Sunday, January 17, 2010

It was Colonel Custard in the kitchen with the plastic ladle.

In English, it means "burnt cream."  But we'll just stick to the French translation and call it creme brulee.  It sounds prettier.

I didn't actually try creme brulee until a few years ago.  When faced with a dessert menu, I would always go for something chocolate-based or key lime pie.  I finally gave it a go after reading a particularly convincing description.  Breaking through that crunchy layer of caramelized sugar and sinking the spoon into the was like finding buried pirate treasure.  Creamy, delicious pirate treasure.

For some reason, I felt intimidated by the notion of making it from scratch.  Doesn't it seem like the simpler a dessert looks, the harder it is to make?  I wasn't about to trust just anybody's recipe for my first venture.  I turned to Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) to walk me through.

Here's what you'll need:

1 extra-large egg
4 extra-large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar, plus 1 teaspoon for each serving
3 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon orange liqueur (Grand Marnier or something similar)

I only made half a recipe but if you want to make the full 5-6 servings, follow the ingredient list above.

Preheat your baking machine to 300 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the egg, egg yolks and 1/2 cup of sugar together on low speed until just combined.

Meanwhile, scald the cream in a small saucepan until it's very hot to the touch but not boiled.

If you're afraid of burning yourself, this would be a good time to recruit a helper: an ex, the coworker who stole your lunch from the work fridge, etc.

With the mixer on low speed, slowly ladle the cream into the eggs.

Add the vanilla and orange liqueur.  I didn't have any Grand Marnier so I used amaretto instead.

Disaronno on the rocks?  Sorry, had to say it.

Pour mixture into 6-8 ounce ramekins until almost full.

Place the ramekins in a baking pan and carefully pour boiling water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

 Carefully slide those bad French boys into the oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

While the custards bake, have a beer.

Flying Dog Raging Bitch Belgian-style IPA.

This is eerily close to how I look approximately 12 times during the calendar year.  Mike would agree.

To test the custards, give the pan a gentle shake.  If they resist jiggling, they're done.  Remove the ramekins from the water bath and cool to room temperature.

Once they've cooled, pop them in the fridge for a few hours.  Or better yet, let them chill overnight.

Sweet dreams, mes cheries.

To serve, sprinkle a layer of sugar evenly on top of each ramekin and heat with a kitchen blowtorch.  If you don't have a blowtorch laying around (I mean, really...who doesn't), place them under the broiler on the highest rack until the sugar starts to get all golden, bubbly and irresistable.

Allow to sit at room temperature for a few minutes until the caramelized sugar hardens.

All that's missing is a spoon, an eye patch and a talking parrott to echo all your "Mmm"s, "Ahhh"s and "Holy crap, this is the bomb..."s.

Enjoy, mateys.


  1. Makes it look pretty easy. I've always been intimidated by this one, and didn't know you could use a broiler for the final step either.

    Of course, I have longed to own a kitchen torch for many years, and if I ever started making creme brulée *without* a torch, I'm not sure how I'd ever be able to justify the purchase.

  2. I would love to get a blowtorch for roasting peppers (we have an electric stove so I have to use the broiler, which can be time-consuming.)

    I'm also tempted to go back and add the accent aigu to all of the "brulees". Damn it, Liam!

  3. Good point! Roasting peppers and tomatoes!! I think you may have just convinced me to go spend some money.

    We actually just painted our kitchen "roasted pepper" this past weekend. Ha.

    Also: ALT-0233 ;-)

  4. I can vouch for how good this recipe goes with a double IPA like Hopslam (or any other double IPA really).

    My only "tip" for the recipe - if using your broiler let it get to full heat capacity before putting the ramekins in the oven. Leaving them under the heat too long runs the risk of a really hard top layer before getting to the brulee goodness.

  5. Ina Garten (e-nah or eye-nah?) and ramekins ("ram-meh-kins", right?) are now on my radar. Merci.

  6. Eye-nah Garten is great. Fantastic home, too. She gives me kitchen envy.

  7. *Note to self: Blowtorch for Ali

    Waiting to try this, Ali. I'll make you goulash, if you make dessert?? BTW, that label IS familiar. Must be an Iuli girl thing.

  8. The blowtorch is also useful for plumbing and other home shop chores (makes it easier to justify). Newish ones have the really fun instant on and off feature.

    Nice custard - Thanks.