I have always found making desserts to be rather intimidating. There are so many exact measurements and precise baking temperatures, but there is so little room for error. I am more drawn to the flexibility of savory cooking, where recipes often say, “season to taste” or “simmer over low heat until ready.” Perhaps this philosophy of cooking fits my often spontaneous and open-minded personality better.
The recipe below I am listing is from the “restaurant challenge” we had a few weeks ago at culinary school (read about it here: The Restaurant Challenge). Although I didn’t write about it in my post, I worked the dessert station for the second day of the challenge. At first, I was worried – my experience with souffles, making crepes and flambéing bananas was quite limited. When I tried to make cinnamon ice cream for the team and screwed up my base, the Creme Anglaise, I panicked. However, one of my instructors, Chef Michel Pradier, calmed my nerves by helping me to come up with a brilliant flavor of ice cream.
I say brilliant because the way Chef took my botched cinnamon creme anglaise, the typical base for ice cream, and effortlessly fixed it was quite incredible. A key part of making Creme Anglaise is making sure the mixture is sufficiently cooked over low heat. I took this principle a bit too far, to the point where lumps of cooked egg stuck to the bottom of my pot. Chef Michel, with his French accent said, “No, no my dear. Let me add a little this, a little that…” and poured in seemingly random amounts of melted butter and cream. Doing so would mask the overcooked egg flavor while giving the ice cream an added element of creaminess and smoothness. He then added lime zest to help offset the sweetness. How did he know how to do that? Perhaps over 30 years of experience could be part of the explanation, but still!
Finally, with a smile, he poured in a generous amount of Grand Marnier. I watched in amazement, as Chef made my failure into something delicious. He explained to me that knowing how to react to any situation in cooking is one essential part of being a great chef.
- Crème anglaise
- 2 cups milk
- 3 egg yolks
- 5 oz. sugar
- Butter (soft)
- Heavy cream
- Pinch of cinnamon
- Zest of 1 lime
- Grand Marnier (1-2 tablespoons)
- Prepare crème anglaise by first warming up milk (do not let it burn or boil) in a pot over low heat.
- In bowl, whisk egg yolks with sugar until the sugar is dissolved.
- Slowly add the warm milk and whisk. Pour the mixture back into the pot and place over low heat.
- Stir over low heat with a wooden spoon until mixture thickens. The crème anglaise should coat the back of the spoon.
- While still warm, add soft butter and cream to crème anglaise and whisk to combine.
- Add cinnamon, lime zest and Grand Marnier. Whisk well and adjust to taste.
- Chill crème anglaise in freezer over ice.
- Place in ice cream maker and let machine run for 20-30 minutes.
- Keep in freezer, but move to the refrigerator a little before serving so it is not too hard.