Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Créme Brulée

For Christmas my mother in law gave me the most delightful creme brulee set.  It contains a cookbook with loads of creme brulee variations, four ceramic serving dishes, and--get this--my very own torch.  I was so psyched to try it out and despite the fact that our weekend dinner plans with friends were cancelled, I twisted my arm and made it anyway.  Some things you just have to find the will to do, no matter how hard.  :-)

Also, I loved the challenge of making an authentic French recipe from an authentic French cookbook.  My husband translated bits and pieces of the instructions, and I used an online measurement converter to switch centiliters to cups and tablespoons.  It was sort of like a puzzle but much better because at the end was a really lovely dessert that was the perfect combination of sweet and creamy.

Oh yes, and the torch was a challenge too because I had to track down a can of propane to fill the empty torch canister (which looked exactly like a clear plastic Bic lighter).  I won't lie and say the torch worked like a charm the first time I tried it.  I definitely had to play around with it a bit and because of it's small size, it took several minutes to brown the top of just one creme brulee dish.  Alan fiddled with it and was able to increase the torch power somehow and that seemed to help, but it wasn't like I simply turned on the torch and 10 seconds later it was golden brown.  I suppose this made putting the puzzle together that much more interesting.

It was my first go at making creme brulee from scratch, and I was not the least bit disappointed.  It's a very simple but elegant dessert (even if it is overplayed sometimes) that provides the most perfect ending to a meal.

Classic Creme Brulee
Translated From Crémes Brulées by José Maréchal

1.5c heavy cream
1/2c milk (I used 2 percent)
scant 5T sugar
4 egg yolks
1 whole vanilla bean
generous 4T raw sugar (for the tops)

1.  Slice vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape seeds into a saucepan with the milk.  Heat seeds, pod, and milk until hot but not boiling.

2.  Using a whisk or hand mixer combine sugar with egg yolks and beat until pale.

3.  Incorporate the cold cream into the egg and sugar mix.  Mix well.

4.  Remove the vanilla pod from the hot milk; slowly add the vanilla milk to the cream mixture.  Stir well to combine.

5.  Set bowl in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

6.  Set oven at 200F or 95C.

7.  Pour cream mix evenly into ramekins or creme brulee dishes (the low and shallow kind).  I was able to get four creme brulee dishes and one ramekin nearly full of mix.

8.  Bake for 1.5 hours.  Remove from oven and let cool on the counter before placing in the refrigerator.

9.  When it's time to serve, sprinkle raw sugar on top of each dish and torch each until caramelized and light to medium brown.  By the way, even if you don't have the means to torch the tops, the dessert is still heavenly on its own without the crispy sugar coating.  Don't let the lack of a torch stop you from making it.

Makes 4-6 dishes of creme brulee.  Keeps in refrigerator up to three days.

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