Crémeux Three Ways with Pastry Chef Chris Ford

By Niko Triantafillou


Niko Triantafillou
 Crémeux Three Ways: Custard, Whipped, and Creamy
Crémeux Three Ways: Custard, Whipped, and Creamy

Pastry chefs looking to elevate their dessert aesthetics should be familiar with the stunning creations of Chris Ford, executive pastry chef of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. If not, take a gander here and get inspired.

At this year’s International Chefs Congress, Ford made the case that while good looks are important, it's what's inside that counts. Let’s review the techniques for three different kinds of velvety smooth, dreamy crémeux that Ford demonstrated for workshop attendees.

Right, but What Is Crémeux?
Crémeux literally means “creamy” in French. Ford likens it to a well executed pudding. It’s fuller and smoother than a mousse but lacks the heavily aerated structure typical of most mousses. Many entremet recipes call for one or more crémeux components alongside a traditional mousse.

Ford says that crémeux is not just for entremets and is equally suitable for plated desserts or simply casting in a dish. In other words, it’s versatile. “Crémeux is the blank canvas that lets you transform [your dessert] into exactly what you want it to be. It’s the perfect marriage between stabilized cream from the agar agar and fat,” says Ford. 

Crémeux Three Ways: Custard, Whipped, and Creamy
For his demo, Ford created three different types of crémeux, each with slightly different characteristics, and then put them together in jaw-dropping fashion on top of a Neapolitan tart. 

Custard Crémeux
This form has all the best characteristics of the custard family with that smooth as silk texture, but also able to hold its shape. Great for a stand-alone, plated dessert.

Whipped Crémeux
As you would expect, the whipped (raspberry, in this case) crémeux is much lighter than the custard-style or creamy iterations. Ideal for entremets and as a plated dessert component, you can keep a container of unmolded [whipped crémeux] domes or inserts in the freezer for about 2 weeks and use them as needed.

Creamy Creameux
Ford gushes over this particular version of crémeux made with Valrhona 63% Illanka.“It’s creamy but has a little bit of a bitter finish, and I lean a little bit towards the bitter.” It’s very similar to a mousse but denser and less airy. 

Ford’s Crémeux Tips:
When using an immersion blender, avoid introducing any additional air into the mix. Submerge the head of the blender while tilting the container with your ingredients to the side, then firmly tap the blender a few times to release any air trapped under the head. Similarly, when emulsifying the butter, be careful not to lift the blender head out of the mixture and then back into your mixture.

When a recipe calls for “shearing in” agar agar or gelatin, the goal is “slow, even disbursement to activate the gelatin or agar agar.” Whisking your mix continuously will prevent the gelatin from settling at the bottom of the bowl. 

When using gelatin, Ford recommends blooming your gelatin right before you use it, because the longer it soaks the more water will be incorporated into your recipe.

When using agar agar, pay close attention to the recipe’s boiling time. If you under boil it, you’ll have a very Jell-O-like product. If you over boil it, you’ll have something harder and more solid. Thirty to 40 seconds is a good boiling time. Ford likens this process to making caramel, “you really want to see this step through; you don’t want to walk away here.”

When blending in your fats (butter, cream, etc.) do so slowly. For example, don’t add your butter all at once. Add in a small amount, allow it to evenly disperse, then add more.

When making the creamy recipe, resist the temptation to use the immersion blender right away when straining the hot cream mixture into the chocolate. Allow the chocolate and cream to sit and emulsify on their own for 30 seconds before stirring with a spatula and then finish the blending with an immersion blender.

Lastly, pay attention to temperature. When emulsifying cold whipped cream into recently boiled ingredients, make sure to bring the temperature of your hot ingredients down to 130ºF before folding in. Otherwise, you’ll ruin the whipped cream (cue sad trombone!). 

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