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tan319

Classic French Crème Brulée - The Topic

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I'm trying to perfect Creme Brulee. I'm having trouble determining what "until just set" means. Is there an internal temperature to determine this? That way I can visualize what the custard looks like and know when to remove it next time.

Thanks,

Joe


Edited by CRUZMISL (log)

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A bit late here, but I'll add what I know.

I haven't ever seen the foamy layer problem, but I have successfully used a torch to remove small surface bubbles to make a smooth-topped custard. I always make sure the water bath is at the same level as the custard in the ramekin, which seems to work rather well for me. I cook my brulees in a hotel pan covered with foil and cut holes in it to allow extra steam to escape - this is the way I was taught to do them but it seems to work quite well. Experienced opinions on why this works would be appreciated.

The convection oven at work has the Fan from Hell and I didn't tighten the foil down enough one time, and found that the resulting brulees looked like they were baked in a wind tunnel. That was fun.

Joe, it's hard to explain online but I remove the brulees from the oven when the edges are set and the center is still wobbly.

I get to make about 40 brulees a week (we don't sell that many of them) and it's been my little kitchen moment of Zen, so I love reading this thread to see what other people know. The folks I work with in the kitchen know the methods but not always the whys of the methods, so it's really interesting to get other perspectives.


Jennie

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This question is going to give away my inexperience with creme brulee, but here it goes: What should the final consistency of the custard be? I made it the other night, and took them out when they were still slightly wobbly in the middle, and the end product wasn't too much different than a creme anglaise. Is it supposed to be stiffer, more like a panna cotta, or did I get it right?

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A creme brulee and a creme anglaise are totally different things - the latter's a thick liquid and yes, the former's more like a panna cotta. As for the right consistency you have a little play with personal taste - make it as firm or as soft as you like but it should be set but a soft set in the center.

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This question is going to give away my inexperience with creme brulee, but here it goes: What should the final consistency of the custard be? I made it the other night, and took them out when they were still slightly wobbly in the middle, and the end product wasn't too much different than a creme anglaise. Is it supposed to be stiffer, more like a panna cotta, or did I get it right?


“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

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Did you use small high ramekins or flat porcelain dishes?

It could make a difference during 'cool down.'


“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

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My husband loves creme brulee, but I've never made it at home. I have three different recipes for it, all a little different, and one of them makes the process sound pretty intimidating. Suggestions? lkm

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I don't have a good recipe right off the top of my head. The "Best Recipe" by Cooks Illustrated has a well tested recipe.

I think the key and what may sound like the most intimidating part is burning the sugar on top. You should not be afraid of this. It is very fun. Make sure to use a propane torch. I use the kind you buy in the plumbing department at Walmart. The small ones that you buy at the kitchen stores does not hold enough gas and cost quite a bit more. I have used both types and prefer the plumbing torch. I have also used the broiler (no recommended). I usually use ramekins. Here is the deal. Sugar and burn one of the custards. If you overburn the sugar, scrape it off and try it again. It just takes a few attempts to get the process down. It does not take long to burn the sugar.


I was once diagnosed with a split personality but we are all okay now.

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Thanks. I have the Cooks Illustrated recipe, the ramekins, and the propane torch. Guess there's no reason not to just "leap in," is there! Can't believe I'm asking about a recipe that calls for heavy cream at the same time I'm paying serious attention to a weight-loss strategy in Dieting for Dummies! lkm

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You can make Panna Cotta with fat free half and half and splenda. That makes it no fat and almost no carbs. You can then garnish with a sprig of mint, raspberries and raspberry coulis. I have never tried a Panna Cotta Brulee but it may be worth a shot. The one concern I have is weither or not it would melt the gelatin in the panna cotta.

I have had Fois Gras Brulee that was absolutely fantastic. Just take a slice of Fois Gras and burn some sugar on top. It is really good.


I was once diagnosed with a split personality but we are all okay now.

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Low-fat crème brûlée misses the point. And I'd be wary of heating a gelatin-based dessert. Instead, compensate by cutting the fat on preceeding courses and making smaller portions. A scant half-cup ramekin's worth isn't going bust your diet, let alone kill you.

Some people say that propane torches leave an off taste. I've not noticed it myself. In any case, lacking a torch, I find a broiler works fine (pace, foodcontrol). Just preheat the broiler 10 or 15 minutes, keep the custards cold until the last minute and, if you're really worried, put them in an ice-water bath just before running them under the heat.

Two crème brûlée tips:

- If you bake your custard (as opposed to preparing it on the stovetop), remove it from the oven as soon as it sets (the centre will still be jiggly).

- The sugar you use for the topping makes a big difference in the final product. I've had best results with turbinado sugar. If you use brown sugar, spread it out and let it air-dry for a few hours before topping the custards.

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My husband loves creme brulee, but I've never made it at home.  I have three different recipes for it, all a little different, and one of them makes the process sound pretty intimidating.  Suggestions?  lkm

my standard recipe:

8 egg yolks

1qt manufacturing or heavy cream

4oz sugar

2-3 vanilla beans

heat cream w/scraped vanilla beans and pods

wisk yolks and sugar together-temper with hot cream about 1/3

add back to rest of cream and pass through a fine chinois/strainer

cool if possible-sometimes you'll get air bubbles on the surface when using hot

pour into ramekins-or better egg shirring dishes-and bake low in a water bath

325 should be fine in a conventional oven, uncovered.

chill and brulee.

hth, danny

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As far as I'm concerned, this is the master recipe for Creme Brulee.

Hmm. The recipe doesn't make it clear that the top pan of the double boiler should sit over, not in, the water in the bottom pan. And you won't catch me using vanilla extract in crème brûlée: only vanilla beans will do (unless I'm flavouring it with lemon verbena, star anise or some such, of course).

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You can use many things for the base of creme brulee (or burnt cream) is you use a propane torch/ Don't make the sugar layer too thick.

Plain flavoured whipped cream works well. Syllabub, or even cheesecake work.

White chocolate mousse for a really rich version.

Apparently it was an old Scottish dish. An undergraduate asked the kitchens at Trinity College Cambridge to make it and was sent away. WHen he became a fellow of the college he asked again, and it rapidly became a favourite, so it is also known (at least locally) as Trinity Cream.

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If you overburn the sugar, scrape it off and try it again. It just takes a few attempts to get the process down. It does not take long to burn the sugar.

Gosh :blush:

I burn my Brulees all the time.

On purpose.

I love 'em that way. So do my customers......

Y'mean....I've been doing it ALL WRONG?

Yow! :wacko:

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I concur w/carswell that turbinado is a very suitable choice for the top sugar. I like to burn a thin layer and then sprinkle on another amount in order to achieve a proper crust. But, as jackal10 advises, not too thick. The standard test in many restaurants offering fine French cuisine is commonly that the tap of an elegant silver spoon should suffice to crack the crust. That is a guideline worth embracing.

Two of my favourite c.b.’s are Pear-Cardamom & Pumpkin. Or even a regular c.b. along w/ pears poached in Beaujolais. I recall having read a few years ago about a restaurant in Belgium whose c.b. custard was made from duck eggs. For those of you who are enamoured by East/West fusion cuisine, Lemongrass c.b. w/ a crystallized gingerroot julienne would likely provide an appropriate dessert.

Some other suggestions gleaned from my notebooks that you may like to add to your repertoire: Serve a plain vanilla c.b. w./ prune-&-walnut filled rissoles. For an Italianate interpretation, perhaps an espresso version served w/ almond biscotti. Going for a Mexican theme? Be adventuresome and present your crème brûlées in tostada shells, along w/ sliced cactus pears. Here’s another possibility: A plate featuring a selection of 3 small cheeses, fresh dates, and a little cup of mauve-hued Port Crème Brûlée.

I had mentioned in one of my earlier posts on eGullet that I once baked individual angel food cakes, filled them w/ stovetop stirred c.b. custard and served the cakes nestled beside a rum-spiked banana-mango compote.

Obviously, there is a a wide berth for the imagination in the variations of these exquisite custards.

On a final note, we so often conceive of Crème Brûlées being sent to table as single servings. But, let’s also appreciate the impact of one presented in a 6-cup soufflé dish wrapped in a crisp white linen napkin. Refined & generous service indeed!


Edited by Redsugar (log)

"Dinner is theater. Ah, but dessert is the fireworks!" ~ Paul Bocuse

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Made creme brulee for the first time (unsuccessfully :hmmm: ) and just have a few questions which I hope the kind and knowledgable people here can help me with.

Just wondering, what is the purpose of putting the custards on a pan filled with water while baking it? Is it to sort of steam them? Also, what is the aluminum foil for?

My custard turned out fine and wobbly, but was turned into a hot mush after being broiled too long. The nice crisp caramelized sugar shell failed to materialize as well. Is there a fool-proof way to caramelize the sugar using a broiler? I'm a student so I can't afford to buy a blowtorch for the sole purpose of making creme brulee, unfortunately. :sad:

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1. the right kind of sugar definitely makes a difference in the nice crisp crust. you can use a paper thin layer of white sugar if you must, but the best is to dry dark brown sugar in a very low oven and then tamis into a powder. then tamis this over your brulees just before burning. broilers can be tricky because you want to burn the sugar as quickly as possible without heating the rest of the dish. I would recommend hitting your local hardware store for a propane torch, they are really cheap and do the best job, you don't need one of those fancy williams-sonoma types.

2. "fine and wobbly" sounds kind of questionable. you need to bake the custard until it is just set all the way through. it shouldn't wobble. this could account for your mush.

3. the waterbath allows you to cook the dish evenly and quickly at a low temp. although if you have a convection oven you can do so without the waterbath at 200 degrees. the foil keeps a nice soft top to custard although it is also optional in a convection oven.


nkaplan@delposto.com

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My convection oven manual says not to use tinfoil when using the convect feature. I agree with drying out the dark brown sugar, and I use my convection oven set at 200 to do my creme brulee. I have a kitchen torch and I never use it.


Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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Kenteoh:

Please be sure to pour your custard through a fine-mesh seive into a pitcher before pouring the mixture into the ramekins. Lay a sheet of foil over the containers to cover them loosely.

It is important that the crème brûlée be poached slowly in a water bath in the oven. That’s what’s happening – they’re being oven-poached! I always use a 300° oven to bake my custards. The water must reach up the sides of the ramekins to about 2/3 of their height and it must not boil, but only gently simmer. (If possible, periodically monitor the water, scoop out some, and drop in a few ice cubes if necessary, to keep it at the barely simmering stage.) The custards are ready to be removed from the oven when they wobble slightly after the containers are gently shaken.

Regardless of the nomenclature, you mustn’t burn the sugar on top. Only flame it to a golden color. Any darker and it will taste bitter, especially if a dark sugar is used, because of the molasses content. It should resemble a light-caramel crackle.

Powdered sugar can provide a thin, delicate crust that will ace the classic test of being cracked with one tap of an elegant silver spoon. Granulated brown sugar works well, too; and I have had good success using turbinado sugar for crusting this dish. Sieved, light-brown sugar (used, I believe, on the famous gold-standard version at Le Cirque) makes a superb crust, but needs to be dehydrated in a 300° oven for about 8 minutes. A fine, double coating of sugar may be advisable.

Best-selling author Debbie Puente recommends granulated sugar; no doubt that has influenced the preference for many home cooks.


"Dinner is theater. Ah, but dessert is the fireworks!" ~ Paul Bocuse

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OK, after baking litterally thousands of creme brulees in the last few months at my job, I feel like I can speak with some authority on these issues.

1) baking in a water bath. The thermodynamic properties of water - it is a good conductor of heat and it takes a lot of energy to change it's temperature - cause it to act as a heat-sink when in contact with the custard baking dishes, keeping the dishes from overheating and the custard from boiling. You want to bake them slowly, to retain creaminess, but not so slowly that the custard dries out. Therefore you don't want to use too much water. In school we learned that about 1/8 inch of water in the sheet pan is optimal. Any more and the custard bakes too slowly, any less and the water dries up before the custard is done. There really shouldn't be any need for foil on top of the dishes.

At the hotel we bake brulees in a convection oven at 250 degrees for about 25-30 minutes.

2) When done, the custard should be just set all the way through. It should move in the dish when jiggled, but the whole mass should move together - sort of like jello. The center should not be runny.

3) A torch is really the best way to do the caramel top. You can use the broiler, but it has to be preheated until it very hot, the custards have to be very cold, and they have to be placed very close to the broiler. A gas broiler in a home oven won't work as well as an electric broiler because it doesn't do a good job of focusing it's heat down. You can also try putting the custard dishes in a pan of ice cubes to keep them cool before putting them under the broiler. But really, head down to Home Depot and get a torch.

When torching, it works better to move the flame slowly and caramelize as you go, rather than waving it over a larger area trying to brown the whole thing at once.

3) We use white sugar (and so does Charlie Trotter's, by the way) for the topping. An easy way to make sure you get an even, light coating is to sprinkle on some sugar, tip the dish to let the sugar pour off (some will stick due to moisture), then repeat one more time.

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I echo Neil's advice on Creme Brulee. I also used to bake them en masse and did it exactly the way he does.

I had never heard of drying out brown sugar and running it through a tamis. I think it's sort of an unnecessary step myself, and I think I would have a hard time detecting a flavor difference between that and white sugar since it all ends up caramelized anyway.

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the only reason I dry out brown sugar first is that it's a bit moist to begin with, and since I don't want it sitting under the broiler for a long time, it's easier to dry it out before hand.


Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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Wow, thanks for replies people! I will give it another go soon, taking into account all your useful advice. :)

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