Sunday, April 17, 2011

Crème brûlée

We've been on a custard-kick lately. For my older daughter's birthday a few weeks ago, she requested that I make a layered pound cake with strawberries as her birthday cake. We decided that the cake needed more than just sliced strawberries in between the layers, so I made a thick vanilla pastry cream and set the strawberries in that in between the cake layers. Wow, was it ever good!

May daughter was impressed with homemade stove-top vanilla custard and we've been looking through various recipes lately. She decided that she really wanted me to make us all crèmes brûlées as a treat, and using this as justification to buy a mini blowtorch, I said "Sure thing!"

The torch was a bit of an odyssey in itself. I didn't read the box carefully enough, so I didn't realize that the butane canister was sold separately. Naturally, by the time I had made this discovery, I was already in my flannel lounging-around-home clothes and was in no mood to get dressed again and haul us all back out into the pouring rain. I did eventually, though, and then was faced with figuring out how exactly to fill the torch; long story short: I filled it, it worked, it was delicious, and everyone was happy, The End.

Crème brûlée

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 yolks
  • turbinado sugar (Sugar in the Raw is one brand)

  1. Preheat the oven to 325.
  2. Place the cream in a heavy saucepan. Slice the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Place the seeds and the bean into the cream and scald over medium-high heat until it almost boils. Remove from heat and let steep 15 minutes.
  3. Beat the 1/4 cup sugar with 3 eggs yolks until light yellow and smooth.
  4. Place a fine-meshed strainer over the egg-sugar mixture and carefully strain a bit of the warmed cream mixture to the eggs, whisking constantly. Gradually pour in the rest of the cream mixture, stirring well.
  5. Divide the mixture between four 4 oz. ramekins.* Place the ramekins into roasting dishes or even cake pans and pour hot water (near-boiling) into the pans about halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
  6. Bake in a preheated oven until the custard has set, but still jiggles slightly in the center, about 40 minutes.
  7. Remove and immediately cool on wire racks until cool. You can refrigerate them if you like.
  8. When you are ready to serve them, check that the tops of the custards are dry. You can blot them with a paper towel to get rid of any condensation. Then coat the tops of the custards with turbinado sugar and, using your handy-dandy mini blowtorch (see right), to melt the sugar until it turns browns and hardens into a lovely caramelized crust.

    This video gives a good demonstration of how to do it:

  9. Then I'd say serve immediately :)

  • This was my first time with the brûlée aspect; I've made this type of custard cooked in a water bath before, but my first time with a blow torch. After looking at the video (which I only saw today for the first time) I think perhaps I'll scorch the sugar more next time. I was wary of turning the sugar into an inedible, burnt-solid black mass. Don't get me wrong, even lightly-torched, it still was an amazing dessert.
  • * Yeah, this recipe made way more than could be filled into four 4 oz. ramekins, but then I did not fill them all the way to the top because I was afraid that they may flow over. I had enough left over for about 2 more 4 oz. ramekins (I filled two 8 oz. ramekins halfway), so I'm not sure exactly what's going on there. I am always very careful about my measurements - "Measure twice, dump once" is my motto - lol So, just be aware that you may need an extra ramekin hanging about just in case.

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