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.