Crème Brûlée

This entry is filed under Dessert Recipes.

Crème Brulee – Sumptuously Sinful

Crack through the caramel crust and dive in. Decadent or what!

What am I like?

My dessert recipes are like buses, you wait forever to get one, then two come along a week apart… Best make the most of them, it may be a while before they reappear.

The thought was, before getting stuck into the heavyduty, rib sticking variety, I’d ease myself in gently with a silky creme brulee.

The trouble was, in my quest to make the perfect crème brulee, I burnt my finger, broke a tooth and picked up a speeding fine on my way to the dentist. Aaagh!

If you’re looking for the classic, dinner party dessert, crème brulee (C.B.) is right on the money.  Puddings don’t get better than this.

Name me another dessert you crack through (such a satisfying moment), before delving into a rich, creamy custard beneath?

People think C.B’s are tricky to make and I can understand why. The custard has to set firm but be light and the caramel crust be neither too thick or thin.

Actually, the custard’s a cinch, it’s the caramel you want to worry about!

So this week, I thought I’d give you my tips for making the perfect crème brulee, that way you can’t go wrong.

Use the right ratio of eggs. The more eggs you use, the firmer your C.B will be and the easier it will set. Personally, I prefer a higher ratio of cream to eggs, because it produces a lighter, creamier, more luxurious custard. On the other hand, more eggs to cream will create a richer, denser custard. It’s down to personal preference.

Use the oven. You can make the custard on the hob, but it demands your full attention so I don’t recommend it. Who wants to stand around stirring a pan continuously then be left with a sticky saucepan to wash up afterwards? The oven gets my vote every time because you can go away and do something else whilst the custards are in there. Easy!

Leave the custards overnight in the fridge. It isn’t essential but it does mean your custard won’t turn runny at the caramel stage.  If you’re short on time, at least wait until the custards have formed a decent skin for the caramel to sit on.

Getting A Perfect Caramel Crust
First of all, decide which sugar to use. For me, it has to be brown – just for its wonderfully contrasting toffee taste. But, do yourself a favour – if you’re grilling or blow torching, grind it to a powder first. This is important because smaller granules melt faster under heat. Failing that,  icing sugar is your best bet. Don’t under any circumstances use granulated.

Caramelising is quick so stay focused. You have four options ; blow torch, grill, saucepan or microwave. Each has its pluses and minuses. Let’s start with…

The Blow Torch. Gives a clean glaze and is used by professionals. Need I say more? Nevertheless, it has a few drawbacks.  Obviously you need a blow torch. Forget the feeble ones you find in kitchen shops. Go to your nearest plumber’s merchant and buy one there, because  their torches offer a greater flame range – from very gentle to fiercely intense.

Next, you need to build up wafer thin sugary layers, blasting each one, then repeating the process several times. Torching takes confidence and practice to get right. Your aim is to melt the sugar evenly without leaving any loose crunchy, granules underneath .

The Grill: Effective so long as it’s really hot. The problem is the sugar can spit and splash as it melts, making a god awful mess – not a good look. Plus you run the risk of the custards melting underneath. To get round this, place the ramekins in a tray of icy cold water first.

The O.F.S.M (old fashioned saucepan method) Good if you have a lot of ramekins to cover. But speed is of the essence. You have to work very quickly, otherwise the caramel can burn (if you don’t get it off the heat fast enough), or become too thick to pour evenly. Plus, you’ve got a sticky pan to contend with afterwards. However, if you soak it immediately in boiling hot water, cleaning is easier.

Microwave: Same principle as the saucepan method.

So now you know. I did say the caramel was tricky!

Whatever method you choose, I’m sure you’ll enjoy making these glorious puds. The recipe below is for two servings, so you can practice if needs be. If your’e a dab hand already, or you need to make more, just double/quadruple the ingredients.

Crème Brûlée

Serving size: 2
Effort Level: Some effort
Preparation and cooking time: 1 hour
Shelf Life: 2 days in fridge

200ml double cream
2 egg yolks – room temperature
2 tbsp milk
1 tbsp caster sugar
½ tsp Neilsen Marsey vanilla extract (optional)
caramel crust:
demara or icing sugar – caster only for saucepan/microwave methods

Small whisk
Small oven proof dish
2 ramekins
Kitchen towel
Small mixing bowl
blowtorch / grill /saucepan

Here’s what You Do:
Preheat the oven to 130C/250F/ ½ Gas.

Line a small oven proof dish with four sheets of kitchen towel.

Place 2 yolks into a small mixing bowl with 1 tbsp caster sugar, ½ tsp vanilla extract, 200ml double cream and 2 tbsp milk. Whisk thoroughly until the mixture is smooth then pour into the ramekins.

Sit the ramekins on the kitchen towel and place on the bottom oven shelf. Now add enough water to come half way up the sides of the ramekins.

Cook the custards until they’re just set and have a slight wobble (approx 60 -70 minutes). Remove from the oven and leave to cool down.

Once cold, put the custards in the fridge (preferably overnight) allowing a skin to form and support the caramel.

Blow Torch Method: Sprinkle a thin layer of chosen sugar over the custard and blowtorch the surface from a distance of approx 10” away until they’re golden. Allow to cool then repeat the process and build up to the desired thickness.
Grill Method: Turn the grill to high. Sprinkle the custards with a ¼ cm thick layer of icing sugar then place in oven proof dish half filled with icy cold water. Position them 2” from the heat and grill for 2-3 minutes until golden and bubbling.

Saucepan Method: Tip 4 tbsp icing sugar into a small pan and place over a medium heat, shake the pan once or twice but don’t stir. After a couple of minutes the sugar will start to dissolve. Watch the pan like a hawk – it’s a quick process. When the caramel turns a light golden colour, whip off the heat as it will continue cooking/browning.  Quickly pour over the custards, swirling each ramekin for an even coverage then leave to set.
N.B If in doubt, make up more than you need – it pours faster and won’t thicken up so quickly in the pan.

Microwave Method: Allow 1 tbsp caster sugar water to 1 tbsp water per person. Place the sugar and water in a oven proof glass dish. Cover with cling film and microwave on high for 2 minutes. Stir, then return to the microwave and continue until the mixture turns golden. Remove and pour over the custards.

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10 Responses to “Crème Brûlée”

  1. Uma says:

    Yes you can Steph, I recently discovered that they freeze surprisingly well.

  2. Uma says:

    Yes you can Gina.

  3. Gina Webb says:

    can I use golden caster sugar in place of ordinary caster sugar i the creme brulee recipe

  4. steph says:

    You can freeze creme brulees

  5. Ella says:

    You write so well and explain what to do perfectly that I feel even I can’t fail. I’m going to make it over the bank holiday weekend.

  6. Wow! You really covered this topic well. Are there other resources that I should check out?

  7. Uma says:

    Hello Kit
    So glad to hear you like the recipes. There are some lovely soup recipes in my cook book. It’ll be available as a download soon so cheaper than the hard back.
    I don’t think you can freeze CB’s, but to be honest I’ve never tried, I can imagine texture wouldn’t be as good. I burnt my finger testing the sugar too – Duh!
    Germolene second skin is excellent for burns, especialy if you lose the top layer , followed by Bio Oil to stop scarring.
    Hope all is well with you!

  8. Kit Berry says:

    Hi Uma – thanks for this. I make CBs from time to time but didn’t appreciate the logistics of egg:cream ratio, and how this affects the texture. Two things I wanted to say:
    1) Can you freeze the custards?
    2) I see you burned your finger. I once severely burned my index finger, stupidly “testing” the caramel crust to see if it was hard. The molten sugar stuck to my skin and the burn was very nasty and very deep. I think anyone attempting CBs for the first time needs to be aware of this (it’s obvious but didn’t occur to me!)

    Hope you’re well and happy. I really enjoy your recipes – your leek and potato soup is made very regularly in the Berry household. Any other good soup recipes for someone on a low-carb diet please?

    Bright blessings to you!

  9. Uma says:

    Thanks Carolyn! It’s so lovely to get feedback.

  10. I think your site is excellent not to mention your recipes – I really look forward to receiving your emails – keep’em coming!!

    Carolyn Hilton

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