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Recipe File: Creme Brulee (Crme Brle)
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Joined: 10 May 2005
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 27, 2005 4:50 am    Post subject: Recipe File: Creme Brulee (Crme Brle) Reply with quote


Article Digest:
This is one "fancy" dessert that you can make ahead of time (I did this batch while watching TV) with a minimum of effort and still have all your guests excited about your culinary skills. Creme brulee should start with a custard base that is richer, creamier, and silkier than other cremes (creme anglaise, creme caramel, flan, etc.). On top of that custard should be a layer of caramelized sugar. This sugar can thick or thin. A thick layer is usually produced by caramelizing sugar in a pot and pouring the liquid caramel over the custard. Thin layers (some as thin as paper) are produced by directly heating a sugar layer using a broiler or torch. I make my creme brulee with a torch and turbinado sugar.

The ingredients needed are (clockwise from top) 2 cups heavy cream, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 8 large egg yolks, and 1/2 cup sugar.
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First pour the sugar into the egg yolks.
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Beat the yolks until smooth.
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Heat the heavy cream until almost simmering (you can bring to a simmer and let cool a minute). Add heavy cream to the egg yolks on 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.
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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.
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Now, use a fine mesh sieve and strain the custard mixture to remove and small clumps that may remain the mixture. This step will help ensure a silky texture to the custard. Blend in the vanilla extract after the mixture has been strained.
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Pour the mixture into six to eight ramekins depending on size. (Makes a little more than eight four ounce creme brulees.) In the picture below, I filled six four ounce ramekins and two six ounce ramekins (the six ouncers were not full).
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Place the ramekins in a baking pan. Pour boiling water into the pan (be careful not to get water into the ramekins), so that the water level is halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cooking the custards in a water bath will provide a low even temperature for the custards to cook evenly and set properly. Place in an oven preheated to 250F for about one hour.
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After an hour, check to see if the custards are done. We want them to be set on the outside edge, but jiggly (like jello) at the center. The easiest way to do this is to take a pair of tongs with food grade rubber bands wrapped around the ends to help grip the ramekins. Pick up a ramekin and shake to see if the centers jiggle. If the only the center jiggles a little, it's done. If the whole thing is set, remove immediately - it'll be a little over done, but still delicious. If it's not done, just put it back in the water bath and check again in ten minutes. Once the custards are done, let them cool on a cooling rack to room temperature. This will let the custards finish cooking the centers on their own.
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Wrap 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 be extruded from the custard tops. Pour about a teaspoon of turbinado (sugar in the raw) sugar in the middle of each custard. Gently tilt the ramekin and let gravity and gently shaking move the sugar around until the top surface of the custard is covered evenly with turbinado sugar. Using a kitchen butane torch, propane blow torch, or welding torch (whatever strong open flame you've got lying around), heat the sugar until it bubbles and changes color. With a small butane torch, I take my time and don't move from one side of the creme brulee to the other until the spot I've been working on has achieved the brown color that I want. This takes a little over a minute for each creme brulee. (The process is faster with a larger torch.) Don't worry about heating up the custard underneath, we'll refrigerate the creme brulee for a bit before serving. Do worry about lighting your kitchen counter on fire. I usually place the ramekin on a piece of aluminum foil placed over a cooling rack.

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.

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Crème Brûlée (serves eight)
Preheat oven to 250F (120C)
8 large (135 g) egg yolksmixtemper and mixstrainmixbake 250F (120C) 1 hr. in water bathrefrigerate 8 hourscaramelize
1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
2 cups (475 mL) heavy creamheat until almost simmering
1/2 tsp. (2.5 mL) vanilla extract
1 tsp. (4 g) turbinado sugar
Copyright Michael Chu 2004
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 27, 2005 4:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very cool. Up to this point I only knew how to hard-boil eggs and prepare macaroni and cheese. This seems simple, straightforward and impressive.
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 27, 2005 4:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Let's say one didn't have a torch available. Any workarounds?
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Eric
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 27, 2005 4:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

An old baker's trick for handling hot ramekins is to take a bowl of ice water, dip your finger tips in the bowl for about 10 seconds then simply pick up the hot bowl with you hands. Trust me it works and it impresses the crowd, but don't try it with metal (if you're an engineer reading this, I shouldn't have to explain why).
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gizmo
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 27, 2005 4:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's best to use wide, shallow ramekins that you can fill nearly to the top. This allows you to maximize the surface area to volume ratio -- more of that yummy crunchy top -- and to melt the sugar all the way to the edge. If the ramekins aren't full, you'll end up with a ring of pale custard around the edge because the heat will find somewhere else to go.
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 27, 2005 4:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Workaround for blowtorch and more:

Workaround for no blowtorch is an oven with a BBQ-setting. It should work with both gas ovens and electrical ovens that haven open heating coils. Put the oven into BBQ-setting, for electrical ovens, wait until the coils are glowing red. Place your cremes directly under the BBQ-heat-source as close as it gets (you want maximum heat - the quicker the operation goes, the better, you do *not* want to heat the custard too much). It is also crucial to leave the oven door ajar the whole time to prevent general heating of oven and, by extent, custard.

Another creme-brulee-thing: In Belgium, where poeple cook more or less like in france, you go about caramelizing the sugar and refrigerating in the opposite order. You first cool the custard without the sugar. Immediately prior to serving - you can actually do this at the table - pour the sugar over the custard (brown sugar works best) - and caramelize. The sugar is then served sizzling hot, while the custard underneath is mostly cool. The top layer of custard may get a bit warm. So much better! Also, be generous about the sugar. You want a complete layer of caramelized sugar to break through.

Another tip: Add a small amount of Grand Marnier and/or orange shavings (is that the word for bits of paring?) to the custard. Only very littleYou want enough to enhance the taste, but you don not want to actually taste the orange. Very good, and you can call it creme brulee a l'orange (more french words = good).
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Michael Chu



Joined: 10 May 2005
Posts: 1631
Location: Austin, TX (USA)

PostPosted: Thu Oct 27, 2005 4:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It should be noted that under the oven broiler the caramel crust that you get is probably going to be thicker than using a torch. A third method is to actually caramelize sugar in a pot and pour a thin layer over the custard. This forms the thickest layer of the three methods, but many enjoy the novelty (especially if you don't have a broiler or torch).

I've updated the recipe summary to include the refrigeration of the custard and the brulee step.
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JohnLenton
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 27, 2005 4:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"About an hour serving," should probably read "About an hour before serving,"
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 27, 2005 4:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

> orange shavings (is that the word for bits of paring?)

it's called 'orange zest'
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Ben FrantzDale
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 27, 2005 4:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

People have asked about torches. You can pick up a standard household propane torch at Home Depot for $12 for a torch and about $3 for a fuel canister. At that price, there is no excuse for an engineer not to own one. They are just so much fun. What I don't understand is why little "creme brule torches" cost $20 to $40. Given the price/performance of a household propane torch, what's the point of the little ones?
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Michael Chu



Joined: 10 May 2005
Posts: 1631
Location: Austin, TX (USA)

PostPosted: Thu Oct 27, 2005 4:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The big torches work faster too. I got my little torch as a gift... I think that's what they are good for - giving as gifts. I use the little one because it's compact and takes up very little space in my kitchen.
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 27, 2005 4:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What about using small bits of plum as a bed for the Creme Brulee?...
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libabo
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 27, 2005 5:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

there is also a way of not caramelixing it at all, instead making a syrup sauce and putting it to teh dishes before adding the custard. when serving put the brule upside down on a small plate and voil!
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Michael Chu



Joined: 10 May 2005
Posts: 1631
Location: Austin, TX (USA)

PostPosted: Thu Oct 27, 2005 5:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

re: creme brulee without caramelization

The problem with not caramelizing the creme brulee is that you haven't made creme brulee. In french, creme brulee literally translates as "burnt cream". Without the caramelization, you simply have a custard. A custard sitting on a syrup sauce is creme caramel or a flan - both of which usually you bake with a caramel base in the ramekin which liquifies byt he time the custard is set and forms a syrupy sauce that coats the custard after it's been removed from the mold/ramekin. An awesome dessert, but not creme brulee...
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 27, 2005 5:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

one should never, ever use vanilla extract when making creme brulee. it flavors the custard with a slightly alcohol residue.

instead use vanilla pods. after bringing the sugar and cream mixture to a boil, take it off the heat and scrape the beans out of 1 vanilla pod, add the pod as well and let steep for 15 minutes. remove the pod and continue with the rest of the recipe.

the difference in flavor is incredible. i have nothing against using vanilla extract in cakes, cookies, etc. but in something as sublime as creme brulee, where the flavor of the vanilla really shines through - only real pods will do.
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