This delicate mousse from Chef Cristina combines crema, an Italian dessert cream and whipped cream. Top it with anything; cookies, chocolate or peaches.
Today is a big day. It is marked by my daughter’s nose stuck against the window, waiting for the mail truck to stop at the box at the end of our driveway. Today is the day Sophie finds out who her fourth grade teacher will be.
As I contemplate her excitement, I have to admit that while I’m going to miss my little buddy dreadfully once she heads back to school, I’m thrilled that her leaving the house will put an end to what’s drifting out to me from the room she’s in right now; the overly-enthusiastic British narration of Stampy Longnose as he guides his avid YouTube watchers through the current world-de-jour.
If your child plays Minecraft, you know who I’m talking about. Stampy is a young man with a very penetrating, very animated voice, who has created a YouTube business going through his own and other folks’ Minecraft worlds. His followers are in the tens of thousands. He’s launched line after line of products, from clothes to books to stuffed toys.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to ask Sophie to turn down the volume or put on headphones over the past two months. I try to push through it, I really do, but eventually that twitch shows up in my eye and I know I’ve reached my breaking point and the boy’s gotta go.
This week, however, I’m not saying a word. As my girl listens to Stampy launch into building a radio station, I’m not saying a word. It’s her last week, after all.
Instead, I’m having dessert for breakfast with my coffee. And it’s really good.
While the Italian word crema is used to describe the thin layer froth on the top a perfect cup of espresso, it can also be used for the Italian cream sauce that is used to fill pastries, as in this case. Crema Cristina is named such for Chef Cristina Bilioti, the creator of this decadent, delicious version that combines crema with whipped cream.
To make it, I needed a saucepan and my stand mixer. I love a dessert with easy clean-up.
Even though I still get a bit nervous when dealing with cream sauces that need to be heated, I forged ahead with this one because it seemed pretty easy. All I had to do was whisk together the yolks, sugar, flour, zest and milk; separately and slowly.
The trick, and what I think made this just about fail-proof, was in warming the milk before adding it to the other ingredients. It introduced heat to the egg yolks gradually so they didn’t scramble, but incorporated perfectly into the crema.
Once I put the pan on the stove, it was a simple matter of whisking continuously while the sauce heated and thickened (it took about 5 minutes).
I poured my crema into a bowl, and to make sure that a film wouldn’t form on top, put my plastic wrap directly on the sauce after it cooled a bit. Then I refrigerated it until chilled.
When ready, I whipped up my heavy cream in the stand mixer and folded it into the crema. Topped with some sliced, mascerated peaches, my dessert was ready.
My, oh my. Yup, this one’s a keeper. It’s light, it’s refreshing (thanks to the hint of lemon), and it’s delicious. While I chose peaches for my topping, I could have just as easily used berries, chocolate, cookies or any combination of those and it would have been just as fantastic.
Others thought so as well. I shared the dessert with several friends and they all had the classic ‘eyes-roll-back-in-the-head’ reaction, complete with moans of happiness. Not only would I serve this crema as a dessert on its own merits, I would definitely use it to fill any number of pastries. It’s so versatile.
It’s a keeper.
What I’d Do Different Next Time
Maybe add a teaspoon of vanilla.
- 4 egg yolks
- 8 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 4 tablespoons flour
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 2 cups milk, warmed to about 110F
- 2 cups heavy cream, whipped
- 4 medium peaches or nectarines, sliced
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- In a small pan, whip yolks with sugar until well combined. Add flour and whisk some more. Add zest and fold in. Add milk, a half cup at a time, whisking as it's added.
- Put the pan over medium heat, whisking continuously until the sauce thickens.
- When thickened, transfer to a glass bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until chilled.
- Meanwhile, combined the sliced fruit with the sugar and stir to combine.
- Fold the whipped cream into the chilled cream by adding ⅓ of the whipped cream at a time.
- Alternating fruit and crema, layer each into four glasses, finishing with the fruit.
Much as I hate to do it, it’s time to leave Italy and put away this issue of Tastes of Italia. I still have almost a dozen tabs sticking out the top, so there’s a chance I’ll return to the publication in the future. Or, maybe I’ll just wait for the next one.