Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Caramel Budino with Sea Salt

Hang onto your calorie-counters, folks.  Better yet, hide them, because this is a take-no-prisoners decadent dessert worth blowing any diet for.  I just got back from a week with friends in Balboa that included a killer dinner at Mozza, an amazing restaurant in Newport (a month's notice for reservations at the one in L.A.).  This is the creamy wonder that capped off an already delicious evening.  I came home and couldn't wait to make it the very next day.  Perfect for company, too.
What's a Budino?  It's a creamy confection that will remind you of Flan, Creme Brulee, or maybe Panna Cotta.  Only softer, richer.  They served it in a clear tumbler; I made mine in ramekins from my Swedish friend, Marianne.  A goblet would be a great choice, too. 
The original recipe makes 10-- I cut it in half, and it would serve 5-6.  It also calls for rum, but I'm Mormon so I left it out (and it's still amazing).  All but your Sweet-Tooth friends will proclaim it too rich, but doesn't that define a fabulous dessert?  Here we go with my own variation on their Butterscotch version:

1 & 12 Cups heavy cream
3/4 Cup milk (not skim-- I used 2%)
1/2 Cup plus 1 Tablespoon dark brown sugar (I used golden brown)
1/4 Cup water
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 egg (yep, read on)
1 & 1/2 egg yolks (here you're laughing, deservedly so.  But the way to do this is to stir two, then divide accordingly)
1 & 1/2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 & 1/2 Tablespoons butter

1. In a small bowl, combine the cream and milk and set aside.
2. In a large heavy-bottomed pot, combine the brown sugar, 1/4 cup water and salt over medium-high heat. Cook to a smoking, dark caramel, about 6-8 minutes. Sugar will smell caramelized and nutty and turn a deep brown. Here it's not quite dark enough:

3. Immediately whisk the cream mixture carefully into the caramel to stop the cooking (the mixture will steam and the sugar will seize).
Bring to boiling, then reduce heat to medium.  It will look lumpy-- that's the sugar seizing.

4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolks and cornstarch. Temper the hot caramel cream into the egg mixture by adding a ladle-full of caramel at a time, whisking constantly, until half is incorporated. Pour the egg mixture back into remaining caramel, stirring constantly with a whisk until the custard is very thick and the corn starch is cooked out, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in the butter.
5.  Pour the custard through a fine mesh strainer to remove any lumps.
 Divide among  5 or 6 ramekins leaving one-half inch at the top. Cover with plastic wrap and chill several hours or up to three days.

Caramel sauce (I didn't cut this in half because I like to use LOTS of sauce):
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/8 vanilla bean, scraped (didn't have one, so I used vanilla sugar, which I did have, for the sugar)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons fleur de sel (this is a pricey, gourmet salt from France-- use any sea salt)
1/4 cup whipping cream
3/4 cup creme fraiche (didn't want to fool with making this, so I just whipped up a bunch of cream)

1. In a medium saucepan, heat the cream and vanilla over medium heat, until simmering, about three minutes. Add the butter, turn off the heat and set aside.
2. In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the corn syrup, sugar, and water. Cook over medium-high heat, swirling the pan just slightly to gauge the caramelization, until the sugar becomes a medium amber color, about 10 minutes.

3. Remove the caramel from heat, carefully whisk the cream mixture into the caramel (be very careful -- it will steam and bubble). Whisk to combine. Place the pan in a large bowl of ice water to cool.

4. In a chilled bowl with a wire whisk, beat the whipping cream until it begins to thicken. Add the creme fraiche; whip until thick and fluffy. (I just beat some cream with my electric mixer.)

5. Before serving, warm the sauce over medium heat. Spoon one tablespoon (I used two) on each budino.
Sprinkle with one-eighth teaspoon fleur de sel or sea salt.

Now add a dollop of cream topping.

We couldn't wait to dig in and then realized we don't have a finished one to show you, but you still get the idea from the last photo.  
Oh, Step #6: Graciously accept rave reviews!

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