Friday, February 11, 2011

Creme Brulee--Valentine's Dessert 3

Photo compliments to my friend Melissa E
Dessert compliments to my hubby, except the garnish and burning, I did that :)

Classic Crème Brûlée

The French have perfected the art of making desserts. In all their styles of cooking they try to achieve perfection. The best way to achieve this? Contrast. Opposites. This recipe is a prime example of this juxtaposition they love to create. Though the English first "invented" this desset the French came to call it Crème Brûlée, or "cholesterol bombs" as Bo Friberg calls them. Crème Brûlée literally means burnt cream. The cream (creme) is thick, smooth, creamy and chilled. The sugar is "burnt" (brulee), crisp, thin and warm. To eat this dessert you must gently tap on the burnt sugar. You know it's made well if it's not too thick and not soggy! You gently tap on the sugar, break through this "shell" and you are immersed in the creamy luscious cream. You take a bite and you discover the sensation of the crisp bitter sugar and then the smooth sweet vanilla cream. Perfection!

Crème Brûlée
adapted from two recipes by Cooks Illustrated and Bo Friberg's The Professional Pastry Chef.

Serves 8-10, ramekins like pictured above

1 vanilla bean
2/3 cup granulated sugar
pinch table salt
4 cups heavy cream
12 large egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
extra granulated or turbinado sugar for the burning

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position. Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees.

2. Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Save the pods for later. Combine the seeds with the sugar, rubbing the sugar mixture lightly with your fingertips to combine. Set aside.

3. Combine 2 cups of the cream, sugar and salt in medium saucepan. Submerge bean pods into mixture and heat just until scalding point over medium heat, stirring occasionally to ensure the sugar dissolves. Take pan off heat and let steep 15 minutes to infuse flavors.

4. Meanwhile, place a rag dish towel (one that normally would use to cover your bread while rising, for example) in bottom of a cookie sheet. Bring a small pan of water to boil. We can fit 8 on our cookie sheet as pictured.

5. After the cream has steeped, remove bean pods and stir in remaining 2 cups cream to cool down mixture. Whisk yolks in large bowl until broken up and combined. Whisk about 1 cup cream mixture into yolks until loosened and combined; Do not whip! repeat with another cup of cream. Add remaining cream and whisk until evenly colored and thoroughly combined. Strain through fine-mesh strainer into 2-quart measuring cup or pitcher (or clean medium bowl); discard solids in strainer. Pour or ladle mixture into ramekins, dividing it evenly. Reserve any extra cream for another baking batch.

6. Carefully place cookie sheet in pre-heated oven. Pour boiling water into pan, without splashing or pouring any water into the empty ramekins. Fill cookie sheet until water reaches 2/3 or 3/4 the way up the ramekin (depending on how deep your dish is). With the oven rack slightly slid out a bit, with the cookie sheet resting on the shelf but not on the edge, do this so the pan does not tip and spill and so you have room to pour into ramekins without burning your hand on the top broiler while trying to pour the custard. Pour the custard into each ramekin. Be sure to fill the ramekins all the way to the top as the custard will settle slightly while cooking. Gently slide oven rack into place and bake.

7. Bake until custard is just barely set and no longer sloshy, between 170 and 175 degrees internally. About 30-35 minutes (25-30 minutes for shallow fluted dishes, like we use). Do NOT overcook as the custard may break and have an unpleasant texture. Do not underbake either as you don't want to serve raw custard.

8. Remove the ramekins from the water bath and transfer to a cooling rack. Cool to room temperature, about 2 hours, and refrigerate until completely chilled.

9. The custards can be stored in the refrigerator for 4-5 days at this point, left in their ramekins, covered tightly with saran wrap. Do NOT store with burnt sugar, it will dissolve and taste very gross and get soggy. Believe me, we've tried this.

10. Presentation. If condensation has collected on custards, place a paper towel on surface to soak up moisture. Sprinkle just enough granulated or turbinado sugar on top of the custard to cover the surface. Clean off any sugar on the edge or outside of the ramekin. Tilt and tap the sugar to cover surface evenly. Caramelize the sugar with a blow torch (purchased at hardware store) or mini torch (purchased at home goods/kitchen appliance store). If you do not have a torch you can place the ramekin directly under a broiler. Burn until dark golden brown, almost black. Until the shell is completely firm and not jellied.

11. Decorate with fresh fruit or enjoy plain! Good luck eating a whole one by yourself! Now you'll never want to buy one for $8 from a restaurant again! It probably won't taste as good as your homemade version anyhow!

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1 comment:

  1. No way! I just decided to make this for Valentine's Day and have been searching for a recipe! Thank you!