Saturday, April 30, 2011

Easy and Creamy Creme Brulee

We had two families over last night for an outdoor cookout. It was another relaxing evening after another busy week! We served up grilled chicken, garlic mashed potatoes, cornbread, coleslaw, green and waxed beans, and corn-on-the-cob. For dessert, I made peach struesel tarletts and crème brulee. I’ll share the recipe for the tartletts in another post. Today, I thought I’d focus on the crème brulee.

The recipe I use comes from the book, Elegant Easy Crème Brulee (Renaissance Books, 1998) by Debbie Puente. A good friend recommended this book to me a couple months ago. She’s used the recipe on page 26 for Classic Crème Brulee and really liked it. Since then, I’ve made the same recipe about 4-5 times. I agree…it’s a wonderful recipe.

The only thing I do a little differently with Ms. Puente’s recipe is I make a 150% batch. Her recipe makes 6 crème brulees; I find that 9 is a better. That way there sure is enough to go around during a dinner party. Here’s the recipe:

12 egg yolks
½ cup granulated sugar (I use “super-fine” or “Baker’s Sugar”)
3 cups heavy whipping cream
1 ½ tsp. vanilla
Sugar for carmelizing the tops

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until the sugar is dissolved (If you use super-fine sugar, this goes much better.). Add cream and vanilla, and blend until mixture is very smooth. Pour into a fine strainer, or ideally a “Chinois.” I got one from Williams Sonoma ( and it works wonderfully. This will remove tiny, excess pieces of egg white that remained after you separated your eggs.

Here’s a photo of some of the main supplies you are going to need:

These pics show the mixture being strained through the chinois:

Once the mixture has been strained, divide it up between 9 ramekins or custard baking cups. These will be baked in a water bath. You will need to get out a large baking pan and put a couple layers of paper towel on the bottom (this will prevent the ramekins from moving around). Pour warm water to a depth of about halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 40-60 minutes—until crème brulee is set. (Ms. Puente’s recipe says 40-50 minutes, but a full hour has worked better for me.) Remove from oven, cool to room temperature, and then chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours and up to two days. (One of the things I like about this dessert is that it can be made in advance.)

Here’s a photo of six of my crème brulees, in the water bath and ready to go in the oven:

When ready to serve, sprinkle about two teaspoons of granulated sugar over each custard. I actually use a special sugar for this, which I find works really well. King Arthur Flour ( sells what they call “Sparkling White Sugar” in 4-ounce bags. It is ideal for topping crème brulee. It just seems to caramelize better than regular granulated sugar. Use a culinary torch to melt the sugar. Serve immediately. If desired, serve with fresh strawberries (which we’ve done lately, since we’ve had so many strawberries in our garden!), raspberries or other fruit.

Here’s one last pic--this one of the caramelizing process:

Alternatively, you can use an iron salamander for caramelizing your crème brulee. I have one of these too. To use it, you need to heat the iron over the stove until red-hot, and then sweep it over the crème brulees to melt the sugar. I’ve used this method years ago, but I prefer using the culinary torch.

Okay, that’s it for now. Happy hospitality!


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