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Using a microwave rather than a bain marie

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 
I'm editing a cookbook written by some chefs from upscale restaurants, and trying to make the recipes accessible to the home cook. I want to give the home cooks some choices:

A) You can do THIS way, the professionals' way, and it will take a fair bit of time and skill, but will be superb. (Entrees with three sauces, say.)

B) If you're short on time and energy, you can do it THIS way. It won't turn out as well, but it will be acceptable. (Entree with one sauce.)

There are quite a few recipes for creme brulees and flans, all of which require a bain marie. I'm wondering if it would be OK to tell the home cook to steam them in a microwave as a shortcut. I'm a lazy cook and I usually make my bread puddings and suchlike in the microwave. I don't want to bother with firing up the oven and improvising a bain marie.

Is the texture of a flan cooked in a bain marie incomparably superior to the same flan cooked under plastic wrap in a microwave? Does the very thought of microwaving flan make you shudder in horror? Or would a microwaved flan be acceptable for a simple daily meal? Please advise.
post #2 of 4
Shudder in horror. Sorry.

The nuker is the antithesis of a bain marie which promotes gentle even cooking and a silky texture. I can't imagine obtaining the same results with the microwave. Call me a food snob but I'd probably not buy a book that would recommend it either.
post #3 of 4
Is a microwave OK for flans and cremes? Short answer, no.

First, your understanding of the process is wrong. The water bath does not steam the flan or the creme. Moisture qua moisture is not important. Rather, the bain marie, retards the cook at the bottom and edges, preventing the protein stands in the eggs and dairy from heating so quickly they curdle. AKA scrambled eggs. The bath also helps retard a Maillard reaction on the top -- keeping it lighter colored and less tough. It also promotes a silky texture.

A microwave is not a bread pudding. The presence of starch in a custard -- and in the case of a bread pud, quite a lot of starch -- coats the egg and milk proteins so they do not curdle. Some custards and cremes, cheesecake for instance, include flour in their ingredients to prevent curdling and cracking.

However, there's one sure way to find out. Since this is your very own original idea, I suggest you try it. If it works, try to perfect it. That's what cookbook editors are for. D@mn the Rules.

post #4 of 4
Thread Starter 
Thanks ever so much! Not only do I learn that my idea won't work, but I learn WHY it won't work, which is even more useful. So THAT's why my microwave bread puddings come out OK.

Wow! I'm so happy! You're so kind!
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