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toni

How to caramelize creme brulee

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I have made creme brulee for the 3rd time now and I have never been able to crystalize the sugar. Hints? Advice? I have put the ramekins under the broiler and the creme turns liquidy. I bought the creme brulee torch from Williams Sonoma and the sugar remained the same and never turned golden or crystalized and I kept the torch on the sugar quite a long time. I am so glad that this version of creme brulee I made for last night made enough so that I could serve additional ones that weren't becoming liquid after the guests tasted the so-called torched ones. The sugar did not taste very good on top of the creme of the ones that I attempted to turn golden. At least the ones that weren't topped with sugar and had not been torched tasted great. Different recipes called for using regular white sugar, brown sugar, turbinado or demerara and I used the white cane sugar. What has been anyone's experience? Head to a hardware store for a blow-torch? Anything bigger than this creme brulee torch from Wm Sonoma scares me. Do I just give up on making the creme brulee with golden, crunchy tops?

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Don't be intimidated by a standard propane torch. Get one with a self-igniting trigger and you won't even have to use a flint. I've used mine to caramelize sugar on creme brulee with no problems.

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Can't think why you are having a problem. Try practicing on some sugar in a pan with a sheet of foil inside. The kind of sugar does not matter. Just move the torch back and forth and watch the sugar turn brown, bubbly and stop before the sugar burns. I just set my torch on the table, and bring the cremes up to the flame. Just be careful - its worth it.

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Get that torch up close and personal with the sugar. The flame needs to touch the sugar to caramelize it. Hold the nozzle of the torch about and inch to inch and a half from the sugar, and keep it moving. The sugar is already crystallized, you need to melt it. Sugar melts at around maybe 250 to 300F (?), and a nice caramel is around 325 to 350F, so it has to get HOT - don't worry you're going to burn it, 'burnt cream' is the whole idea! Those little torches do work, just slowly.

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The flame of a torch will have a "core" that is light blue and then a flame which is dark blue. The core consists of unburnt gas and the very tip of the core is where the flame is the hottest.

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Thank you all for replying. I liked all the suggestions and I will practice using just sugar in a pan. I know the torch was lit because you could see the flame very clearly. If I have to keep the flame on the creme longer, doesn't it seem counter productive that the creme melts some? I appreciate all your help and I will strive for the right outcome.

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the secret to get an even cap of burnt sugar is to spray with water before burning,we do this here in spain with great results

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Is the sugar too thick? I find it caramelized quickly when the sugar is sprinkled in an even thin layer.

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Is the sugar too thick?  I find it caramelized quickly when the sugar is sprinkled in an even thin layer.

Exactly! Which is why a sugar shaker is so handy - I certainly couldn't get an even layer without one.

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I was taught (by Chef Regis Bernard at Seattle Culinary Academy, SCCC) to use several thin layers of sugar, burning in between layers. Crunchy deliciousness!

And definitely don't mess around with the cute little culinary torches - get a standard one from the hardware store - cheaper and won't run out of fuel so quickly, and, to me anyway, easier to handle.

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I agree - use a torch from the hardware store; it will work much better.

I use brown sugar that I've dried out in the oven and then sprinkled over the cremes just before torching. It always works well. I've had good results with demerara and muscovado sugars, also. And they don't need to be dried out.

Eileen

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I have a round disc salamander. yoU place it on an open flame while you putz about and when you're ready and it's hot, you place it on the sugar in a ramekin. I got it in France but I did see it at Williams Sonoma at one point.

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Thank you all for replying.  I liked all the suggestions and I will  practice using just sugar in a pan.  I know the torch was lit because you could see the flame very clearly.  If I have to keep the flame on the creme longer, doesn't it seem counter productive that the creme melts some?  I appreciate all your help and I will strive for the right outcome.

i think another tip is to make sure that the creme brulees have had a chance to sit in the fridge and get very chilled before attempting to torch or broil them. i don't think home broilers get hot enough to do a good enough job before the creme brulee gets too warm/liquidy.

edited to add: the great thing about needing them nice and chilled is that you can make your creme brulees (cremes brulee?!) up to three days ahead of when you want to serve them. they keep fine, covered, in the fridge. torch them when you are ready to serve them.

here's my method (after torching literally thousands of creme brulees in restaurants):

1) put a ton of sugar on top

2) dump the sugar off. you should be left with a thin layer of sugar stuck to the moist top of the creme brulee. clean the edges of the dish if you're worried about appearances

3) now add a touch more sugar, maybe another very thin layer

4) start torching. with the small torches, the flame might actually have to be touching the sugar but i find with the hardware store version, this isn't necessary. you can start out close and as the sugar melts (NOT crystalizes, wrong term to use) and carmelizes, you can adjust distance to keep the sugar from getting too dark which might end up making it taste bitter.

5) move the torch evenly over the surface until all the sugar is nicely caramelized

6) if you think the sugar layer is too thin, you can always add a touch more. i do this while the just torched layer is still very hot and liquid. continue to torch.

7) allow to cool before serving. you want it to be nice and crisp and it needs several seconds to cool down. you can throw it in the fridge if you want, but remember that if you keep it in there too long, the sugar layer will liquify with all the moisture.

good luck!


Edited by alanamoana (log)

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the secret to get an even cap of burnt sugar is to spray with water before burning,we do this here in spain with great results

I'm surprised to hear that because I've heard to dab the top of the creme if it has moisture on it after taking it out of the refrigerator. It does make sense that the sugar would stick better if the top were damp, though. Thank you for your thoughts.

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Thank you all for replying.  I liked all the suggestions and I will  practice using just sugar in a pan.  I know the torch was lit because you could see the flame very clearly.  If I have to keep the flame on the creme longer, doesn't it seem counter productive that the creme melts some?  I appreciate all your help and I will strive for the right outcome.

i think another tip is to make sure that the creme brulees have had a chance to sit in the fridge and get very chilled before attempting to torch or broil them. i don't think home broilers get hot enough to do a good enough job before the creme brulee gets too warm/liquidy.

edited to add: the great thing about needing them nice and chilled is that you can make your creme brulees (cremes brulee?!) up to three days ahead of when you want to serve them. they keep fine, covered, in the fridge. torch them when you are ready to serve them.

here's my method (after torching literally thousands of creme brulees in restaurants):

1) put a ton of sugar on top

2) dump the sugar off. you should be left with a thin layer of sugar stuck to the moist top of the creme brulee. clean the edges of the dish if you're worried about appearances

3) now add a touch more sugar, maybe another very thin layer

4) start torching. with the small torches, the flame might actually have to be touching the sugar but i find with the hardware store version, this isn't necessary. you can start out close and as the sugar melts (NOT crystalizes, wrong term to use) and carmelizes, you can adjust distance to keep the sugar from getting too dark which might end up making it taste bitter.

5) move the torch evenly over the surface until all the sugar is nicely caramelized

6) if you think the sugar layer is too thin, you can always add a touch more. i do this while the just torched layer is still very hot and liquid. continue to torch.

7) allow to cool before serving. you want it to be nice and crisp and it needs several seconds to cool down. you can throw it in the fridge if you want, but remember that if you keep it in there too long, the sugar layer will liquify with all the moisture.

good luck!

Thank you so much for the help and advice. I will keep trying. Also, I made the creme brulee the night before the dinner, so it was very cold and set.

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the secret to get an even cap of burnt sugar is to spray with water before burning,we do this here in spain with great results

I'm surprised to hear that because I've heard to dab the top of the creme if it has moisture on it after taking it out of the refrigerator. It does make sense that the sugar would stick better if the top were damp, though. Thank you for your thoughts.

I think the poster meant to spray the sugar to dampen it slightly for an even caramelization. The only reason I would disagree with this is because it would take longer to caramelize in order to evaporate the water. With the little torch, this would be prohibitive I think.

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the secret to get an even cap of burnt sugar is to spray with water before burning,we do this here in spain with great results

I'm surprised to hear that because I've heard to dab the top of the creme if it has moisture on it after taking it out of the refrigerator. It does make sense that the sugar would stick better if the top were damp, though. Thank you for your thoughts.

I think the poster meant to spray the sugar to dampen it slightly for an even caramelization. The only reason I would disagree with this is because it would take longer to caramelize in order to evaporate the water. With the little torch, this would be prohibitive I think.

Oh, thank you.

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I just did this yesterday, so it's all very fresh in my mind. First, just a thin layer of sugar, evenly sprinkled on top. I used about 2 tsp. sugar per ramekin - mixed half and half white and light brown. Next, a REAL blow torch from the hardware store. It costs about half of what a kitchen torch costs, and isn't really all that big and scary. You light a match, turn on the knob to release the gas, and then adjust the flame so that it's small enough to feel safe to you. Done. Finally, you have to torch the custards very delicately, and keep the torch moving all the time. Eventually you'll get the hang of melting the sugar without burning the sugar to blackness (a few spots are fine). should be easy to aim the point of the flame pretty precisely where you want it to go.

Don't be in a hurry. And don't be scared. And let the creme brulees rest for about 5 minutes before serving.


Edited by Nyleve Baar (log)

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You can get torches at the hardware store that have ignition triggers, so you don't even have to use a match. Very convenient, easy to use.

Eileen

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You can get torches at the hardware store that have ignition triggers, so you don't even have to use a match. Very convenient, easy to use.

Eileen

How did you know that I was picturing myself holding the match, turning on the gas and adjusting the flame in order. I will look into this torch. You know my husband is wondering why I am so determined to figure out the caramelization because he says the creme is so outstanding by itself. Go figure!

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I just did this yesterday, so it's all very fresh in my mind. First, just a thin layer of sugar, evenly sprinkled on top. I used about 2 tsp. sugar per ramekin - mixed half and half white and light brown. Next, a REAL blow torch from the hardware store. It costs about half of what a kitchen torch costs, and isn't really all that big and scary. You light a match, turn on the knob to release the gas, and then adjust the flame so that it's small enough to feel safe to you. Done. Finally, you have to torch the custards very delicately, and keep the torch moving all the time. Eventually you'll get the hang of melting the sugar without burning the sugar to blackness (a few spots are fine). should be easy to aim the point of the flame pretty precisely where you want it to go.

Don't be in a hurry. And don't be scared. And let the creme brulees rest for about 5 minutes before serving.

Thank you so much for the encouragement and your experience.

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You can get torches at the hardware store that have ignition triggers, so you don't even have to use a match. Very convenient, easy to use.

Eileen

How did you know that I was picturing myself holding the match, turning on the gas and adjusting the flame in order. I will look into this torch. You know my husband is wondering why I am so determined to figure out the caramelization because he says the creme is so outstanding by itself. Go figure!

I described this specific order because I have done it the other way around and, well, you don't want to do that. When you turn on the gas first, then light the match, you can end up with more flame that you really want to deal with. I would have gotten the self-igniting kind but my hardware store didn't have one.

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there is one added advantage to the hardware torch....

not only can you do creme brulee, but when your

water heater stops working, you can use the same torch to

"sweat" your new copper joints and install a new water heater...

i know because i have done both, with the same torch...

heck...kinda the same anyway, one is with sugar, the other is with solder...

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there is one added advantage to the hardware torch....

not only can you do creme brulee, but when your

water heater stops working, you can use the same torch to

"sweat" your new copper joints and install a new water heater...

i know because i have done both, with the same torch...

heck...kinda the same anyway, one is with sugar, the other is with solder...

Yeah, when I asked for a self igniting blow torch for Christmas last year - hubby said 'sure, no problem, you can come get it out of the basement when you need it'!

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