Thursday, November 10, 2011

Homemade Crème Brûlée

Crème brûlée is an unpretentious dessert that's simple yet incredibly rich - the little black dress of desserts if you will.  I've come to expect a rich, creamy layer contrasted with a snappy disc of burnt sugar that cracks beautifully when introduced to a spoon.  I've never been tempted to try crème brûlée in Seoul because it's a dessert that, in this society, is sure to command a high price tag.  The story traversed down the usual path - I ended up making my own.

The only challenging thing about making crème brûlée is getting the sugar brûléed.  I don't own a brûlée torch, but Noel has a barbeque lighter of Tim "The Toolman" Taylor proportions.  It's really just a nozzle that you attach to the top of a gas can.  He bought it for a few thousand won (less than $5) at a local hardware store (a local hardware store means a store selling nails, hammers, and stuff out of a space smaller than a bathroom.)  Is it safe?  REALLY doubtful.  While Noel was brûléeing the crème brûlée, I was yelping and running around him in circles like a leprechaun.  (I was also taking pictures...but I actually was really scared).  If you're going to use this crazy ass torch, I really recommend you have someone else do it, and have that unlucky person wear sunglasses or some kind of protective eyewear and do it outside.

If you don't own a torch, don't try to use a Bic lighter.  Use the broiler in your oven.  I tried this and got really splotchy results and the surface didn't really caramelize properly.  I was using a toaster oven, and it was pretty challenging.  I don't recommend the broiler method unless you have a REAL oven (in which cause, I hate you, and you'd better stop reading my blog right now.)

I won't apologize for how filthy my oven is.

Crème Brûlée
about 2 cups of cream (500 ml)
1/2 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons sugar plus more for caramelizing the top
3 egg yolks
hot water

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Cut the vanilla bean in half and remove the pulp.  Put the pulp, vanilla bean, and cream into a sauce pan over medium high heat and bring to a boil.  Then remove from heat and let it sit for 15 minutes.  Take the bean out and use for something else like flavoring coffee or making vanilla extract.

In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until they just begin to lighten in color.  Pour a little bit of the hot cream into the egg and sugar mixture and whisk continually to temper the eggs so they don't cook.  Then pour the rest of the cream in and stir to combine.  Don't over mix because that will create bubbles which will affect the texture of the custard.

For ramekins, I use little ceramic containers I bought at Daiso for 1,000 won each and some ceramic some shallow ceramic saucers.  Pour the mixture into whatever containers you're choosing to use as ramekins.  Put the ramekins into a large cake pan and fill the cake pan with hot water until it reaches about halfway up the sides of the ramekins.  Be careful not to get any water into the ramekins.  I used a funnel to pour the water into the cake pan to make sure the water didn't splash.

My Daiso ramekins.
Back anywhere between 30-45 minutes depending on the size of your ramekins.  They're ready when they have the merry jiggle of a hooker's thighs.  If you're unfamiliar with this consistency, it's basically when the custard is just set and plenty jiggly but not runny.

Refrigerate the custard for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.

Take the custard out at least 30 minutes before torching the sugar on top.  Take some sugar and cover the surface of the custard.  You can be generous and make sure ever bit of custard is covered in sugar.  To get rid of the excess granules, all you need to do is spank the ramekin like you burp a baby to get all the extra sugar out.  Clean the sides of the ramekins of excess sugar.

Torch, rest 10 seconds, and then finish the crème brûlée off with a few more seconds of torching until you get a nice gold brown layer with one or two burn spots.  This was my first time so my crème brûlée aren't the hottest in town, but they were nice and snappy and tasted silky and delicious.

The flame is really hard to control with this ghetto torch.

Not perfect in my retinas...but perfect in my mouth!


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