Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Clafouti - Fig and Ginger

I am in desperate need of some comfort food. My new grandson, Aaron, had trouble breathing last night. Luckily he was still in the NeoNatal nursery at Flinders Hospital. He was five weeks early and only 5 pounds. He's off the ventilator now but it was a huge worry for a while.

He has been doing really well but last night things went haywire. The doctors say he will be fine, they aren't sure what caused the problem so he may not be going home this weekend like planned. To top that off I have the flu and although I really want to go to the hospital I don't want to give Aaron or any one else my bugs so I am staying home.

Therefore I am really in dire need of comfort food. I had some figs that I bought at the Farmers Market on the weekend and they need to be used. I decided to team them with my long term love of Baked Custard in any form.
Creme Caramels, Pannacotta, Bread and Butter Pudding, Custard Tarts and of course Clafouti.
Clafouti is a baked custard type of dessert, traditionally it is made with cherries. You can substitute nearly any fruit for the cherries. My standard recipe is always successful with whatever fruit I have on hand and a complimentary spice. Figs and ginger, apples and cinnamon, plums and cloves you get the idea.

1 cup milk
1/3 cup of full fat cream
3 tablespoons plain flour
3 tablespoons caster sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla paste

Beat all these ingredients together.

For my fig and ginger version I cut 6 figs in half and put them in a buttered baking dish and added 1 teaspoon dried ginger into the egg/milk mixture.

Pour this over the figs.

Put into a 160° C oven bake for 60 minutes or until it sets, start to check it after 40 minutes.

The clafouti is done when a metal knife inserted off center comes out clean or if you'd like another way to test it, hold the edge of the dish with a cloth and give a gentle shake. If the center couple of centimeters wobble just a bit you can remove it from the oven. The very center still may not be quite done, but the heat retained in the mixture will continue to cook it after removal from the oven.

Making a baked custard, either a clafouti or any other, can go wrong. Overcooking or heating it too quickly before the mixture starts to thicken can mean that you have a watery result even when you have added the starch.
Flour helps to stabilise egg proteins but you still need to take some care. If you are cooking a custard on the stove top adding the starch will help to ensure it doesn't curdle.
Baked custard mixtures are different, even with the flour added they can overcook and you end up with the watery bits.
The best way to avoid that is too cook it in a bain-marie. Simply put a bigger baking dish in the oven and put your dish of uncooked custard in it. Then pour hot tap water around the custard dish until it is 1/2 to 2/3's of the way up the dish. This is a simple safegaurd that you don't really need to do with a clafouti unless you are worried and you can do it anyway. A clafouti will sometimes have a little moisture around the fruit, that comes from the fruit rather than the egg.

As to why this happens Harold McGee says the different proteins in the albumen of eggs coagulate at temperatures ranging from 141.8° to 183.2°F (61° to 84°C); just a few degrees difference in cooking temperature will greatly affect just how much the egg white solidifies. While Ovotransferrin begins to set at 140°F/60C, it only comprises 12% of egg white. The major protein of egg white, ovalbumin, makes up 54% of the white and doesn't coagulate until the temperature reaches 80 °C. The yolk begins to thicken around 65 °C and sets around 70 °C.
The yolk proteins begin to thicken at 65 °C and set at 70 °C. Further heating to around 80-90 °C produces the crumbly texture typical of hard boiled eggs. (McGee, Science of Cooking, pp 85).
Egg White Components:

Egg white contains approximately 40 different proteins. Below is a list of major proteins found in egg white by percentage, along with their natural functions.

Ovalbumin 54% Nourishment; blocks digestive enzymes--Begins to set at 180°F/80C
Ovotransferrin 12% Binds iron -- Begins to set at 140°F/60C
Ovomucoid 11% Blocks digestive enzymes
Globulins 8% Plugs defects in membranes, shell
Lysozyme 3.5% Enzyme that digests bacterial cell walls
Ovomucin 1.5% Thickens egg white; inhibits viruses
Avidin .06% Binds vitamin (biotin)
Others 10% Bind vitamins, block digestive enzymes.

Egg Yolk Components:
The two major yolk proteins are lipovitellin (LV) and phosvitin (PV) --(HDL). Lipovitellin is one of the two lipoproteins contained in hen's egg yolk and comprises about one sixth of the yolk solid.

Egg Yolk Composition:
Egg yolk is a complex mixture composed of granule and a water soluble fraction, plasma. Each fraction contains a lipoprotein as the main constituent. Granules contain mainly 70% high density lipoprotein (HDL), 16% phosvitin and 12% low-density lipoprotein (LDL). Plasma is composed of 85% LDL and 15% livetin.
Proteins (16.4%):
Water (48-50%)
Lipids (32 to 34%)
plasma : livetin & LDL (protein content ) triglycerol (66%) phospholipid (28%) including lecithin (has remarkable emulsifying ability) cholesterol (3%, or 250 mg)
granular fraction: phosvitin (16%, carrier of Fe), lipovitellins (70%) & LDL (12%) Note: The color of yolk depends on the presence of carotenoids. xanthophylls not carotene (Lutein and zeaxanthin)

Protein molecules are made up of many strands. In raw egg the protein strands are bound little bundles. The bundles are separate from each other and light passes between them, that's why raw egg whites are transparent.
Coagulation: When eggs are heated, the protein in the white and yolk starts to coagulate. This means that the liquid egg becomes firmer. As heating continues the egg eventually becomes solid.
Eggs coagulate at (as measured with an Instant Read Thermometer):
Whites: 70 degrees C 140 degrees F
Yolks: 75 degrees C 150 degrees F

When heated the proteins being to unwind and unstick from one another. As they do so, the bonds begin to wave around and the loose protein strands run into each other and stick to each other. Then they mass together into something like a spider web. This web is doesn't have the spaces that let light pass through and that is is why cooked eggs whites are white. The web also traps moisture, which is why eggs cooked to just the right point are moist and tender.

If you keep cooking the eggs too long, though, the protein strands dissolve and let the liquid out. That’s why if you over cook a custard (which is thickened with eggs) the custard gives off liquid.

So all you have to do is keep a close watch on your custard until you know how your oven works and cook the custard until just set and not overcooked.
Take care not to have the oven to hot. 180 degrees is to hot. In a fan forced oven lower the temperature by another 10 degrees.

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