Flan-tastic!

This week I moved from “beginner” level French desserts to “intermediate” level French desserts. I have these in quotation marks because I’m not sure if the flan was supposed to go into the intermediate section or not!

First – I need to clarify. I made a Gâteau Millasson, or, Gascon-Style Flan.  Classic French flans are like custard pies, making them similar to crème brûlée and the custard in the mille-feuilles.  However, there are many, many different types of flan.  There are also many arguments on the internet about the differences between types of flan. Each country/region also has variations and different names as well.   usual, I narrowed down the recipes I wanted to use.  I decided to go with this one, from

To start my very own flan, I narrowed down the recipes I wanted to use.  I decided to go with this one, from Saveur.  I also found a video, which used almost the exact same recipe.

As you can see, it is relatively simple to make and is the first dessert where I don’t have to separate the egg yolks from the whites! I decided to use Snapchat to document my dessert skills this week, since that was the topic of our readings. I added all my snaps of the process in My Story on the app, then saved the resulting video and later uploaded it to youtube.

If someone wanted to try a snap story for their project, I would reccomend changing the display time for each picture. My video works, but it’s a little slow! (Except for the last picture, which is way too fast! Trial and error, guys.)

Final Verdict: Kind of Gross

I’m pretty sure that this turned out how it was supposed to. All the pictures that I’ve seen on the internet are similar to what was created. However, I did not enjoy this dessert at all.  There’s no great was to describe this, but it definitely tasted weird, like a cake that wasn’t cooked or maybe jello that was cooked for some reason?

Has anyone ever had this type of flan before? I’ve never tried it before making it, so I can’t be 100% sure that I made it correctly, but if I did, I don’t think I’ll be making it again!

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Crème Brûlée

This week I was able to finally make one of my favourite desserts to get in a restaurant, crème brûlée.  I originally planned to do this dessert earlier in my project, since it seems like a simple recipe, but when I explained my project to my sister, I was told I needed to make it when she was in town.

She’s currently in Edmonton, getting her MSc in Speech-Language Pathology and she would be coming back home for the February break, so I had to wait until this week to make the dessert. Luckily for me, I listened to her and waited until Valentine’s Day to start making the crème brûlée.

Valentine's Crème Brûlée! How fitting!
Valentine’s Crème Brûlée! How fitting!

Photo Credit: katrina.alana via Compfight cc

To prepare, I went through my normal recipes that I collected on Pinterest. I had three good recipes to choose from – Chef in Training’s recipe, Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice’s recipe and Cooking Classy’s recipe.  All three were pretty similar. I wanted to make a classic crème brûlée and all of these recipes were very standard.

In a crème brûlée, you need heavy cream, sugar, egg yolks and vanilla. The only thing that differed in the recipes were the amounts of each item. I waffled for a while, trying to decide which recipe to go with. When I searched for “how to make the perfect crème brûlée” or “how many eggs should go in a crème brûlée?” I got articles like these, which detailed the perfect ratio of cream to eggs, or debated the amounts of different ingredients by making a bunch of different recipes.

Finally, while thinking my plan over and slightly procrastinating, I noticed on Facebook that one of my friends had liked another Tasty video. (I mentioned these videos in my first post about my Learning Project and even attempted to recreate a Tasty video with my first recipe – a “no recipe chocolate cake.”) The video the friend had liked was a time lapse of a crème brûlée! And it was posted just a few days before I made my own version! Hurrah!

Needless to say, I decided to go with the recipe from the video.  The article gave me the measurements.

  • 4 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup in mixture and 1/2 cup for crust

A simple recipe, and one that I can redo if it doesn’t go well. I bought double the number of ingredients, just in case.  (I figured if this recipe didn’t go well, I would try another recipe from my online search.)

Here’s the video that led to me picking this recipe.

I followed the directions exactly, which were not difficult to follow. I heated the cream and the vanilla, then combined it with the egg yolk and sugar. The mixture went into ramekins. The ramekins went into a pan, it was half filled with water and then the whole thing went into the oven for 50 minutes.

When I pulled the custard out of the oven at the 50-minute mark, I was a little worried.  The recipe called for the mixture to be “set, but still a little jiggly in the middle.” It was still really jiggly, so I quickly searched for a youtube clip to show me if I was doing it correctly and I found this:

He describes the process really well, so I was a little less worried. By the time they had cooled and came out of the fridge for the sugar/burning part, they were perfectly set!

I put a small amount of sugar on the tops of each of the ramekins and burnt it with a torch that I got as a wedding present.  At the end, it looked really good!

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My own crème brûlée

Final Verdict: AMAZING!

My parents were also in town, so I served the crème brûlée for dessert and everyone really liked it. My sister even posted an artsy shot on Instagram. It turned out really well, maybe still slightly too runny, but that could be easily fixed if I were to make it again but leaving it in the oven for a minute or two longer.

Another bit of good news: my parents live on a farm and brought me a bunch of eggs for the rest of my project. I’m finding out that I use so many eggs for each recipe, I hope I have enough now!

All the eggs!
All the eggs!

Spotify? More like Not-ify.

The past couple of weeks I’ve been facilitating a cool project in the 7/8 Arts Ed class that I teach. Or, what I thought was a cool project.

Let me back up – we were working on the music strand in the Arts Ed curriculum. We had talked about different musical elements and we did a little research about them. I took what we had learned and made a Kahoot as a mid-way check-in of sorts.  Then, I introduced the bigger project, which was creating a playlist to tell a story.  They could tell me any story they wanted to – from books or movies or their own creative story.  They had to include pieces of what we had learned about musical elements in curating their playlist.

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Photo Credit: swanksalot via Compfight cc

I gave them time at school to work on the project and a suggestion of where they could create the playlist. I mentioned that I didn’t want a document full of links to click on to listen to each playlist – I suggested creating one on Spotify.

This is where the project started to fail in my students’ eyes. They were not “down” with using Spotify.  They complained about using it every time I saw them. But, as they are always online – 92% of them are online daily (although those statistics are for teenagers 13 – 17 and the 7/8’s I teach are 12-13 years old) I asked them what would be a better option?

There was no better option.  Most of them used YouTube to listen to individual songs.  Some of them were upset about the recent switch from Songza to Google Play.  One Grade 8 student said that she wouldn’t use Google Play just because they took away Songza from her. So both of those options were out. I suggested 8track as well, but none of the students chose that option. Every time they complained about using Spotify I asked – what else could you use? They would shrug and continue using Spotify.

So I started to ask why they didn’t like using Spotify.  They couldn’t give me any concrete reasons, so I started thinking about it myself. Students are leaving social media platforms because of the permanency and because of the “old people.” So, was it because I (a 26-year-old teacher) had suggested the app/website that the kids in the class didn’t like it?  Was it the age of my students? In early years classrooms, most of the kids are immediately engaged and excited when technology is used.

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Photo Credit: Caden Crawford via Compfight cc

But, alas, I teach middle years Arts Ed, instead of early years Arts Ed and they will continue to confuse me for the rest of the year (and probably for the rest of time). At any rate, they turned in their playlists and will continue to listen to music on Youtube. And we will continue on in Arts Ed. I get to see their sweet dance moves after the break.

Inspecting the Internet

Thanks to my learning project, I’ve been thinking a lot about the information available online lately.  In particular, the abundance of information that is available at our finger tips.

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Photo Credit: Bernardo Ramonfaur via Compfight cc

There is so much content online, in so many different forms.

There are 300 hours of YouTube footage uploaded every minute.

There are 75 million posts on Instagram a day.

There are 1.5 billion loops on Vine a day.

And these are just a few of the social media platforms that people generate content on. Facebook, Twitter have even more information and opinions to sift through.  Blogs also contribute to this online schmozzle.

Our reading for this week focused on why blogging matters and how to start to curate your own little section of the internet.

When reading Kay Oddone’s Digital Content Curation piece, I enjoyed her tie into Joyce Seitzinger’s When Educators Become Curators.  I enjoyed the different types of curators teachers can be.  At one point or another, I’m sure that I’ve been a couple of these types of curators.  And if not, I’ve definitely interacted with them either online or in person.

While all of the different types of curators are frustrating, I think that the National Enquirer type of curator is one with the most potential to do harm.  Since there is so much available online, it is very important to be discriminate when selecting content.  I find this type of curator is very common, especially if they are not reading the content that they are sharing.

Following this train of thought, I then proceeded to think about strategies to avoid pitfalls in being a curator, or in teaching kids how to curate content.  One thing that is important to know is how to find the truth online.

In this video, Markham Nolan speaks to how journalists have to sift through the multitude of information in order to determine fact from fiction.  He talks about using the free tools available online to see if videos or pictures are telling an accurate story.  This is something that we can teach our students.  Maybe they don’t have to corroborate a news story, but the ability to discern the correct information is and what is real on the internet is a skill that students will definitely need.  Teaching students these skills can maybe prevent others from believing online hoaxes or satire.

I’m not sure if each time students go on the internet, they need to be searching for truth, but if they are learning how to be learners, they also need to be able to decide and evaluate their own content. If the goal is for our students to be able to curate on their own, we need to provide them with the skills, tips and tricks to be able to curate responsibly.

Mille-Feuille

This week I crossed another classic French dessert off of my list – Napoleons or Mille-Feuille.  This dessert was on my list – one of the ‘easy’ desserts.

Before I started baking, I researched the history of the Mille-Feuille. It is a classic French dessert, but I found out that it has many different variations and names in many different cultures.

For example, in French culture, the dessert is called Mille-Feuille (which translates to Thousand Leaves) or Napoleons.  In Australia, it’s called a custard slice. In England a vanilla slice.  A lot of these variations are similar but are still quite different.

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Photo Credit: MadPole via Compfight cc

Again, what I’m finding when I research the desserts that I want to make is that there is SO much information to sift through.  There are so many tips, tricks and recipes that it’s hard to determine fact from fiction.

Luckily, one strategy is to compare to other publications or facts. I found three recipes to compare: Classic French Napoleons, Mille-Feuilles and Classic French Napoleons (Mille-Feuilles).  All three recipes are very similar. I decided to go with the last recipe – I liked how detailed the instructions were.

I made the Mille-Feuille according to the recipe.  I used store bought puff pastry, like the recipe called for.  Apparently, store bought puff pastry will save your sanity when making these things, which I was in favour of!

Just like the chocolate mousse recipe, this one called for separating eggs again.  I have a feeling by the end of this project, even if I’m not an expert in French cooking, I might become an expert on separating eggs!

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I made the custard first since it needed to chill for at least two hours in the fridge.  I feel like I’ve been overcooking the egg mixtures.  The custard is supposed to be thick – according to one of the websites I read, the thicker it is, the nicer the pictures are! But, mine turned into jello – while still spreadable, was just too thick to be correct.

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While the custard was cooling in the fridge, I made the puff pastry.  It had to be flattened, cut up, baked and then cooled as well.

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I had to make sure it was the right size – forgive my tape measure! (How do food bloggers do it? I’ve never seen a kitchen measuring tape!)

The third step was making the glaze and putting it on one of the cooled puff pastries

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The fourth and final step was assembly: Lots of custard on one of the puff pastry, stacking the other on top, more custard and the final glazed pastry on top!

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Final Verdict: Pretty Good!

My husband rated this even higher, saying it was like “a really good toaster strudel.” The custard wasn’t the right consistency, but that didn’t affect the taste. The whole thing was also very tall – which might mean that I let the puff pastry rise too much. But, again, it still tasted pretty good! Success!

Chocolate Mousse

This is the first of the French desserts that I have decided to learn to make for my learning project.  I chose Chocolate Mousse to try out first since it was one of my three “easiest” from my previous post.

To start, I found a recipe on Pinterest.  This always takes much longer than necessary, since there are so many variations of different recipes. Did I want to make a vegan chocolate mousse? Or an easy chocolate mousse? What about a good-for-your-sweet-tooth-but-contains-like-no-calories-because-of-your-diet chocolate mousse?  Or perhaps a classic Julia Child recipe?

I wound up pinning four recipes to my Pinterest board.  The first two were variations on the “Easy Chocolate Mousse” theme.  The first was from Will Cook for Smiles baking blog and the other was on Powered by Mom.  Both of these recipes called for whipping cream, which to me, sounded wrong.

I checked with Wikipedia and found out that mousse can be made with whipped egg whites or with whipped cream.  Since the goal of this project is to gain new skills, I decided to go for the harder recipes, calling for whipped egg whites.

The two harder recipes were both very useful to me in creating my own chocolate mousse. The first, from Sprinkle Bakes, had many different pictures documenting the process of creating the mousse.  I would have used that recipe since the pictures were so helpful, but the recipe wasn’t posted on the blog. I decided to use the recipe I found on Made with Pink since the process sounded similar.

To start, I gathered all my ingredients.

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This picture is very deceptive. Since there weren’t a lot of ingredients, I thought that this recipe would be a lot easier than it actually was.

I started out by measuring out all of my ingredients.  Whenever I make a recipe that calls for measurements other than cups, I usually turn to google and convert the recipe.  Then, I separated the eggs white and the yolks.  Although I have seen videos like this:

My mom taught me to separate the egg using the shell like so:

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I proceeded to follow all the steps in the directions, melting the chocolate, butter and coffee in a double boiler.  I then combined the egg yolks, sugar, rum and water and cooked those in a double boiler as well.

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The next part was my favourite. The recipe called for the egg mixture to be cooled quickly in an ice bath.

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The third part of the recipe called for whipping the egg whites into “soft peaks.” I have heard of hard peaks before, but not soft. I searched for a guide and found one that described it well.

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When the egg whites were ready, they needed to be folded into the chocolate mixture.  I needed to learn how to fold egg whites into the batter on the fly! I quickly googled “fold egg whites” and clicked on the videos tab. This was the first video that popped up!

Here is what my folding looked like:

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I then took my finished mixture and filled up my ramekins, a wedding gift that I have yet to use (although, with my plans for this project, I will probably use them again soon!)

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Final verdict: Just okay

The mousse turned out okay and was definitely edible. The recipe called for a 1/4 cup of coffee and I thought that it was way too strong.  My husband loved it, but I thought it was too dense. For a dessert that it supposed to be “light and airy” I must have done something wrong!

From a search after the fact, I found that there are a whole bunch of variables that could have affected the mousse. I could have whipped the egg whites too long, or the chocolate could have been too warm. Or, I could have folded/stirred the mixture too many times.

For my next dessert, I plan to search for “what could go wrong” beforehand and see how many issues I can prevent!