Creme Brulee Two Ways

mom

I really need to invest in a hand held torch.

For Mother’s Day, I made four creme brulees. It’s my mom’s favorite dessert and the ones that they’re selling at Costco are not up to snuff. I know some people are was intimidated by creme brulees and other custard dishes for a long time, but as long as you go slowly, you should be fine. The biggest hurdle is overcooking the custard and making scrambled eggs.

Second, there is also the water bath technique, but the secret to that is only filling the pan until it reaches the halfway point of the ramekins. Also, a little water won’t ruin a creme brulee.

First, we tried the sugar and broiler technique. The result was an unevenly melted surface, nearly black puddles in some areas and grainy half-melted sugar in others. It tasted great, but it was unworthy of my mother. If you had a more even toaster oven than me, this might actually work out!

creme brulee burnt

Second, I made a dry caramel in a skillet and poured the caramel into the center of the ramekins. If you know how to make a wet caramel, please let me know how. I’ve never been able to do it successfully. There was some frightful sizzling, but no shattered ceramic. While this was a far prettier result, the caramel was too thick for my liking.

I highly recommend using vanilla beans instead of vanilla extract. Vanilla is amazing!

I was heartbroken to discover that many of my vanilla beans were covered by a dusting of white. It could be vanillan crystals (see picture here) or mold *gasp*. According to Amadeus Vanilla Beans:

  • The mold just grows on the outside of the beans and doesn’t really affect the beans themselves.
  • The mold comes from the source country – it does NOT develop just from the surrounding air, as bread or cheese mold does.
  • Also, unlike bread or cheese mold, it does NOT make the vanilla beans stale or unusable.
  • To the best of our knowledge, this mold is not harmful (we have not even heard of any allergic reactions to vanilla mold) and it does not affect the flavor of the beans.
  • To remove, just wipe off the mold with a terry cloth (like a kitchen or “gym” towel) — preferably moistened in vodka (which is essentially “drinking alcohol”) — alcohol will help clean the beans and kill the mold.
  • You can also spread them out on a drying rack (like an oven rack) in a sunny window (or, better yet, outside in direct sunlight) for a day or so after wiping off the excess mold.
  • Sunlight and heat will kill the mold and also absorb any excess moisture in the beans that the mold seems to proliferate in.
  • If you are using the beans to make home made extract, this is perfect, since you are putting the beans in the vodka itself that will get rid of the mold at the same time.
  • Since heat also kills mold (like the sunlight treatment we recommend), using the beans in a recipe for cooking or baking, after wiping off the excess, will also do the trick.
  • Click here for our other recommendations for storing your vanilla beans.

creme brulee

Creme Brulee — 2 Ways

ADAPTED from Alton Brown’s Good Eats
INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pint of heavy whipping cream
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/2 a cup of sugar, divided
  • 1/2 a vanilla bean
  • a pinch of salt

DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 325F/162C.

Slit the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds, vanilla bean, and heavy cream to a heavy sauce pan, and bring to a boil. Let it steep for fifteen minutes.

While the heavy cream mixture is steeping, in a medium bowl, beat the egg yolks with a 1/4 cup of sugar until the yolks are light and thick. I beat them for five minutes.

Remove the vanilla bean, and gradually trickle the heavy cream mixture into the eggs, while beating vigorously. Divide the mixture into 4 ramekins, and place in a cake pan with sides that go up at least two inches. Place the ramekins in the cake pan, and carefully pour hot water into the pan BUT NOT INTO THE RAMEKINS. Fill it until halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Place in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until it’s set on the edges but still jiggly in the center. It will continue to firm up as it cools.

Allow to cool to room temperature and then chill in the refrigerator until completely cool.

pre-cremebrulee

Broiler Version

Before serving, divide a quarter cup of sugar on top of the four ramekins and place under the broiler until the sugar is golden brown and toasty. Let stand for five minutes for the sugar to cool into a hard shell.

Dry Caramel Version

In a small skillet or heavy bottomed saucepan, heat a quarter cup of sugar over medium heat. It is very important that the pan is clean, or the sugar will crystallize. Once its completely melted, sprinkle with salt, wait until it’s a deep amber color. Carefully pour the caramel into the ramekins, focusing on the center. Hurry, it cools fast!

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