Sunday, March 21, 2010

Creme brulee cravings

On several recent fine dining outings, I've found myself gravitating toward this creamy, custard-based dessert and making mental comparisons about which restaurant in Baltimore serves the best all-around brulee. Chocolate-inspired custard at Meli's Patisserie & Bistro? Maple, Calvados and Cappuccino at Charleston? Good old fashioned vanilla at Milan? So far it's been difficult to say. And then I thought to myself, if you can't beat'em, why not join'em? Below is a recipe of original creme brulee I test-piloted at home courtesy of Paula Deen - one of my all-time favorite guilty pleasures - that turned out to be simple and delicious (and surprisingly devoid of fat or butter considering it's Paula):      


Yields 4 creme brulees
2 cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/3 to 1/2 cup light brown sugar


Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. In a heavy-bottomed medium non-reactive saucepan, heat cream with vanilla bean over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, stirring to ensure it does not burn; do not let boil. Remove from heat and let steep for 15 minutes. Remove and discard the vanilla bean, or save for another use. Strain cream through a fine mesh sieve.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp sugar and the egg yolks until well blended and it just starts to lighten in color. Add about half the cream mixture, a little at a time, to the egg mixture, whisking until well blended. Then pour the egg mixture into the remaining cream mixture. Stir until completely blended.
Pour the custard into 4 (Paula calls for 9-ounce, but I used 6 ounce and it worked fine) ramekins.

Place the ramekins into a large cake pan or roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the mixture is set in the center (it should stil wiggle when shaken). Carefully remove the dishes from the baking pan. Let cool to room temperature and then refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 24 hours. Let creme brulle stand at room temperature 20 minutes before serving.

Divide 1/3 to 1/2 cup light brown sugar in a thin, even layer over each custard, covering it completely. To caramelize the sugar, light a propane torch and hold it so the flame just touches the surface. Start at the center and spiral out toward the edges of the ramekins. If the sugar begins to burn, pull the torch away and blow on the sugar to extinguish the flame. Serve immediately.

And then wait for it to be going, going...gone.

The best part about this dessert mini-project was getting to witness the look of pure, unadulterated bliss on my girlfriend's face as she took her first tentative bite of creme brulee, then promptly vaccuumed it away into the abyss. Poor creme brulee. It didn't even stand a chance.

No comments:

Post a Comment