And I did! I am nothing if not determined. Okay, perhaps I’m a recovering perfectionist, but let’s just say determined. It sounds nicer. I am in the business of PR after all. We know how to spin. Take Miss A’s over-tired meltdown last night for instance. She was being assertive and independent, not bossy and stubborn. It’s just a matter of looking at the bright side (and helps keep us sane after 20 minutes of screaming).
Now the bright side to my failed Romanian recipe, as many of you noted in your comments last time, is that the prep pictures for that flubbed dessert were already done. All that was left to do was to cook. So this afternoon when Mike took the kids to the library, I took advantage of the empty house. It was time to rock this recipe – Crema de Zahar Ars, or Caramelized Sugar Cream.
The dish, basically a Romanian take on flan, was suggested by one of Mike’s students who is a native Romanian. So for take two, I started by boiling some milk, salt and vanilla (last time I did not boil the milk).
Next, while whisking continuously, I slowly added the milk to the egg mixture (last time I mixed the milk, eggs and sugar all together straight from the fridge). Then I kept whisking until the cream cooled.
Once cooled, I set the cream aside and started two pots on the stove. The first, a 3-quart sauce pan with 3/4 cups of sugar. The second, a 5-quart pot with water. Now this part is my favorite. I love, love, love watching the sugar melt. It takes me back to doing experiments in chemistry. I had no idea sugar could just melt without a liquid in the pan. It’s just gorgeous to watch.
Oddly enough this was the part of the recipe I was most nervous about, having never just stuck sugar to melt on a stove, and it ended up the only part of my first try that went right. The kids thought this was really cool too (They were around to watch the first time around.). Once the sugar was melted and golden brown, I swirled it to coat 1/3 of the way up the sides of the pan until it set.
I baked the sugar cream for an hour at 325F. At this point the cream still jiggled, but also had pulled away from the sides of the pan. I stuck a knife in the cream as a final test and it came out clean. The cream had set!
I left the sugar cream in the water bath to cool for about an hour. Then I removed the sugar cream pan and placed it in the fridge for a few hours. Finally, when it was time for dessert, I covered the pan with a plate and inverted it to release the sugar cream. Voila!
So how did it taste? Well, Mike is a big fan of flan. A flan fan. So he had high hopes for the Crema de Zahar Ars and much to my immense satisfaction, this lived up to his expectations. He gave it a definite and resounding 4 spoons.
Now, I was a little less excited about the dessert than Mike. I’ve had flan before and it’s just never really wowed me. I think it’s a texture issue. That said, this was better than other flan I have tasted. So it got a full 3 spoon ranking from me. (If my satisfaction counted for anything this might be a 4 spoon vote, but I’m basing this one solely on my taste buds.)
As for the kids, Mr. N described this as a French toast pie – a rather fitting description. He was torn between 2-1/2 and 3 spoons. He said it was good, but not something he’d want to eat every day. Miss A loved the caramel sauce, but didn’t like the cream part of the cake, so she gave two rankings. The sauce came in at 4 spoons, the cream 1 spoon. I’m wondering if it was a taste or texture issue for her.
So I’m not sure if it was boiling milk, mixing the eggs and milk slowly or the water bath that made the difference this go-round. Perhaps it was all three. All I know is that I did it and darn it, it felt good. And good I felt, until I started a small fire tonight. Oops.
I was making pizzas with Linda’s pesto, tomato, shallots and Parmesan and tossed the two pizza pans on the stove top to cool. A corner of the parchment paper apparently got a little too close to the flame under the toasting pancetta and whoosh! Fortunately I was able to blow the flame out.
Now my initial reaction was, “Duh! That was careless!” But of course we can spin this too. It was clearly just the universe’s way of keeping me humble and reminding me to slow down. It obviously wasn’t my fault. Ehem. For the record, the pizzas turned out great – 4 spoons all around.
Happy 4th of July to all our American readers. We’ll be back Saturday with our anniversary dinner (and perhaps a peak at the shoes ladies – and Greg). Cheers!
Print this recipe: Crema de Zahar Ars