. They are like Robin to Batman (Peaches). Important but always the sidekick.

Since they are rarely used in Asian cooking, we have never really eaten them before. Both of us being apricot virgins, it was new territory for us and knew not what to expect. (And made our fair share of mistakes.)

Verdict of the Taste Test: “Oh. Right…..”

We were slightly underwhelmed by its flavour – a tad too shy and mildly bitter. Suddenly, we wondered if it was a good decision lugging tonnes of them home. (Mr. Nigel Slater did say that they tend to disappoint.) But do give these apricots a chance; they like to surprise the doubtful after some cooking as we found out. I’ll let N talk about the recipes…

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