A few weeks ago, I paid good money to eat the worst Crème Brûlée in my life. In retrospect, I should never have ordered it… should have known that it would be ‘average’ at best! As a Birthday treat, we took our children to the local ‘Gold Class’ Cinema, where you sit in jumbo-sized, reclining arm chairs and can order dinner, drinks and dessert to come out at different stages of the movie. It was here that the dubious, sub-standard, so-called Crème Brûlée was served. Curdled custard underneath, with thick as a brick toffee, concealing underlying sugar which hadn’t melted, so was still granular and gritty. Honestly… they couldn’t have got it more wrong!
The one positive to come from this experience was that yesterday, I decided to challenge myself to see how hard it really is to make a superior Crème Brûlée. After doing some research on ingredients, quantities and cooking techniques… as well as drilling my friend Sandra for tips, the following is the recipe that I came up with. The underlying vanilla bean custard tasted gorgeously smooth, creamy and rich… as any good Crème Brûlée should… and was topped with the finest layer of toffee enabling that child-like pleasure of cracking through the surface.
In future I’ll definitely be a little more discerning when choosing the right restaurant/venue from which to order a Crème Brûlée. Or better still… I’ll make it myself.
Crème Brûlée | Gather and Graze
- 600ml (about 2⅓ Cups) Pure (Heavy) Cream
- 1 Vanilla Pod (split and seeds scraped out)
- 6 Free-Range Egg Yolks
- 60g (¼ Cup) Caster Sugar
- Pinch of Salt
- 8 Teaspoons extra of Caster Sugar (for the toffee coating)
Pre-heat the oven to 140°C/275°F. Fold a clean tea towel to fit on the base of a large roasting tin and place 4 x (¾ Cup capacity) ramekins on top. My ramekins are about 10cm/4in in diameter and are quite shallow, which is ideal for Crème Brûlées.
Place the cream and vanilla pod (along with the seeds) into a small saucepan and place over medium heat. When it has almost come to the boil and you can see bubbles forming around the edge, remove from the heat immediately and remove the vanilla pod. Set aside for the moment.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and salt until the mixture has paled and thickened.
Slowly pour the hot cream into the egg yolk mixture, whisking continuously as you do so, to ensure that you don’t end up with scrambled eggs. At this stage, if there is a layer of froth on top of the mixture from whisking, scoop it off with a large metal spoon and discard it. Strain the mixture through a sieve, into a large pouring jug and then pour evenly into the 4 ramekins.
Carefully pour some boiling water into the base of the roasting tin so that it comes up to about the halfway mark on the side of the ramekins. Place into the pre-heated oven and bake for approximately 45 minutes. The custards should still have a little (jelly-like) wobble to them.
Remove the ramekins from the roasting tray and allow to cool for about half an hour at room temperature, before covering with cling film and placing into the refrigerator to chill completely (about 6 hours).
When ready to serve, evenly spread about 2 teaspoons of caster sugar over the top of each custard and use a kitchen blow torch to heat and transform the sugar into toffee. Allow a few minutes for the toffee to harden before serving.
Lovely served topped with a few fresh raspberries, if they happen to be in season.
Rather than making a pavlova or batch of meringues with the leftover egg whites (from using 6 yolks in the recipe above), these two fabulous recipes for Italian flour-less Biscuits/Cookies will make for a wonderful change. They are recipes posted by blogging friends of mine over the past month or two. The Acetani (orange and almond) I’ve made four times already after seeing them on ‘Stefan’s Gourmet Blog’ and the Ossi Du Mordere (chocolate and hazelnut) were made for the first time yesterday, after spotting them on Sandra’s ‘Please Pass the Recipe’. If you click on either of the photos below, it will take you directly through to the recipes.
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Margot, this is a lovely recipe… I can almost hear the crack of the caramel on top! So nice to meet you at EDB… please let’s keep in touch xx
Thanks so much Liz. It was an absolutely amazing weekend – I’m still trying to digest all of the info we were given… as well as all that beautiful food! 😉 I’ve made a number of changes to Gather and Graze already and look forward to implementing many more thanks to wisdom gleaned from yourself and many others over the weekend. Thanks again, Margot.xx
I feel your pain on the bad creme brûlée front– nothing better than a good one, but nothing more disappointing than a mediocre one! And I’ll be trying at least one of those cookie recipes today with egg whites left over from another project. A person can only eat so many meringues!
x Molly from Rye Humour
Lovely to hear from you Molly, thanks for leaving such a kind comment! I agree with the meringues… it’s great to have a few other options up your sleeve. Look forward to checking out Rye Humour in the next day or two. Cheers, Margot
boo to bad brulee! So annoying you when pay big bunks for a crap dish. Yours looks stunning – you should march into Gold Class and ask to speak the manager then show him/her what a REAL brulee looks like! Loving the recipes for surplus eggwhites, too. Must try.
I know, I know… really should have said something, but it was a little awkward two thirds of the way through the movie, sitting there in the dark and then no-one to be seen at the end when we walked out… must have been hiding I think! 😉
So excited to see that you’ll be at Eat, Drink, Blog – can’t wait to meet you Hungry Mum! M.xx
Ditto! Really looking forward to it! Can’t wait. Need to book my hotel.
All these recipes looks fantastic. Thanks for sharing such a practical and yummy post!
You’re very welcome Mary! Thanks as always for leaving such a kind comment!
Wow this looks brilliant, lovely post…
Cheers Chitra! So very kind of you. 🙂
Crème brulée is one of my favourite desserts, and for this reason I always have high expectation any time I order it. Despite alla, I’ve never tried to make it on my own… too afraid to miss the “toffee” part… yours looks absolutely perfect!
Thank you Margherita! It was easy and fun to make and if you have a kitchen blow-torch, the toffee is simple to do too! Hope you’ll give it a try sometime.
What a great post. That’s the prettiest creme brulee I’ve ever seen! When I was sick, my French mother would make it for me. I had no idea how spoiled I was! As for the leftover egg whites, when I taught little girls how to cook, we would make pavlovas, because they would be so impressed with their accomplishments!!!
That’s so very kind of you to say Mimi! Thank you!
There’s not a doubt in mind that Creme Brûlée has sickness curing, health benefits… and definitely should be employed much more often… rather than kept to the realms of fancy dessert! 😉 How lovely to have grown up with this as your comfort food!
Oh Margot, there are few things more disappointing than a bad creme brulee – i have a wonderful recipe where you just mix everything, with no heating and then put in the oven with a bain marie – low egg yolk count to cream makes them not too eggy, which I love, your recipe looks delicious too. I don’t order in restaurants as I often find it frustrating to get a bad one, a bit like molten chocolate baby cakes, a bad one of those is frustrating too!
I know exactly what you mean Poli… desserts like molten chocolate cakes and creme brûlée require a little more attention to detail than some cooks are willing to give them. Always disappointing when they get it wrong… though very much a 1st World problem, so I shouldn’t complain too much! 🙂 Love the sound of your recipe too!
ah yes another first world problem! there are many of them….
Margot, un délicieux petit festin de gourmandises- Just what I need! 🙂 xx
Merci beaucoup mon amie… tu es tres gentille! M.xx
Looks utterly divine Margot. Although your dessert at the theater was a flop I really like the concept of dinner and a movie at the cinema. Must of been a wonderful evening. What a great post with the extra recipes and ideas to use up your egg whites, and your photographs are stunning.
It really was a fun and quite luxurious experience Seana! Not particularly cheap here in Australia, but lovely to do for a special occasion with the kids. Thanks so very much for your generous comments. M.xx
Twice I worked as an assistant chef (at the same restaurant) and both times I had to finish off the crème brûlée, with a brûlée pan. I’ve never seen the pans since. Nor have I noticed them online. They were like small, round irons that fitted quite snugly into the tops of the ramekins used to serve them in. Did you ever see them in France? As I’ve never seen them here. Anyway, must pop in to those biscuit recipes.
Did they work well Johnny? I’ve seen images online, but haven’t yet tried to track one down to buy. I can’t remember ever seeing them in France… not that I would have necessarily been looking for one back then! I’ll have to ask some French friends of mine if they’re easily obtainable.
Yes, do have a look at the biscuits! The Acetani are a little similar to the Chocolate Crackle Cookies in that they’re rolled in icing sugar before baking – really lovely nuttiness of flavour coming through in each of the 2 types.
Totally loved your post!
A good excuse to prep it at home rather tag eating outside and still not getting what you want.
Delicious and easy to make recipe.
And the best part is that you have given good choices to use the leftover egg whites instead of wasting!!❤️❤️
Thanks so much Sonal! With so many egg whites left over, I kind of felt it my duty to suggest ways of making the most of them and not simply discarding them! 🙂
More respect to you for that girl!
So many times I see these great chefs cooking and discarding or trashing so much of good produce, it is heart breaking…
Thank you! 🙂
Would love to learn more from you
That’s very kind of you to say!
Yours looks perfect – I love this dish but make it so rarely. I need to follow your example as you’re right, it’s such a common restaurant dessert but usually pretty average (or bad 😦 )
Thanks Tanya! I’m curious… in my research I also read a little about ‘Crema Catalana’ which is quite similar, but seems to have a little orange flavour added as well? There was also a round iron tool to heat up and place on the sugar to melt it… is this how you would normally make them?
That’s it exactly! They sell little round irons you can heat up and scorch the sugar with but most people will do it with a grill or blow torch. Orange flavour is also typical but many will leave it out.
Well, if you wanted to make a “superior” creme brulée, it certainly looks like you’ve succeeded! This makes me soon hungry. The egg whites were used very wisely too! My grandmother (who never wasted food) would be very proud of you 😉
Oh Stéphane, this is high praise indeed, my friend! Thank you so very much. I’m curious to know though… after all of my research, is there anything you would do differently? Have I made any French faux-pas in my technique or ingredients? Love to hear your thoughts! 🙂
Your grandmother sounds like a wise and wonderful woman!
Great post! Some dishes are safer to order than orhers. Creme brulee is often bad, although your experience sounds worse than I ever had. Your own version looks flawless. The blowtorch part is a bit tricky to do evenly. The right ratio of custard to crispy caramel is important, and it looks like you nailed. Thanks for the shout out — by now you’ve made acetani more often than I have. Which reminds me to make them again…
🙂 Ahhhh, no, no… thank YOU Stefan (and of course a huge thank you to Antonella!) for sharing the Acetani recipe with the world! It’s an absolute treat! My son had to bring along a plate to an end of term party at school not so long ago… and he asked to help me in making a batch of these to take along. He said they disappeared very quickly! As you can see… a firm family favourite already!
Thank you for your kind comments on the CB, the blowtorching part is something I’ll work on in future to get a little more even, but I was so happy with the overall taste and can’t wait to make them again!
From the photos I’d say your blow torching skills are quite good — I wanted to point out you make it sound easier than it is as it’s not easy to do it that well. Still blow torching is better than putting them under the broiler, which would heat up the custard too much.
One of my very favourite desserts so I will definitely be trying this recipe out. A great idea for using the egg whites ☺
Oh that’s fabulous! Thanks so much! 🙂
Looks like the Creme Brulee was fabulous Margot, and the baking too, to use the egg whites. Glad the tips helped!!
Thanks Sandra! The results were fantastic, couldn’t have been happier! Oh… except I could probably work on getting the toffee a little more even in it’s colouring… but thankfully didn’t effect the overall taste in the least. As always, I’m grateful to be the recipient of your kitchen wisdom – thank you! 🙂
My Ossi du Mordere look a little different from yours… perhaps because I used all icing sugar instead of mixing in caster sugar as well… plus I didn’t bake mine for quite so long – preferring a slightly chewy texture, like the Acetani. The taste is truly wonderful though and we’re very much enjoying having a tin filled to the brim with Italian Biscuits!
Your Ossi probably are more as they were intended to be!!!
I don’t know about that Sandra… yours are a lovely deep chocolatey colour!
Looks perfect!!! 🙂
Thank you very much Linda!
Margot, the Crème Brûlée looks delicious and I’m definitely going to make it. More often than not I encountered mediocre versions at the restaurant, so I have to try making it at home. And thank you for answering my implicit question about egg whites!
Anatoli, I really hope you do give it a try! Love to hear how it compares to the restaurant versions you’ve tried in the past. Oh and the cookies are phenomenal in their own right – a great addition to anyone’s cookie repertoire! 🙂