In case you might not be aware or you live on another planet, Valentine's Day is just around the corner (next Monday). It is quite impossible to miss that event as every store, magazine, radio station, TV channel, newspaper or blog speaks about it. The brainwashing hype has already started weeks ago and if you are a non-comformist like me the "propaganda" might make you feel sick...
Although I believe in love and have nothing against celebrating this fabulous wonder of life I am not a big fan of Valentine's Day as I feel that it is an overrated, materialistic, artificial and very mercantile feast just like Christmas, New Year's Day or Mother's Day. Of course I am aware of the highly romantic origin of this festival (all around the world there are similar days honoring love), but I believe that one should express her/his love on a daily basis and not just once a year otherwise it feels kind of fake, contrived and totally unnatural.
Valentine's Day is synonymous of love, passion and commitment, but on the other side of the coin things are not all that glittery. All the unnecessary money, tears, fights, obligations, comparisons between gifts and worries. Is it really necessary? Many men feel pressurized and obliged to make this day as unforgettable as possible or else they would be severely reprimanded by their other half, so they sheepishly buy something - many times anything kitschy that is proposed in stores who are delighted by the commercial value of the 14th of February. They feel as if taking part in some kind of competition and are panicked at the idea of not living to their wive's, girlfriend's or even their mother in law's selfish expectations (which mostly are created by society) and are afraid of getting dumped, criticized and misjudged if they do something wrong. What a stress! I really feel for them...
Why make things so complicated and follow the flock when you can free yourself from such ties and live your love in a much healthier way? It is for such reasons that I have never asked to be treated like a princess on Valentine's Day and never make a big deal out of it. My boyfriend is free to remember or not this date. I know that he loves me nonetheless.
To tell you the truth we have very rarerly celebrated this day as we are unconventional people who don't believe in forced action. It would be a lie if I said that we don't enjoy being spoilt be the other or receiving gifts like anyone else, yet compared to others we don't limit that to one day of the year. Every weekend we organize charming tête-à-têtes, candlelit meals and always try to by as affectionate towards one another and show our feelings through little nothings (buying ones favorite chocolate, baking a treat, making a concession, helping the other in difficult times, being tolerant and respectful, etc...). Buying gifts is easy, yet showing real love for your partner demands more efforts.
So when I received a box full of tea samples from "Le Palais Des Thés" (go in my blogroll for a link to their store) and was lucky to discover their heavenly "Thé Des Amants (translation: Lover's Tea) I knew that I was going to indulge my dessert-needy soulmate with a delightful homemade tea-based treat that would fill his tummy with love and bring some sweetness into the evening.
It is undoubtedly one of my favorite flavored teas. It's sensual perfume is exhalirating and every wiff or sip of it uplifts your soul in the most wonderful of ways. It is a perfect blend of black tea that fits the Valentine's Day spirit very well as it is very rich, voluptuous, refined, suggestively fragrant. With it's hints of ginger, apple, almonds, cinnamon and vanilla you'll be under it's spell.
"Thé Des Amants" is such an exceptional tea and has a really amazing taste that it is impossible to just drink it, one also wants to eat it! Therefore I decided upon making a dessert that I found in my new bible "Bon Appétit Desserts: The Book Of All Things Sweet And Wonderful" and adding my own little twist to it.
I thought that it would be interesting to create individual "Tea Caramel Flans" and instead of flavoring them with vanilla I opted for a more atypical and original way of seasoning that delicacy by steeping my cream/milk mixture with a few teaspoons "Thé Des Amants" tea . An amazing idea which gave excellent results.
Those easy-to-make flans were a huge hit. They were deliciously smooth and creamy, had a subtly spicy flavor and were dazzlingly caramelly (both aromas melded incredibly well together) and looked terrific. There was only minus point though. My flans had slightly porous edges even if I was careful when whisking the custard ingredients. Even if I did my best not to beat the eggs excessively, I still ended up with tiny and unsexy holes that plagued the sides of my flans. Not a matter of life and death, but a bugger nonetheless...
Anyway my "Tea Caramel Flans" disappeared as fast as I had made them! My boyfriend found them flawless and gulped them down with much pleasure. Mission accomplished!
~ Tea-Caramel Flans ~
Recipe adapted from "Bon Appétit Desserts: The Book Of All Things Sweet And Wonderful".
Ingredients For The "Flans":
1 3/4 Cups (420ml) Double cream (35% fat)
1 Cup (240ml) Milk (no low-fat or nonfat)
1/3 Tsp Sea salt
3 1/2 Tsps Thé Des Amants by Le Palais Des Thés (link in the top of my blogroll)
3 Large Eggs
2 Large Yolks
7 Tbs Castor sugar
Ingredients for the "Caramel":
1 Cup (210g) Castor sugar
1/3 Cup (80ml) Water
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 180° C (350° F).
2. In a heavy medium pan, mix together the cream, milk and salt.
3. Over medium heat, bring to a simmer and add the tea, then remove from the heat and let steep for about 30 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, in another heavy medium pan combine 1 cup sugar and 1/3 cup water.
5. Stir over low heat until the sugar has completely dissolved.
6. Increase the heat to high and cook without stirring until the syrup turns deep amber (brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush and swirling pan occasionally), about 10 minutes.
7. Hastily pour the caramel into six 3/4-cup (180ml) ramekins or custard cups.
8. Using oven mitts as aid, immediately tilt each ramekin to coat the sides.
9. Put the ramekins into a rectangular deep baking pan and bring a medium pan of water to the boil (set aside).
10. In a medium bowl, lightly whisk together the eggs, egg yolks and 7 tbs sugar just until blended.
11. Gradually pour the cream mixture (through a sieve) into the egg mixture while continuously whisking without creating lots of foam.
12. Sieve the custard through into a Pyrex measuring cup and pour the mixture into the prepared ramekins, dividing evenly.
13. Pour enough of the hot water into the baking pan. It has to come halfway up sides of ramekins.
14. Bake for about 40 minutes until the center of the flans are gently set but still a little wobbly.
15. Transfer the flans to a rack and let cool.
16. Place in the fridge until completely cold, about 2 hours.
17. Cover with cling film and chill overnight.
18. Just before serving, run a small sharp knife around the sides of the flans, to loosen and turn over onto plate. Shake very gently in order to release the flans. Carefully lift off the ramekins, allowing the caramel syrup to run over the flans.
If you don't want to use tea, then scrape a vanilla bean into the cream mixture (step 2) and add the bean.
Don't overwhisk the eggs otherwise you'll not get a perfectly smooth edges.
I suggest that you take the caramel off the burner when it's just "medium" amber rather than dark amber (it continues to cook and darken once off the heat).
The flans can be made 2 days ahead.
Serve for dessert and garnish with pomegranate seeds or berries (strawberries, blueberries and raspberries).
~ Flans Au Caramel Et Au Thé ~
Recette adaptée du livre "Bon Appétit Desserts: The Book Of All Things Sweet And Wonderful".
Pour 6 personnes.
Ingrédients Pour Les "Flans":
420ml Crème double (35% de mat. grasse)
240ml de Lait (uniquement du lait entier à 3.5% de mat. grasse)
1/3 de CC de Sel de mer fin
3 1/2 CC de Thé Des Amants par Le Palais Des Thés (voir mon "blogroll" pour le lien)
3 Gros Oeufs
2 Gros Jaunes d'oeufs
7 CS de Sucre cristallisé
Ingrédients Pour Le "Caramel":
210g de Sucre cristallisé
1. Positionner une grille au milieu du four et préchauffer à 180° C.
2. Dans une casserole moyenne, mélanger ensemble la crème, le lait et le sel.
3. A feu moyen, porter le mélange à ébullition et ajouter le thé, puis retirer du feu et laisser tirer pendant 30 minutes.
4. Pendant ce temps, dans une autre casserole moyenne mélanger ensemble de sucre cristallisé et l'eau.
5. Cuire à feu doux et remuer constamment jusqu'à ce que le sucre soit complètement dissout.
6. Augmenter la température (haute) et faire cuire sans remuer jusqu'à ce que le sirop devienne ambré (tout en remuant délicatement la casserole pour répartir le caramel mais sans éclabousser les parois), pendant 10 minutes.
7. Verser rapidement le caramel dans 6 ramequins de 180ml chacuns.
8. En se protégeant avec des gants, immédiatement remuer les ramekins afin que le fond et les côtés soient recouverts de caramel.
9. Mettre les ramequins dans un plaque de cuisson profonde et remplir une casserole moyenne avec de l'eau, puis portez à ébullition et mettre de côté.
10. Dans un bol moyen, battre (légèrement) ensemble les oeufs, jaunes d'oeufs et 7 CS de sucre cristallisé afin d'obtenir un mélange homogène.
11. Verser graduellement le mélange à la crème (en le filtrant) dans le mélange aux oeufs tout en remuant sans créer de la mousse.
12. Filtrer l'appareil à flan et remplir les ramequins de manière égale.
13. Verser assez d'eau chaude dans la plaque de cuisson afin que l'eau arrive à mi-hauteur des moules.
14. Cuire pendant 40 minutes, jusqu'à ce que le centre des flans soit ferme, mais toujours tremblotant.
15. Transférer les flans sur une grille afin qu'ils refroidissent.
16. Les mettre au frigo jusqu'à ce qu'ils soient complètement refroidis, pendant 2 heures.
17. Couvrir les pots avec du film plastique et laisser au frigo tout une nuit.
18. Juste avant de servir, libérer les bords avec une couteau pointu et renverser délicatement sur une assiette. Secouer très légèrement afin que les flans se libèrent. Retirer les ramequ ins et lasser le caramel couler sur les flans.
Si vous ne voulez pas utiliser du thé pour parfumer vos flans, alors ajoutez une gousse de vanille ouverte et raclée au mélange à la crème (point 2).
Ne battez pas les oeufs trop énergétiquement autrement vous n'obtiendrez pas des bor ds lisses.
Je vous recommande de retirer complètement le caramel du feu lorsqu'il est moyennement ambré et non quand il est trop sombre (il continuent à cuire et à brunir hors du feu).
Les flans peuvent être préparés 2 jours à l'avance.
Idées de présentation:
Servir pour le dessert et garnir avec des graines de grenade ou des baies (fraises, myrtilles ou framboises).