No matter what the weather is, most of us somehow find a way to find fault, grumble and whine about it. It’s always either too hot, too cold, too sunny, too windy, too wet, too sticky. And I admit, I am usually a prime suspect for such behaviour; in the winter I moan about how I can never get warm enough and then come December and the Sydney summer descends on us and I complain about how insufferably hot it is.
The weather has always been a talking point, a conversation starter I guess, and why should it be different on this blog. You have probably heard me complain several times about how cold and wet it has been the past few months and I bet you’re sick of it. Well before you leave, I should mention that this time I have nothing to complain about. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Sydney’s weather today was as perfect as the proverbial postcard.
But before winter is all done and dusted, I thought I would make her one last meal to send her off in style before she makes her way up into the northern hemisphere. For me, there are certain words that epitomises winter, and no they aren't “cold” or “snow”. One word is curry, then there is pudding, and the other is custard. Quintessential Sydney winter, I think, starts and ends with one or perhaps even all of these words and I know that my winter is never complete without them.
I think it’s quite obvious why these are considered, well by me anyway, winter fodder. They pretty much are equivalent to having a furnace in your belly; they are classic winter warmers, full of fatty goodness. And if you are somewhat inclined to having yourself a little bit of fatty goodness (in wintertime), well let me introduce you to this maple crème flan.
Now, if you aren’t inclined to having yourself a little bit of fatty goodness then don’t be disheartened, it’s rich but it’s not heart attack inducing. It’s more likely to give you a toothache or a sugar rush than anything else.
I love the smoothness of custard, especially baked custards like flans and crème brulee. They are like the suave, debonair cousins of the crème anglaise. This flan, I warn can get a bit too sweet, and I wouldn’t even be opposed to reducing the amount of maple syrup in the future. But saccharine overindulgence aside, the flan does have a depth of flavour that you can't get with simple sugar. It's the the lushness of the maple syrup that gives this flan that depth.
When you overturn the wobbly custard onto a plate you will smell with giddy excitement the scent of pure maple syrup, cream and eggs coming together to produce something so ethereally good, it’s almost criminal. But to stray from harping on with one superlative after another, all I can say is that this flan is good, it’s great in fact. But moderation is the key.
I used buerre bosc pears, which you might be familiar with from a few posts ago. They are the best looking pears out right now with their beautiful brown russeted peel and their spongy but firm flesh. They are perfect for poaching and if you accidentally leave them too long to overripe, then it’s all the more reason to poach them.
These pears might seem like the supporting act for this maple custard but it's to the contrary. The pears serve a purpose, in that it cuts out a lot of the flans cloying sweetness. Whoever made this recipe must have known how potent the sweetness of maple can be, and if you have second thoughts about including the pear then think again. The pear becomes a welcome companion after a few spoonfuls of the custard.
Well, you might remember I attended their soiree last year but they having another one this year! Ivonne and Lis are hosting another round of La Festa Al Fresco. This custard with the glazed buerre bosc pears are what I am contributing to the shindig and what I am offering up as a last hoorah for the end of the winter season here in the southern hemisphere. Soon enough we will be saying hello to spring!
This is a feast of everything fresh and in season whatever hemisphere you are from, so go and check out what everyone else has cooked up after the 3rd of September and meanwhile, here is the recipe for the maple creme flans.
Maple Crème Flan with Maple-Glazed Pears
NOTE: It is recommended that you start making the custard one day before serving.
FOR THE FLAN
¾ cup pure maple syrup
3½ cups whipping cream
7 large egg yolks
a pinch of salt
½ cup sugar
¼ cup water
½ teaspoon maple syrup
FOR THE PEARS
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 ripe Bartlett pears, unpeeled, quartered, cored
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
MAKING THE FLAN
Simmer maple syrup in heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat until reduced to ½-cup, about 7 minutes.
Stir in cream; return to simmer.
Whisk egg yolks in large bowl to blend.
Gradually whisk in hot cream mixture.
Whisk in salt.
Strain custard into another large bowl.
Cover and chill until cold, at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.
Preheat oven to 150°C.
Stir sugar, water, and maple syrup in heavy medium saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves.
Increase heat and boil without stirring until syrup is deep amber colour, occasionally brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush and swirling pan, about 6 minutes.
Pour syrup into 10 rectangular, 10 x 5cm ceramic dishes, tilting pan carefully to coat sides. Let stand 10 minutes.
Pour custard into pan with syrup.
Place all the dishes in large roasting pan.
Add enough hot water to roasting pan to come halfway up sides of loaf pan.
Cover roasting pan with foil and pierce foil all over with fork.
Bake flan 1 hour 45 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 170°C in the last 45 minutes of baking. Uncover and bake until flan is set around edges but center moves slightly when pan is gently shaken.
Remove flan from water. Transfer to rack; cool to room temperature.
Cover and refrigerate overnight.
MAKING THE PEARS
Preheat oven to 180°C.
Melt butter in heavy large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat.
Arrange pears, 1 cut side down, in skillet. Cook until brown, about 4 minutes.
Turn onto second cut side and cook until brown, about 4 minutes longer.
Stir in maple syrup; bring to boil.
Place in oven and bake until pears are tender, about 25 minutes.
Using slotted spoon, transfer pears to plate.
Run sharp knife around edge of flan to loosen.
Invert flan onto platter. Surround with pears and sauce.
NOTE: You can have the flan warm of slightly chilled. If you are serving them chilled, then simply heat the bottom of the dishes with some boiling hot water to looses then syru at the bottom to make for easier unmoulding.