Friday, October 14, 2011
When Hubs and I go out for dinner, I almost always order dessert. Shocking, right? But most of the time I can't get Hubby to help me eat it. Unless....it's creme brulee. If creme brulee is on the table, you better get your spoon in there before it gets inhaled by he who shall not be named. I think it's pretty safe to say it's Hubbies favorite dessert to order out. Honestly, I think it's the only dessert he orders out. So when I planned the menu for our Mystery Dinner this past weekend, I knew creme brulee would be our dessert.
I didn't realize how easy creme brulee was to make. Though it's easy, you have to build in time for baking, cooling and chilling in the frigde. I'm not always good at reading a recipe through and factoring all these little details in. But thankfully, we started the creme brulee first and had enough time for our dessert to be ready by the time we finished eating dinner.
So when Hubs and I got married 9 years ago, one of the fun kitchen gadgets we got for our wedding was a kitchen torch. It's been sitting, unused, in it's original box for 9 years. Pretty sad. I think I was a little afraid of it. Turns out torching stuff is fun. Ok, torching sugar is fun. I haven't torched anything else....yet. If you don't have a kitchen torch, I hear you can caramelize the sugar under the broiler. Though I also hear it's more difficult to get the desired affect.
This recipe is another example of how a few simple ingredients can turn into a fabulous dish. The best part is the spoon making that first crack through the browned glassy sugar surface. Then you find the light, creamy vanilla custard lying beneath. Delicious!
Creme brulee has very impressive flavors especially since there are only 4 basic ingredients. Sugar, egg yolks, vanilla and heavy cream. The creme brulee starts on the stove top by heating the cream and sugar until scalding, but not not boiling. You slowly stream in the hot cream mixture into the egg yolks to "temper" the eggs or bring them up to temperature so that the hot liquid doesn't scramble the eggs. Stir in vanilla and pour the liquid through a mesh strainer to catch any bits that may have formed, ensuring you have a silky smooth mixture. Pour the custard into ramekins and bake for 45 in a water bath. Cool and then refrigerate to set. The recipe recommends allowing at least 6 hours to make the creme brulee, but we only had about 3 1/2 and it was just fine. I halved the recipe and ended up with six 4 oz portions. I have noted the halved version of the recipe below.
Now, go buy yourself a kitchen torch!
adapted from Sarabeth's Bakery From My Hands to Yours
For the custard:
1 pint heavy cream
1/4 cup superfine sugar
4 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
For the topping:
1/8 cup packed light brown sugar
1/8 cup superfine sugar
Allow at least 4 - 6 hours of prep and cook time before you want to serve your creme brulee. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Whisk egg yolks in a medium heat proof bowl and set aside near your stove. Combine cream and sugar in a heavy bottomed small sauce pan. Bring the cream to barely a simmer, without boiling. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup ladle the hot cream mixture and drizzle it slowly into the egg yolks. Repeat 3 or 4 times and then combine remaining mixture and eggs together and whisk until fully incorporated. Whisk in the vanilla. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a large liquid measuring cup or a bowl with a pour spout. Divide the mixture evenly amongst six 4 oz ramekins. Skim off any bubbles from the surface with a small spoon.
Place the ramekins in a 9x13 baking dish or shallow roasting pan. Place the roasting pan in the oven and pull out the rack and pour hot tap into the pan so that the water comes up half way up the sides of the ramekins. Do not get water in the custard. (I like to add the water once the baking dish is in the oven because I don't want to balance a heavy dish filled with hot water as I move it from the counter to the stove). Bake for about 45 minutes or until custards are set. The custard will move as one solid unit with a small center section that may look uncooked. Carefully remove the ramekins from the water bath and place on a wire rack to cool. Allow to cool about 45 minutes and cover each ramekin with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator to fully set. Refrigerate for 4 hours or over night.
Make topping mixture by combining the brown and superfine sugars. Press them through a fine mesh sieve into a small bowl. Remove custards from the refrigerator and remove plastic wrap. Sprinkle sugar on top of the custards between 1/16 and 1/8 inch thick. Fire up your kitchen torch and slowly caramelize the sugar, holding the torch 3-4 inches from the custard's surface. Torch until you reach the desired sugar caramelization. Garnish with fresh berries and serve.