Friday, February 22, 2008

Wining about windfalls

When life gives you lemons, you're supposed to make lemonade.

But what the hell do you do when life gives you a nigh-undrinkable bottle of "wine"? In the case of the Kitchen Ninja, you start experimenting. With mixed results.

Experiment the first: Blackberry Merlot Custard

Blackberry Merlot Custard
adapted from a Bon Appetit recipe
serves 4

1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch 3 large eggs 2/3 cup half-and-half 6 tablespoons blackberry merlot wine-cooler-thingie (1/4 cup plus 2T)*

Optional: triple-berry or blackberry jam

*This would probably be much tastier with a very strong, tannic red wine, like a proper merlot. I'll have to try sometime.

  1. Preheat oven to 400F
  2. Whisk together eggs, sugar, and cornstarch until fully blended, lightened, and fluffy
  3. Whisk in half-and-half and wine. Whisk REALLY WELL - the wine, especially the fizzy Arbor Mist crap I had to work with - doesn't want to incorporate very well
  4. If you're using jam, put ~1 tablespoon into the bottom of each ramekin
  5. Pour custard base into ramekins set into a baking/lasagna pan
  6. Pour boiling water into the pan, coming a little over halfway up the sides of the ramekins
  7. Bake for 20min or until puffy and set, and a toothpick inserted in the center of one ramekin comes out clean but still moist
  8. As the custards cool, they'll fall; serve warm and in the cups for a souffle-like dessert, or cool, run a knife around the edge of the ramekin, and invert onto dishes for a more custardy/flan-like dessert
This actually turned out reasonably well; there's some things I'd tweak, but all in all, it was a good first effort. The custard came out more like a very simple souffle (very puffed-up straight out of the oven) than a proper baked custard, but after being allowed to cool, it settled and got denser and richer.

I'm not sure how to fix the texture on this one - I think doing some egg separation would make the final product better. The question is, do I want to add more whites and turn it into a souffle-cake-thing, or do I want to add more yolks and turn it into a denser, smoother, proper custard?

I cheated a bit in making this because I wasn't in the most patient of moods - rather than strain the custard or use the whisk attachment on my hand mixer, I just whisked everything together by hand and poured it into the ramekins. So there were one or two little chunks of unbeaten egg floating around that screwed the texture up a bit. I'll fix that next time.

The overall flavour was very subtle straight out of the oven, but the merlot character gets more pronounced when this is cool (odd, seeing as cold dulls flavour perception). I had one of these custards for breakfast this morning and, well, it was pretty darn tasty.

Adding triple-berry jam to the bottom of the ramekin makes a nice little self-serving sauce, but it's not necessary. I actually think a wine reduction would be a better sauce, and add more character to the final dessert.

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