Friday, March 30, 2012

Crème Brûlée

You know how sometimes you manage to learn 99 ways how not to make something? Welcome to Amanda vs Crème Brûlée. Sounds easy right? 5 ingredients, a little time and a blow torch...In the past four days I have heard 101 ways to make the perfect Crème Brûlée and none of them have produced perfect results yet, but let me tell you, I am getting very very close.

Lets talk about eggs and science. Crème Brûlée, being a cream and egg custard, is very temperamental. When heating the cream, notice that only half of the sugar is incorporated. The other half is whipped into the egg yolks before tempering. This is like a seat belt for the yolks for when the hot cream is added, lessening the chances of them curdling. But do not add the sugar to the yolks too early! Add this right before tempering as sugar is hydroscopic and will suck the moisture out of the eggs, leaving a layer of hard yolk on the surface.

Justin's Crème Brûlée

If the eggs are not tempered properly in the beginning, they will scramble and give the dessert a sulfur taste and smell, as well as an undesirable texture. Once they are placed in the oven, there is another chance of overcooking, resulting in, in extreme cases scrambled eggs, or brûlées with oil droplets on the surface. The first should be discarded while the latter is still delicious, it will just take some finesse to brûlée, as egg proteins brown before sugar.
Here are a few tricks I have learned so far that will help you get closer to the perfect crème brûlée:
  1. Do not scramble the eggs when tempering them.
  2. Portion them out to the exact level that you want, they will not rise. They won't shrink, so aim accordingly.
  3. Blowtorch the bubbles out. Yeap, take that blowtorch to the top of each little dish before baking so that all of the bubbles come to surface and pop. This makes for a perfectly smooth top.
  4. Watch them! Close! They go from perfectly custardy to overcooked in a flash. That is not to say that you cant eat them if they are a tad over. Unless you cook them over by 15 minutes, they will not be scrambled, instead the eggs begin to squeeze out all of their oil, which float to the surface, making brûlée-ing way more complicated.
  5. Cool them to room temperature, then refrigerate them until cold.
  6. Dab the tops dry with paper towels until dry. Any excess moisture will cause the sugar to burn.
  7. The sugar varies with the doneness of the crème brûlée. If you happened to overcook them, which is evident by tiny oil drops on the surface of the brûlée when you take them out of the oven, use coarse sugar, like Sugar in the Raw. If they are perfect, do a happy dance, and use Superfine Sugar. Note: this is not powdered sugar.
  8. Don't hold the torch too close to the crème brûlée, and don't keep it in one spot. Keep it moving!
So, after all that, lets get to the recipe!

Crème Brûlée
Yield: 4ea

1 1/5c Heavy Cream
2c Sugar
1 ea Vanilla Bean
3 ea Egg Yolks
1 Tbsp Bourbon

  • In a stainless steel pot, combine the cream, vanilla and 1/2 of the sugar. Bring to a simmer.
  • Whip the egg yolks with the remaining sugar.
  • Add about 1/3 of the hot liquid at a time to yolks, whipping constantly.
  • Once all of the liquid has been incorporated, add the bourbon.
  • Strain the mix through a sieve and portion into ramekins.
  • Bake at 300 degrees, in a water bath, until they jiggle like jello pudding. They will look under done, that is okay, it means they are correct. They firm as they cool.

  • Remove from the water bath and cool to room temperature.
  • Refrigerate for at least two hours.
  • Sprinkle the tops with sugar. Superfine, granulated or Sugar in the Raw. If you have overcooked your brûlée, aim for a coarser sugar.
  • Light up your torch and brûlée until golden brown.
  • Devour.

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