Wednesday, January 30, 2013
#January Joy 30: Make something naughty to eat: Caramelized pineapple Crème brûlée.
Finally, I am back home. What a long exam that was (from 10h to 15h) and I've only been through half of it. The famous NT2-II (Nederlands als tweede taal) exam is divided in 4 parts: writing, speaking, listening and reading. You can do each part separately, but if you are intense like me you do 2 parts each day. I am done with writing and speaking, and tomorrow I'll do the rest. Then I have to wait 5 weeks for the results.
For anyone who might be interested, there have been some brand new changes to this exam. I can only assume this is part of their objective to attract only highly educated immigrants (argh). As of this month, one part of the written exam (which used to be a classic pen and paper test) is now fully digitalized. You are given a computer and you have to write directly in a word-processor kind of program. Here's the catch: not only do they evaluate that the grammar, spelling and use of language is correct. They also check if you format your text accordingly: as in they actually grade you on the use of feautures such as bold, italic, bullets and paragraph spacing. What! Not everyone is going to be a secretary in their life. Not everyone will have to write reports. I for one would be happy working mostly in a farm full of cows and goats, no fancy formatting skills needed. What irritates me the most is that many of the immigrants that are so often criticized come from countries with very difficult situations where they may not have had access to computers. Why are we been graded for computer literacy skills on a language test? It is so completely irrelevant and it strikes me as elitism. Moreover, as of January 1st 2013 the price of the exam DOUBLED. And if I understand properly (and this depends on the rules of the city where you live) the subsidies for a Dutch course that used to be given for free to any foreigner who requested them, in an effort to facilitate the "integration" process have been removed (I never got this subsidy because I was stupid enough to independently enroll myself to a course, and then they never refunded me for it). They keep making it more difficult, and the people in the worst situations, those who are the most vulnerable are the ones who will suffer it. To add to all of this, they make you pay at the public libraries (how are they public then? In Spain and Switzerland anyone can make use of public libraries for free). But they don't have any problem complaining about "the others", how they are here to take your jobs and how they do not want to be part of the society. I think I better stop ranting.
So let us change to happier subjects and focus on making sweet things. One of the first things I knew I wanted in our kitchen was a blowtorch. I would then be able to caramelize things like lemon meringue pie or yes, crème brûlées. We had had our (plasticky) torch for a while, the boy was not even sure it was safe (I got it on sale once), but we recently got some gas and gave it a try. It was magic! These pineapple-cinammon crème brûlées are delicious and very easy to make. I made sure I found a recipe that did not require to bake them au-bain-marie as I don't have an oven pan who would fit all my ramequins. They were so good, we ate them in a day and a half.
What you'll need
1 can pineapple, in slices.
½ cups brown sugar
1-¼ cup cream
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 whole egg yolks
⅓ cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 sugar, for caramelizing.
What to do
Heat oven to 260ºC , and position oven rack 6 inches from the broiler. Arrange your pineapple slices on a buttered oven pan. Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over the pineapple. Place the baking sheet under the broiler, and broil until the pineapple turns golden brown. This will take about 5 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
Center the oven rack and reduce temperature to 90ºC. In a medium saucepan, heat the cream, milk and cinnamon until it just begins to boil. Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla until well blended but not airy. While whisking, slowly drizzle in about one quarter of the hot cream-milk-cinammon infusion. Still whisking, slowly add the remaining hot cream. Do NOT stop whisking at any moment. Doing this will prevent the eggs from curdling.
Arrange the caramelized pineapple pieces in the bottom of your baking dishes. Tap your custard mix against the counter to get rid of air bubbles, and pour it in your ramequins, over the pineapple slices.
Bake the crème brûlées for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the centers are set. To tell if they are done, tap the sides of the dish, and the custards should hold firm. Now place the custards on a cooling rack until they reach room temperature. Cover each dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 3 hours. We were so impatient that we just put them in the balcony for about half an hour until they were cold (see the cold European weather has its advantages).
When ready to serve, sprinkle the top of each custard evenly with about 1 tablespoon of sugar. Using a blowtorch, brown the sugar until it bubbles and colors. Repeat for each custard. If you do not own a blowtorch, no worries, you could also caramelize the sugar using your oven.
Sprinkle the custards with the sugar topping. Place the pan under the broiler. Watch the custards carefully. Depending on your oven, it can take a few seconds or a few minutes to caramelize the sugar. When the sugar bubbles and browns, remove the custards from the oven. Let them sit a few minutes before serving.