Hello super strangers.
Congratulations on reaching “super” status. You’ve gone from friends to acquaintances to strangers to super strangers all in a matter of months. I’m impressed.
Of course it has nothing to do with you (no offense) and everything to do with a certain pandemic you may have heard of.
The last time I baked for this blog was March 12, and that was around the time when my corner of the world (along with many other corners of our world) started to practice social distancing and self-isolation. I don’t live in an area that has gone into lockdown (and my thoughts and prayers are with those who are living in that reality), which means I can still visit grocery stores, following the arrows for which aisles I can go up and down, and standing at the appropriately marked spots to wait for a cashier behind plexi-glass.
But because of our present circumstances, I decided that grocery shopping is something I will only do (a) when it’s absolutely essential and (b) for things that are absolutely essential.
Since many of these recipes are new to me, many of the ingredients are new as well. I’m not going to go into a store and wander back and forth looking for bizarre ingredients if I don’t have to.
Also, if I’m being completely honest, as much as baking is a stress reliever, I haven’t had the brainpower to devote to new recipes. I have been baking some classics or simple recipes as a comfort. I, along with the rest of the Instagram world, took on banana bread. I revived my sourdough starter. I made a chocolate cake for Mother’s Day (after a failed attempt at French macarons—I’ll admit I did try something new that day, and it definitely did not work). I’ve made several batches of muffins (and have another recipe waiting to be tackled thanks to some old bananas). I even went back to the fig and hazelnut bread I made and used walnuts instead. But most of the 30 remaining recipes in this bakebook scare me and deserve my full attention.
I don’t think I’m totally ready to jump into, say, kouign-amann or a Moroccan plaited bread wreath. But this recipe has been on my radar for a while and I thought it’d be a good one to do now that my brain has (mostly) adjusted to this new normal.
So here we are.
I hope you’re doing well, friends. (Sorry for calling you strangers earlier. You’re more like friends I’ve lost touch with.) Thanks for reading up to this point. If you keep reading, it may be worth it.
I can’t make any promises though.
Especially because I’ve been typing this for the last maybe five or ten minutes waiting for sugar to dissolve in water and eventually turn into caramel.
If you’ve been following this blog for a little while, you’ll know I have a complicated relationship with caramel. Sometimes it works fine. Sometimes it just does not. This feels like one of the latter times.
This recipe says it’ll make six ramekins filled with espresso crème caramels, but I only need two, so I thirded the recipe and that means I thirded the sugar and water. That may have been a mistake.
I may have to start again.
But we’ll see.
After all, if you don’t have hope in times like these, what do you have?
I think waiting for water and sugar to become caramel is one of the greatest tests of patience in a kitchen.
Because you just watch it and wonder the entire time, Is that what it’s supposed to look like? Is it crystallized? Is it ruined? How long will it take me to clean that pan?
And then it starts to turn a colour and you think, Is this it?
And then you panic because THIS IS IT.
I was supposed to pour the caramel immediately into the ramekins and move them around to coat the base, but that wasn’t totally possible. You’ll see a couple of holes in the caramel. I don’t know how you’re supposed to do this successfully with three times as many ramekins.
With those ready, I started on the cream and coffee.
This recipe calls for double cream, milk and ground espresso coffee. Since I thirded the recipe, I used only whipping cream and since I’m giving one to my mom, I used decaf coffee. (Salt Spring Coffee, actually. It’s delicious, just so you know.)
I put the cream and coffee grounds into a new pan and got to stirring.
And then waited for it to boil.
Which it did. Not as much panic with this as with the caramel.
I set that aside to “infuse” for 15 minutes (and to type this up).
I also preheated my oven to the required 300 degrees.
After the coffee has infused, I’m supposed to “strain the coffee cream through a paper coffee filter or a fine tea strainer into a jug.” I’m not totally convinced that’s possible, though. Looking at the thickness of this cream, it makes me wonder if I should have gone with instant coffee instead of grounds. But I’m trusting you, Mary and Paul.
I also am without a jug. (I should really go pick one up from Ikea … oh wait.) Instead, I’m using a mug I got from Disneyland when I was about seven years old.
I thought I’d grab my little tea strainer to try it that way:
Nope. Then I grabbed my big sieve:
Tigger is so optimistic:
I rinsed and cleaned the pan and added the strained coffee cream back in (though to be honest, those look like pretty big coffee grounds still in there) and added the salt and sugar until dissolved.
All the while I could hear a crinkling crackling sound. At first I thought it was the sound of my oven preheating and then I realized it was this:
Going to go ahead and ignore that and continue on.
With the egg and partial egg yolk (it’s so hard to third eggs when the recipe does not call for three eggs) beaten with a wooden spoon, I poured it into the steamed coffee cream and immediately mixed to avoid scrambled eggs.
Then I poured it equally between the two ramekins …
… poured hot water into the “roasting tin” (a.k.a. pie dish because I don’t have a roasting tin) and covered it with foil to cook for the required 30 minutes (minus five just in case).
*30 minutes minus 5 later*
It is nowhere near done.
I think I did something wrong.
After 30 to 40 minutes, it should “wobble like jelly when you gently jiggle them” and “they shouldn’t be sloppy.”
Ya’ll these things are just sloppy ramekins filled with very liquid coffee cream.
*more time later*
I think they’re done. The centres are still wobbly and seem a little sloppy, but they’re not totally liquid anymore.
It says to take care not to overcook, so I’m calling it.
Only time will tell if I did this right. The recipe says to wait for it to chill overnight, but I’m hoping an afternoon in the fridge will be enough to set it.
*several hours later*
Time to eat this thing. To be completely honest, I am a little nervous. I tried turning it upside down onto a plate, but it didn’t budge. So then I grabbed a spoon and dug around the edge a bit and, PLOP, it fell onto the plate.
I removed the ramekin to reveal … dog food.
If you’ve never dealt with a tin of wet dog food before, you won’t know what I’m talking about. If you have, you’ll see it in the photo above. The texture is the same. It has the same specs that dog food often has, and it even has the same kind of gravy sauce (although in my case it’s caramel).
I could not stop laughing at how unappetizing it looked. And when I went to take a bite, I averted my eyes so that I wouldn’t create the wrong taste in my mind based on what dog food smells like.
All that said, the taste was pretty good. It was creamy and flavourful and not at all too sweet.
However, all of the flavour in the world couldn’t stop it from looking like Marley’s dinner.
If I ever attempt this again, there are a few things I’d do differently. First of all, I’d do a larger batch of caramel to make sure it cooks evenly. Secondly, I’d use instant coffee, not coffee grounds, to avoid the whole straining debacle. Third, I would just eat it straight out of the ramekin and not risk turning it into a puck of dog food sadly presented on a plate.
But chances are I won’t be making this again.
Thanks for reading! Hope it was worth it.