Crème Brûlée

What is a Crème Brûlée? A rich custard made with egg yolks, sugar, cream and flavouring. It is usually finished with a thin piece of torched sugar at the top of the custard (the Brûlée). A hallmark of a great crème brûlée is that the custard remains cold even after torching. It should also have a well-defined flavour, and a crisp crackly top: you should be able to hear the the sugar shards crack as you dig into the sugar crust with a spoon. The custard should be light and silky, with a rich cream and caramel flavour. Like anything else, it comes down to temperature, taste, and texture.

Ingredients:

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 26g sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 200g cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla paste (or other flavouring/extract)
  • additional sugar to torch

Tools Required:

  • whisk/spatula
  • small pot
  • strainer
  • 2 standard size ramekins
  • small roasting pan
  • small torch (or broiler)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300°F.
  2. In a small pot, heat up cream (if you are infusing flavouring, otherwise you can omit this step).
  3. In a stainless steel bowl, whisk egg yolks with sugar and salt.
  4. Once the cream is cooled, slowly whisk the cream into the egg yolk mixture. Be mindful not to incorporate too many air bubbles.
  5. Stir in vanilla paste (or other flavouring).
  6. Pour custard base into ramekin dishes.
  7. Fill roasting pan with boiled water, two-thirds of the way to the top. Place the filled ramekins in the pan.
  8. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.
  9. After 30 minutes, check the custard. When ready, remove ramekins from roasting pan and allow them to cool to room temperature. Wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  10. When ready to serve, sprinkle sugar on top and brulee with a torch (or use the broiler in your oven).

Variations:

  • reduce the sugar in the custard and make it savoury
  • cold brew the cream with coffee grinds for a coffee creme brulee
  • add citrus flavours by adding zest
  • add a flower essence/oil (camomile, rose, violet) Note: be very conservative – a few drops will do!
  • infuse the cream with (e.g., earl grey, jasmine, green tea)
  • infuse the cream with herbs (e.g. mint, …)

FAQs, Tips, Troubleshooting:

  • Why do we heat the cream? Heating the cream does two things: 1) it dissolves the sugar faster 2) you are able to infuse the flavouring such as fresh herbs and spices (but not necessary)
  • For better flavour, make the mixture a night before and let it sit in the fridge to mature overnight
  • To remove air bubbles, you can 1) let the mixture sit in the fridge overnight 2) pour the mixture through a very small strainer to knock out some of the air bubbles 3) slightly heat the surface with the torch
  • The size of the container that the custard is in will dictate the amount of time needed for the custard to cook
  • If the custard overcooks, it will lose its silky texture and become curdled.
  • You can test for doneness by observing the jiggle of the custard, however if this not scientific enough for you… know that egg yolks coagulate at 70°C/ 158°F, so you can also use an instant read thermometer to test for doneness.
  • Don’t make the layer of sugar too thick or it will not colour evenly or create a thin crust of caramel
  • For a faster and more evenly browned sugar crust, you can caramelize the sugar ahead of time and grind it into a fine powder before topping the custard (this will require just a quick torch to re-melt on top).
  • On temperature: The temperature I used was 300°F, but you can try using anywhere between 280-300°F. In test temperatures of 325°F, the custards puffed and browned slightly.
  • On cooking custards with a water bath (aka bain-marie): Cooking in a water bath means that the heat will increase in a steady rate. Since the oven is a set at a relative low temperature, it’s easy to prevent the custards from being overcooked this way. With the addition of a water bath, water and custard should be at the same height in the pan so that the water can do its job properly.
  • On sugar crust: The best approach is a small propane/ butane torch that you can find at the hardware store.

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