Custard: the 8 tricks to make it perfect – Italian Cuisine

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It is one of the bases of pastry, versatile and greedy, it would be easy to make, but… despite everything, something can go wrong. How to prevent the cream from "going crazy", the causes and the (few) remedies




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The custard, often alone pastry chef for friends (it has many) it is fantastic: very good, it is ideal for stuffing cream puffs and éclairs, cannoli, cakes and pastries; also excellent in cups, to be enjoyed in spoonfuls or with biscuits and waffles. This delight has an interesting history that perhaps not everyone knows.

French or Italian?
Its creation is an eternal dispute between French and Italians, the two most advanced cultures in the field of European pastry from the Middle Ages onwards. In 1691, the first documented recipe of a crème pâtissière appears in the culinary work of François Massialot, cook of illustrious personalities of his time, cardinals, marquises and even the brother of the Sun King, the Duke of Orleans: still today his "Le Cuisinier Royal et Bourgeois”Is considered among the first culinary dictionaries in the world. In addition to the crème pâtissière, also the meringues and the crème brûlée, in which the sugar coating was melted and burned with a red-hot iron scoop. However, some scholars have found traces of a cream very similar to pastry in the recipes cited in the volume Banquets, food compositions and general apparatus (printed more than a century earlier, in 1549), by Christopher of Messisbugo, Cook of the Este house and consultant of the Gonzagas. Be that as it may, this splendid cream conquered French and Italian pastry making, becoming one of the basic preparations of both schools.

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How to avoid problems
The best way to do this is… to prevent them. Here are the precautions to put in place to have a velvety and soft cream, like true pastry chefs.


1 Always use the freshest ingredients
2 Follow the recipe sequence
3 The flour (or starches) goes always sifted through a very fine mesh strainer: this will prevent the formation of lumps, sworn enemies of this sweet preparation. It is not a step that can be left out!
4 Initially, to beat the eggs and mix the flour, use a whisk (electric ones are fine too but there is the risk of overdoing the whipping and incorporating air into the cream, be careful). When you start cooking, use a wooden or silicone spoon to mix it.
5 Check the cooking temperature, perhaps with the help of a cooking thermometer: the cream should never boil. Always keep it at a temperature of just over 80 ° C, but without exceeding 85 ° C. At higher temperatures, the custard will go crazy and you'll end up with… sweet scrambled eggs!
6 Never leave your custard alone: ​​once on the stove, in fact, you don't have to never stop mixing it slowly and constantly, to prevent it from sticking to the bottom and / or forming lumps.
7 The cream should always be mixed in the same verse: once you have set the direction of travel, so to speak, never change it. Mixing it constantly and always in the same direction is a crucial step!
8 Do not abandon it even after cooking: once removed from the heat, cover the custard with cling film in contact, and finally …

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The pastry chef's trick
When preparing a custard or other derived cream, it is important cool the product as quickly as possibleto slow down the proliferation of the bacterial load. As soon as it is cooked, you have to bring it to a temperature below the cooking temperature (it must drop to about 50 ° C) and cool it down to 4 ° C. Prepare a basin with water and ice and immerse the pan with the cream just removed from the heat for two thirds (if you do not have a home blast chiller). The cream does keep at 3 ° C in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Possible remedies
We seem to have followed the recipe for our cream well, the ingredients were fresh but unfortunately the result is not what we wanted. Don't be discouraged: in some cases you can try to recover your custard.
If it's too liquid, you can add a small amount of animal gelatin (isinglass) in sheets while hot, without stopping mixing.
Self has lumps, try to pass it through a sieve, spoon after spoon, without breaking its stability and creaminess; be careful to always make slow movements.
Yup is "tearing up" just? Some suggest taking it off the heat and whipping it with an immersion blender: it improves the texture but the cream will have a slightly more pronounced egg taste. Furthermore, it could disassemble a bit and therefore become too liquid.

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Quick change pastry chef
In its most basic form – which uses only egg yolks, milk, sugar, flour (or corn or rice starch) and vanilla – custard is often considered the mother of all creams. As a pastry base, it counts among its many advantages the fact that it can be revisited with a few simple touches, so as to transform before your eyes into another, different but very good, cream: here are some of the most famous derived creams from custard

Custard + Italian meringue + gelatin = Chiboust cream

Custard + whipped cream + gelatin = Diplomatic cream

Custard + whipped cream = cream Italian chantilly

Custard + butter = Mousseline cream

A lighter, flourless version that remains velvety and less dense than classic custard is known as English cream.
You can simply perfume it with a little Cognac or Marsala or, in the non-alcoholic version, with orange juice. If you want to transform the custard into a chocolate cream, add cocoa powder when you beat the egg yolks or, when it is still hot, pour in and mix in the melted dark in a bain-marie.
Now is the time to test yourself and prepare a fantastic custard, to be enjoyed in a cup with torcetti, cat's tongues or ladyfingers, or to make irresistible cannoncini, crispy rolls of stuffed phyllo dough, a scenographic cup of cream puffs with orange caramel, or St. Joseph's zeppole for Father's Day!

Francesca Tagliabue
February 2022

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Posted 08/02/2022

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Champagne is drunk on the Orient Express – Italian Cuisine

Champagne is drunk on the Orient Express


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The 5 foods of the future – Italian Cuisine

The 5 foods of the future


You want to do your part to give a future to the planet? Even when you cook? Then choose the foods that the experts of the World Economic Forum they indicated as those of the future, because they combine a high nutritional value with a low environmental impact. Many certainly already buy them and use them because they are traditional, like lentils or spinach: we often take them for granted or consider them trivial, and instead the time has come to rediscover them and increase their consumption. But if you're feeling a little bolder and want to be more daring on the gastronomy front, you can try a few "planet-friendly" ingredients which are less well known and more unusual. At least with us, since in other parts of the planet they are very familiar. But for some time they have also been available in Italy and, in some cases, are also produced on the national territory. here are the 5 foods of the future to discover in the present.

1 Algae: the queens of transformism
I'm a vegetable "carbon negative"Because they ensure the half of all oxygen production on Earth and have a sustainable supply, because they are abundant in nature and can be grown anywhere, even in the oceans, and can also be used as base for bioplastics and biofuels. If, therefore, there is no doubt about the environmental role of algae and their potential to change the food system for the better, even the nutritional one does not rain. Algae are considered excellent source of antioxidants, vitamins and essential fatty acids. Also there are species rich in protein (And of a quality similar to those found in red meat) and with an intense flavor reminiscent of meat, of which they are a potential substitute. Therefore, there seems to be no more excuses for the fussy eaters: the time has come to try algae, discover the savory taste connoted by umami, and maybe get to consume them once a week (but not more) as the nutritionists recommend. Where to start? Why not fromkombu seaweed, which we now know thanks to its wide use in Japanese cuisine? It is rich in iodine and low in sodium, and contains a particular substance, alginic acid, which has a purifying effect on the intestine. It can be used to prepare in broth, to enrich minestrone and soups. Sold in dried leaves, flakes or powder, it is added to yogurt, smoothies, salads, soups and soups. But it is also used to make snacks, biscuits and pasta, to which it gives an unusual blue-green color. It is spirulina, the most cultivated micro algae in Italy (even organically), contains over 60% of quality proteins (because with all the essential amino acids), and then Omega 3, vitamins and minerals, including well-assimilable iron .

2 Fonio: the "new quinoa"
If you don't feel like revolutionizing your diet with unusual ingredients, you can opt for a more gradual change by diversifying yours sources of carbohydratesthe. In addition to the usual rice, wheat and corn, there are about twenty grain families to choose from. And not only to diversify the diet and try new flavors, but also to improve soil health and preserve biodiversity. Among those to try, experts indicate some known in Italy (such as amaranth and buckwheat) and others more unusual. Like fonio, with its small seeds and a delicate taste, from enjoy in salads (like couscous) or instead of spelled and quinoa. Cotto is used to prepare vegan meatballs and burgers, or, instead of bread, in fillings for vegetables and meats.
Already witnessed inAncient Egypt, today fonio is grown mainly in the arid region of the Sahel of West Africa, for its resistance to drought, for its ability to grow even in sandy or acid soils, for its fast maturation (about a couple of months is enough) and because protects the desert soil. Gluten-free and high in protein (8%), with an excellent content of minerals and fibers, and a low glycemic index, after the green light of the EU, fonio is also marketed in Europe (including Italy).

3 Mushrooms: the classics that have become four seasons
They resist climate change well, they also grow in areas and spaces "impossible" for other food products, they are very productive, have a good health value and nutritional characteristics that are important especially for vegetarians. For these reasons, mushrooms (mainly cultivated) have been included in the list of foods of the future. Available all year round, and at lower prices than wild mushrooms, are versatile in the kitchen and very practical, because those that are on the market (mostly grown in Italy) are already clean and, therefore, ready to be enjoyed raw or sautéed in a few minutes.

4 Okra: the champion of endurance
Here is a champion of resistance: this vegetable native to tropical Africa and widely used in Middle Eastern cuisine, it has shown itself capable of dealing with climate change, because it grows well even in situations of great heat or drought. And it is precisely this characteristic that makes okra so interesting in this context of global warming. This thin green pod (also called okra or lady's finger) also has a virtuous nutritional profile, because it is rich in fiber, vitamins, calcium, zinc and antioxidants (including beta-carotene and lutein) and has few calories (33 every 100 grams). The fruit can be cooked in a variety of ways (steamed, stewed, grilled, battered and stir-fried) and goes well with strong, spicy flavors and toppings. Once cooked, the seeds produce a gelatinous liquid, making them ideal for thickening soups and stews. If you love ethnic cuisine, try the Brazilian recipe of caruru, a thick paste with okra, shrimp and toasted cashews. Okra is rich in seeds which, when cooked, produce a viscous and sticky liquid, ideal for thickening soups and stews.

5 Moringa: the "superhero" of the plant world
It is often referred to as “ltree of miracles"For its exceptional qualities: in fact, it is one and three, being a vegetable, a medicine and a food. Native to the Himalayas, now widespread in India and the Philippines, it is increasingly cultivated in Asia, Africa, Central America and the Caribbean because it grows rapidly and resists drought, represents a natural windbreak and helps prevent soil erosion. In addition, every part is used: the leaves and pods as food; the leaves as a biofertilizer and the seeds to purify the water; seeds, bark, flowers and roots in traditional oriental medicine. At a food level, moringa has many virtues: its leaves, which grow abundantly all year round, are very nutritious. Once harvested and dried, they contain well the 30% protein, all the essential amino acids, and they have abundant levels of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. All well-known features in Southeast Asia, where moringa has been consumed for centuries, and which for some years have also attracted the attention of the scientific world in the West. So now foods (such as herbal teas) and supplements containing moringa are commonly found on the market. But you can also buy the jars with the dried and powdered leaves, to add to smoothies, teas and soups, and the fresh leaves, tasty in salads, soups and with eggs.

Manuela Soressi
February 2022

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