The burnt cream.

 

Alright. So Creme brulee(I won’t burden you with the accent aigu, grave or circuflex’s- you want a dessert not a lesson in Windows alt codes) is the stereotypical French dish. If you go to Disney’s international food festival at Epcot you’ll have a chance to get escargots and some brulee. While such things cheapen a simply wonderful dish it doesn’t mean it ruins it for the rest of us.

I am astonished how few people have actually had creme brulee. Everyone knows what it is, and that there is firepower involved in the production somewhere in the process. If you do know what it is, and have enjoyed it I hope you know how marvelous it is. A crunchy layer of deliciously charcoaled sugar hiding a delicate thickened cream hinted with vanilla. If you haven’t had it now is your chance. I will lay out the recipe as simply as I can. High-falutin terms won’t help here, nor will unnecessarily complex techniques. Lets burn some cream.

Ingredients are so very, very simple. Now, I cook for one so this recipe will make 3 to 4 ramekins of creme brulee, which is quite a lot for one but I am a fatty who loves his desserts. Feel free to double this if you want to feed a family of four. You need:

  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar. Put half of that aside until the end.
  • Vanilla in any form. If you want to go crazy and get a vanilla bean be my guest, but here in Wesley Chapel a single bean is an investment equal to the cost of all the other ingredients needed combined. I stuck with extract. At least get real  vanilla extract, not imitation.

Gather a medium saucepan, mixing bowl and a oven-safe dish capable of holding however many ramekins you will be using. I apparently no longer have any such dish, so I used two pie ands and a loaf pan. Don’t know what a ramekin is? Don’t fret. Any oven(and fire) safe dish will work. Any unpainted ceramic, corningware, or bakin dish will do just fine. My initial experiment with creme brulee used a muffin tin. Here is my part list minus ramekins:

That’s it.

Lets get cooking. Put the cream in your saucepan. I like to slowly bring the cream up to temp- starting on medium low for a few minutes and then up to medium/medium high, stirring occasionally. Your cream will need to come to a boil. If you use too much heat too quickly you will have a boil over pretty quickly. Low and slow my friends.

Now wait 5 minutes. Check facebook,pour over reddit, juggle chainsaws- I’ll wait. The cream will take longer to boil than your next step I promise and having some eggs and sugar chilling in a bowl on your counter is a great way to get salmonella (cantaloupe gives you listeria, what?). Welcome back, now time to separate your eggs. If you were on a cooking show you could separate the eggs just passing your egg in between the two halves of your perfectly cracked egg. Instead I crack the egg and run the mess through my fingers which allow enough room for the egg whites to pass through with some convincing leaving the yolk still gently in my hand. Have a bowl underneath ready for the whites, another small down for the shells, and the yolks go directly into your mixing bowl. Do that for all three eggs. At this time your cream should be coming to a boil. Shut off the heat and add a third of an ounce of vanilla extract, stir it in. Put a lid on it and set it aside. It needs to rest for ~15 minutes.

Whisk the eggs together for a moment, then add a small amount of that 1/4 cup sugar. Whisk gently until all the sugar disappears. Repeat until all the sugar is in the bowl, then beat the mixture like you are a meth head with Parkinson’s(fervently) for about 30 seconds. The eggs will lighten in color. Set aside momentarily. If your tap water gets quite hot skip this next part- put a small saucepan of just water on the stove on high. If you water boils you took longer than I did for this next step- you just need hot water, not scalding.

Turn your oven on to 325. Back to the eggs. If it has been 15 minutes since you took the cream off the stove you are ready to go. You are now going to temper the cream into the eggs so that you don’t end up with cream and scrambled eggs. Take a small amount of the cream (half a ladle if you are using one)  and slowly pour it into the eggs while whisking. If as a kid you were able to pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time you should have no problem doing this. If you are like me you will look…silly. Keep whisking and add a ladle of cream at a time until it is fully incorporated.

Dose the liquid into your ramekins equally. Go get your hot water off the stove, or tap and fill whatever dish you have ready for the oven 1/3rd full. Gently place the hot ramekins in the hot water(using silicon tipped tongs works wonders here) and put the whole lot in your stove for ~40-45 minutes. You are looking for the edges of the mixture to stiffen slightly while the centers are still jiggly at the end. Shaking your pan will tell you all you need to know.

45ish minutes are up. Time to chill your creme yet to be brulee’d. I made up an Alton Brown inspired rig to cool my ramekins. We are about to put 300 degree cream and ceramic in a fridge- raising the temperature significantly. I added some ice to a large tupperware and a little paper towel in hopes that I wouldn’t raise a 36 degree temp fridge to the 41+ danger zone. Let it cool like this for at least 2 hours.

You can keep the creme refrigerated for up to… a week in my experience without any ill effect. When you are ready to serve remove from it’s chilly confines and let it rest for about 30 minutes. Now comes the brulee’ing. I use a propane torch which if it were used properly is used to melt solder for plumbing copper pipes. It’s amazing how many things in a hardware store can be used to cook. Butane brulee torches are sold at your local Target if you cannot raid your garage, and are more reliable so I am told. Using the sugar you reseved earlier (I added a little vanilla extract to that to add something) generously coat your creme. Now in a well ventilated place that won’t catch on fire- such as the grate of your outside grill turn on your burner and apply direct heat. I work about 6 inches away to start and come closer and closer in concentric circles. The suger will begin to bubble, keep going. It will start turning caramel, keep going. It will start to rise and what seems like mini volcanoes of molten sugar will start appearing and erupting, stop. The sugar should be decidedly burt and gurgle down to an erratic pattern of caramel color and bubbly burns. This will take you more than one ramekin to get it down, without fail. I prefer mine on the side of nearly all burn and not so much caramel, so you may want to just experiment.

Not my best looking example- but it is so wonderfully burnt and creamy.

Now if you don’t mind I’m going to hop away from the computer and enjoy a new book, a swinging hammock and some creme brulee.

Posted: July 30th, 2012
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