Posts Tagged ‘vanilla’

Hurray for crème brûlée

Monday, April 19th, 2010

Crème brûlée is one of my favourite desserts and can be made in a variety of flavours. I like to serve it as a pre-dessert in tiny ramekin dishes.

To make a variation on this recipe, omit the rhubarb to make a vanilla crème brûlée. If you leave out the rhubarb, there’s no need to line the base of the ramekins and the brulée can be served in its moulds. Ramekin moulds are widely available in cookery supply stores. The season for rhubarb is around the middle of February and into March.

Vanilla Créme brulée with rhubarb; serves six


250g/9oz rhubarb stalks

350ml/12fl oz double cream

125ml/4fl oz whole milk

15g unsalted butter

1 dessertspoon clear honey

2 vanilla pods

6 egg yolks

75g/2 and half oz caster sugar Equipment

6 ramekin dishes


1. Pre-heat oven to 120C/225F. Cut the rhubarb stalks first into 4cm lengths and then slice lengthways in half again.

2. Heat the butter and honey in a large saucepan until it bubbles. Add the rhubarb (enough to just cover the base of the saucepan). Cook gently for about five minutes over a medium heat until the rhubarb is soft, but still whole.

3. Remove the rhubarb from the heat and drain using a sieve. Spread the rhubarb out on a clean tea towel to absorb the excess moisture. Change the towel twice more, as the rhubarb should be completely dry so that it doesn’t rise during the baking process.

4. Line the bases of the ramekin dishes with discs of greaseproof paper. Divide the rhubarb between the dishes, spreading the pieces neatly over the bases of the moulds. Arrange the ramekins on a baking sheet.

5. Slit the vanilla pods and scrape out the seeds, then mix the seeds with the cream. Put the cream, milk and empty pod shells into a large saucepan. Over a low heat, bring slowly to the boil.

6. In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks with a whisk until smooth.

7. When the cream mixture starts to boil and rise, pour it in stages onto the whisked egg yolks, whisking continuously. Stir in the caster sugar until it has all dissolved. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a jug. Discard the vanilla pods at this stage.

8. Pour a little of the custard over the rhubarb in the ramekins and cook the custards partially in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the mixture has set enough to hold the rhubarb in place.

9. Remove from the oven and pour the remaining custard on top of the ramekins. Cook for a further 45 to 60 minutes or until lightly set. The custard is ready when, if tipped over, it comes away slowly from the sides of the ramekin and is slightly wobbly in the centre.

10. Allow to cool down before refrigerating until quite firmly set.

11. Take the brulée out of the moulds by running a knife around the edge of each ramekin and inverting onto a plate. Remove the greaseproof paper. Sprinkle with demerara sugar and caramelise under a hot grill until the sugar has hardened to a crisp consistency. Make sure the grill is very hot so that the topping can caramelise quickly.

12. Serve with a fruit jus.

A currant work of tart

Sunday, July 13th, 2008

Sunday, July 13, 2008
By Kevin Thornton
With an abundance of fresh fruit, vegetables and salads, the summer season is a chef ’s dream. Today, most produce is available year round but, in truth, fruits and vegetables have quite a short season, meaning locally-grown produce is only available for about three weeks of the year.

So, it is extra special when your favourite fruits and veg are in season and can be bought locally. In August, for example, pick up Irish tomatoes and eat them washed, sliced and sprinkled with rock salt, a dash of olive oil and shredded basil leaves.

It is worth trying to shop and eat seasonally. If some foods aren’t in season, there are always plenty of other foods that are. At this time of year, berries such as whitecurrants, blackberries and redcurrants take centre stage. They are all so different in flavour but taste great mixed together, so they are ideal for tarts which can be prepared in advance for Sunday lunch.

I have provided the recipe for vanilla ice cream below, for which you will need to use an ice cream maker. Of course, a good quality vanilla ice cream can be used instead.

Black and whitecurrant tart with vanilla ice cream and redcurrant sauce

Ingredients, serves eight
For the short crust pastry
500g plain flour
3 egg yolks
125g granulated sugar
200g unsalted butter
5g sea salt
1 vanilla pod
1 zest of orange
100ml orange juice

1. Sieve the flour into a mixing bowl and add the sugar, salt and egg yolks.

2. Cut the vanilla pod in half, remove the seeds, chop them and add to the flour. Blanch the orange zest. This removes the acid from the orange peel but keeps its flavour. To do this, cover the zest with water, bring it to the boil, strain it and then add to the mix.

3. Mix in the bowl for a few seconds.

4. Cut the butter into small cubes, soften and add to the mixture. Mix for a minute and add the orange juice a little at a time. The pastry should bind together and come cleanly away from the bowl.

5. Remove, place into a clean bowl and refrigerate for about an hour.

6. Remove the pastry. Butter the tart mould and dust it with flour. Dust the counter top with a bit of flour and roll out the pastry onto this surface. Cover the mould with the pastry and, with your hands, press the pastry into the tart tray.

7. Blind-cook the tart. This can be done by covering the pastry with parchment paper and adding dried marrowfat peas or rice onto it, to put pressure on the pastry to keep it flat while it cooks. Place it into a hot oven at 180C for five minutes.

8. Remove the paper and the rice or dried peas. Put the tart back in the oven for a further couple of minutes to finish cooking. It should be a very light brown colour.

For the pastry cream
250ml of milk
250ml of cream
A drop of still water
1 vanilla pod
125g of icing sugar
165g of plain white flour
3 egg yolks
3 whole eggs

1. Put a drop of water into a stainless-steel pot. Add the milk and cream.

2. Cut the vanilla pod in half and add the seeds to the eggs.

3. Add the pod shells to the liquid and bring to the boil.

4. Put the flour, sugar, eggs and vanilla seeds into a stainless steel bowl and mix well with a whisk until it is forms a smooth paste.

5. When the milk and cream has boiled, pour half of it into the flour and egg mixture. Mix well and pour back into the pot with the liquid.

6. Return to a low heat and stir constantly for about five minutes. Cover with a lid and place the pot over a larger pot filled with simmering water to cook for a further hour, mixing regularly.

7. Remove, place into a clean bowl and cover.

8. The secret to making pastry cream is not to rush it or take short cuts. The flour takes time to cook correctly. It keeps for a few days and can be used with all kinds of pastry filling.

For the vanilla ice cream
10 egg yolks
3 vanilla pods
500ml cream
500ml milk
10ml of still water
125g icing sugar

1. De-seed the vanilla pod and add to the cream with the pods.

2. Line a stainless steel pot with water. Mix the milk and cream together and bring to the boil.

3. Whisk the egg yolks. Add the sugar and whisk well. Pour half the milk and cream into the egg-and-sugar and mix well with a whisk.

4. Pour back into the liquid. Return to a hot hob and bring to 95C using a sugar thermometer. Cook while stirring with a wooden spoon. When the back of the mixture coats the back of the spoon, remove the pot and place it into a sink of ice cold water. This cools the ice cream mix as quickly as possible.

5. When sufficiently cool, spin in an ice cream machine.

6. Remove and place in a sterilised container, then freeze until required.

To assemble the tart you will need
Pastry cream
Ice cream
Tablespoon of apricot jam
500ml vanilla ice cream
200g whitecurrants
300g blackcurrants
200g redcurrants
10g granulated sugar
8 sugared vanilla pods

1. Juice 100g of redcurrants. Add a little sugar and place into a pot on a low heat. Reduce by half, then pass through a fine sieve into a clean, cool container.

2. Glaze the remaining redcurrants by dipping them into egg white and cover with granulated sugar. Leave on a sugared tray over night at room temperature. The sugar glazing protects the berries so they will last for a few days.

3. Cover the pastry base with pastry cream and line the berries on top.

4. Heat the apricot jam and cover the berries with the apricot glaze.

5. Put the tart on the plate and line the plate with the sauce. Place the sugared berries beside the sauce and serve with a few scoops of balled ice cream.

Kevin Thornton is a Michelin-starred chef and owner of Thornton’s Restaurant on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin.

Sweet pastry and tart lemon

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

Sunday, June 29, 2008
By Kevin Thornton
When it comes to defining the seasons, sometimes we just have to ignore the weather and go with our tastebuds. It’s the summer time and summer means citrus.

Citrus fruits are light and refreshing at this time of year, and are great palate cleansers during or after a meal. This lemon tart is delicious served with fresh raspberries or with a homemade sweet sorbet.

When buying lemons it is best to opt for relatively soft ones, as these tend to contain more juice. Taste the lemon mixture as you making it and add more lemon juice if a more tangy taste is preferred.

If you’re serving the tart with afternoon tea, try making your own tisane – a herbal tea which is a nice accompaniment to this zesty dessert. It’s made by placing either fresh lime leaves or fresh mint leaves in a teapot and adding boiling water.

Tarte au citron (lemon tart)

Ingredients (serves 6-8)
Sweet pastry:
250g (8oz) flour
4 egg yolks
Half teaspoon salt
100g (3 and half oz) sugar
125g (4oz) butter
Seeds from two vanilla pods

2 eggs
100g (3 and half oz sugar)
grated rind and juice of 1 and half lemons
125g (4oz) melted butter
60g (2oz) whole blanched
ground almonds
27-30cm/11-12 inch pie pan


Sweet pastry:
1. Sift the flour onto a clean work surface and make a large well in it.

2. Put egg yolks, salt, sugar and vanilla into the well and mix with fingertips until sugar dissolves.

3. Pound the butter with rolling pin to soften, add it to the well and quickly work with other ingredients until partly mixed. Draw in flour, pulling dough into large crumbs using fingertips of both hands. Press the dough together – it should be soft but not sticky.

4. Work on small portions of the dough, pushing it away from you on the work surface, then gathering it up with a spatula, drawing it towards you and pushing away again. Continue this until the dough is smooth and pliable. Press it into a ball, wrap and chill for 30 minutes or until firm.

Lemon filling:
1. Make the sweet pastry and chill for 30 minutes or until firm. Set the oven at moderately hot (190C/375F).

2. Roll out the dough, line the pie pan and chill until firm. Bake blind in a heated oven for 12-15 minutes or until set, but not brown. Take from the oven, remove paper and let the pie shell cool slightly. Put a baking sheet in the oven to heat.

3. Meanwhile, make the filling. Beat the eggs and sugar until light and thick enough to leave a ribbon trail when the whisk is lifted. Stir in the rind and lemon juice, followed by the melted butter and ground almonds.

4. Set the pie shell in the pan on the hot baking sheet and pour the mixture into the shell. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the filling is golden brown and set. Serve at room temperature.

Kevin Thornton is a Michelin-starred chef and owner of Thornton’s Restaurant on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin.

Da capo Dessert

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008

There are occasions in life when a special cake is required. If you are up for a challenge, this recipe for opera cake is perfect.

I first tasted this dessert when working in the pastry section of Paul Bocuse’s restaurant in Lyon. I loved the fact that it contained so many of my favourite ingredients.

In Bocuse they used pistachio cream to flavour the cake but, since I prefer vanilla, this is my version. I have been asked for this recipe hundreds of times over the years. It takes a long time to make but it is worth every ounce of patience and effort.

It’s possible to make the sponge the day before as long as it is kept in an airtight container overnight. Opera is broken down into three different stages: almond sponge, butter cream with vanilla and coffee and, finally, ganache.

Almond sponge
1 large free-range egg
50g caster sugar
10g unsalted butter noisette (butter heated until it turns golden brown)
1 free-range egg white
10g icing sugar
20g sieved flour
50g sieved, ground almonds
A pinch of sea salt

1. Butter the baking tray and cover with parchment paper, brush with butter and sprinkle with flour. Preheat the oven to 180C.

2. Beat eggs over low heat for a minute. Add the sugar and beat until the volume has doubled. It is ready when you can draw the figure 8 into the whipped eggs.

3. Fold in the almond and flour.

4. In another bowl, whisk the egg whites add a third of the icing sugar. When the eggs are nearly stiff add the remainder of the sugar and whisk until stiff. Add the salt and whisk for a minute.

5. Fold the whipped egg whites into the mixture. Fold in the noisette butter then pour the mix onto the baking tray, spreading evenly with a spatula. Cook in the oven for 12 minutes.

6. Remove from oven and remove the parchment paper from the sponge and rest it on the paper.

Coffee syrup
250ml water
42g ground espresso coffee or enough coffee for a double espresso.
1 cup espresso
100g sugar

1. Bring water and sugar to boil, add coffee and rest for 30 minutes.

Coffee buttercream
117g butter
6g caster sugar
1tsp ground espresso
1 vanilla pod, de-seeded

1. Dice the butter and mix until soft. Cream together with the vanilla and sugar, then add the coffee syrup.

Vanilla cream
10ml water
200ml of milk
50ml of cream
3 free range egg yolks
50g icing sugar
1 vanilla pod

1. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod into the egg yolks.

2. Mix the water, milk and cream in a pot, add the vanilla stems and bring to the boil.

3. Add the sugar to the eggs and vanilla and whisk. Then add half the boiled liquid and mix. Return pot to a low heat and stir with a spatula. Heat until the mixture coats the back of the spoon – do not boil. Place pot into cold water.

Italian meringue
75g free-range egg whites
65g icing sugar
50g granulated sugar
15g water

1. Mix egg whites and a third of the icing sugar until stiff. Mix in the remainder of the icing sugar.

2. Bring the granulated sugar and water to a boil in a saucepan.

2. Boil without stirring until the syrup registers 112C on a sugar thermometer.

3. Pour the syrup into the egg whites and mix for five minutes.

4. Fold in the buttercream, then fold in half the vanilla cream. Place into a clean bowl and cover.

Chocolate ganache
500ml of cream
250g of 70 per cent dark chocolate
200g of 60 per cent dark chocolate

1. Boil cream.

2. Melt chocolate over a bain-marie (a pot of water on top of which can be added another container).

3. Add the chocolate to the cream and mix well. Cover and cool.

Assembling the opera cake
1. Cut the sponge into three pieces and brush with coffee syrup.

2. Spread one third of the Italian meringue evenly on the sponge, place in a fridge for about 20 minutes to set.

3. Coat with 1/2cm of ganache.

4. Moisten the next two pieces of sponge and layer them using the same method.

The glaze
200g of 70 per cent chocolate 50g of unsalted butter

1. Melt chocolate over bain-marie, melt butter and mix well, cool.

2. Coat the top of the cake with the glaze and cool for 20 minutes.

3. Cut the sides to clean the cake.

4, With the remainder of the glaze place into a plastic piping bag and decorate.

5. Serve with the remainder of the vanilla cream. It is best served at room temperature.

Kevin Thornton is a Michelin-starred chef and owner of Thornton’s Restaurant on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin.