The Creme Brulee Experiment

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Here’s a helpful kitchen tip: If you’re going to make something new, read the recipe all the way to the bottom.

My friend Emily asked me to join her in making crème brulee. No reason, no occasion, just a ‘why not’ weekday activity. I conveniently had a crème brulee kit sitting on my shelf that I purchased years ago, but never used. The ramekins came in handy on a few occasions, but I never got to use the blow torch (Which was really the whole point of buying it in the first place.)

I joined her the other day and we set out on our experiment. Since she got the recipe and invited me over, I figured she knew what we were supposed to do. I write a food blog, so she assumed I knew what we were supposed to do. This was our first mistake.

We were pouring our warm custard mixture into the ramekins when Em asked when we were supposed to add the sugar that was sitting on her counter. I checked the page. It was in the very beginning. Oops. Mistake #2.

We did salvage that mixture and tried it after it was baked (it was still awesome, no worries there), but ended up starting from scratch just to have something to compare it to. At this point I decided anything goes, so I added a chopped Reese’s cup to one of the ramekins to see what would happen. (That was one success, hooray!)

Next, we went on to prepare a water bath and nearly singed our fingers off with boiling water (Mistake #3. Ouch.) before coming up with a safer way to execute this step (see below in the instructions).

As our little experiment was in the oven and we salivated at the chance to set fire to them and dig in, I read a little further. “Chill for at least 8 hours before serving…what?!” It was already late afternoon, and we wanted to share them with our hubbys for that evening’s dessert. That was mistake #4.

When I returned home, I stuck my spoon in to one of the ramekins before placing it in the fridge. I mean, it was fully cooked so I knew there was no reason not to. Delicious! Honestly, I could’ve just stopped there and called it an egg custard (and if I was having guests over that night and ran out of time,  I probably would’ve done just that!)

Instead, I waited a whole other day. Like a kid on their birthday when they know a gift is there, but they can’t open it yet.

Last night it was finally time to use my new toy. Let’s be honest, even if you’re not a fan of crème brulee, who doesn’t want to light something on fire?!

Hubby and I went out for dinner, came home around 10:30, and were ready to caramelize the custards. I took my torch out of the box, looked at the instructions for the first time and discovered that it doesn’t come with the lighter fluid. Mistake #5.

It was too late in the evening for any stores to be open and I certainly didn’t want to wait a whole other night to eat this.  So, I improvised. A little sugar on top and a few minutes under my oven’s broiler seemed to do the trick.

I browned that sugary coating and let it sit for another 45 minutes in the fridge (okay, maybe it wasn’t a full 45 minutes…) and then came time to dig in.

Hubby and I gently knocked the tip of our spoon onto the hardened, caramelized exterior and broke through to the sweet, creamy center. It was still warm which made the peanut butter and chocolate extra melty. Absolutely divine. The Reese’s cup addition? Oh. My. Gosh. Clearly, that was not a mistake at all.

Ingredients:

2 cups heavy cream

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

8 large egg yolks

Sugar in the raw

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 250° and pour sugar into egg yolks. Beat until smooth.

Heat the heavy cream until almost simmering (you can bring to a simmer and let it cool a minute).

Add heavy cream to the egg yolks one tablespoon at a time while stirring vigorously. This will temper the eggs so as to not curdle them (or make scrambled eggs) when exposed to the heat of the heavy cream.

When about 1/4 cup of heavy cream has been integrated into the yolks, pour the yolks into the heavy cream and mix until smooth.

Now, using a fine mesh sieve, strain the custard mixture to remove any small clumps that may remain in the mixture. This step will help ensure a silky texture to the custard.

Blend in the vanilla extract after the mixture has been strained and pour into ramekins. The recipe says it makes a little more than eight four-ounce creme brulees. We doubled the recipe, but used two different sizes.

Boil water and place the ramekins in a baking pan. Pour boiling water into the pan so that the water level is halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Be careful not to get water into the custards.  I found a good trick was to add the boiling water using a measuring cup rather than dumping it from a heavy, hot pot. This will save you from burning yourself or splashing it into the ramekins.

Bake for about one hour, then check to see if the custards are done. They should be set on the outside edge, but jiggly (like jello) in the center. If only the center jiggles a little, it’s done. If the whole thing is set, remove immediately – It may be a little over done, but still tastes great. If it’s not done, put it back in the water bath and check again in ten minutes. Once the custards are set, let them cool until room temperature.

Wrap the ramekins in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least eight hours before serving.

About an hour before serving, remove the plastic wrap from each ramekin and use a paper towel to gently soak up any moisture that may have extruded from the custard tops. Pour about a teaspoon of “sugar in the raw” in the middle of each custard. I used 1/2 teaspoon of regular sugar which seemed to work just fine.

Tilt the ramekin and gently shake to let gravity move the sugar around until the top surface of the custard is covered evenly with sugar.

If using a kitchen butane torch, heat the sugar until it bubbles and changes color. If using your oven, place under the broiler until the top becomes darker, but not burnt.

Once you’re done scorching your cream, place the ramekins back in the refrigerator for about 45 minutes. The caramel will still be hard, but if you wait too much longer, the sugar will start to soften and dissolve into the custard. (Don’t worry, I didn’t wait too long to taste it!)

Eat and enjoy all your hard work!

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3 Comments

  1. good tips! sometimes i don’t read the whole recipe before starting and realize half way through that i’m missing something important. your creme brulee looks delicious! i find the hardest part of making it is all the waiting.

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