Monday, August 20, 2012

Amazing Creme Brulee

Last week our friend Scott stayed with us for a few days before moving into his new apartment. We decided to make a kick butt meal together to celebrate the end of the summer. Yes, my husband and his poor teacher friend, returned to school this morning!

The meal was delicious and inspired by our trip to the giant Asian market. [Recipes soon to come].

We wanted a delicious dessert that was fairly simple since we were putting a lot of effort into dinner. We decided on a basic creme brulee [mostly because I already had all of the ingredients]. My favorite decadent dessert this past year has been creme brulee. I think that I have served it for all of Sam and my fancy at-home dinner dates [the type of date you would have on Valentine's Day when you don't feel like braving the crowds or finding a babysitter and instead make a post-baby bedtime meal together].

I fiddled around with several creme brulee recipes that I found online and developed this basic creme brulee recipe. Most recipes called for a mix of milk and heavy cream. I didn't have heavy cream and my milk was reserved for the little one but I did have a quart of half and half on hand for coffee. I didn't have any white sugar on hand so I substituted dark brown sugar in the custard and sugar in the raw on top. I was a little nervous that the brown sugar substitution would affect the consistency of the custard. The custard was a little soft but SO creamy and gained a caramelly taste from the brown sugar.

This is a basic creme brulee recipe that you can play with in many ways. Feel free to serve with berries on top. You can throw a little coconut extract and coconut flakes into the custard, or lime juice and lime zest, or cocoa powder and a little Grand Marnier. We were going to toss some fresh peaches in a little sugar and balsamic vinegar to serve alongside but were too anxious to dive into the creme brulee, so we had it plain!

Creme Brulee
*Yielded approximately 4, five ounce servings
2 cups of half and half
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 egg yolks
1 egg
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/8 tsp salt
4 tsps sugar [I used sugar in the raw because that is what I had on hand]

Preheat your oven to 315 degrees.

Assemble your ramekins in a baking dish. Feel free to use whatever oven safe dishes you like. I used Pyrex glass bowls that probably hold 5-6 oz. each. If you are using shallower dishes, such as actual creme brulee dishes, you can shorten the baking time.

Whisk together the half and half, vanilla, eggs, brown sugar and salt until the eggs are fully incorporated.

Pour the mixture into your dishes leaving a little space at the top of each dish to account for the “walking the pan to the oven” jiggles.

Pour hot top water into the baking dish until the water level reaches about half way up each ramekin. This will help the heat circulate gently and give you a perfectly smooth custard in each delicious creme brulee.

Bake your creme brulees for approximately 45 minutes or until they are set. You can tell that you have reached this point because if you shake the pan they creme brulee will no longer jiggle in the middle.
Once baked, remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature. After reaching room temperature, refrigerate until ready to brulee and serve.

After letting mine come to room temperature, I let them sit in the refrigerator for about an hour and a half before serving. They were still a little loose, but good.For optimum texture, I would let your creme brulee refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

When ready to serve, top each creme brulee with a teaspoon of sugar. Swirl the creme brulee around a bit until the sugar has equally coated the top of each creme brulee. I then used my husband’s giant torch he has for jewelry making. The first time, I put the flame way too close and scorched the top of one [I was rushing and let the blue part of the flame burn the sugar]. On the second creme brulee, I kept the  tip of the flame slightly separated from the sugar and moved the flame on to a new patch of sugar as soon as I saw the sugar bubble and brown. This picture is crappy because I was trying to brulee with one hand and photograph with the other but at least you get the picture!
If you don’t have a blow torch, you can try your hand at broiling the creme brulees. Get them close to the flame and watch closely. Pull out of the oven as soon as the sugar begins to bubble and brown.

*Quick Tip: If you don’t plan on eating all of your creme brulee pots in one sitting, refrain from bruleeing the pots that you want to keep for later. The bruleed sugar will melt with the liquid from the custard. Here is my morning after creme brulee. I left it uncovered in the fridge overnight and bruleed for breakfast. You can tell how creamy the custard is! So good!


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