Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tuesday's with Dorie: Crème Brûlée

Have you seen the movie “The Women”? There's a scene in the movie that is so funny. A distraught Meg Ryan rushes into the kitchen and starts rummaging through the cupboards and refrigerator demanding to know where the junk food is. When the housekeeper reminds her that she doesn’t allow it, Meg grabs a stick of butter, a can of cocoa powder, and a cup of sugar. She then proceeds to dip the butter in the cocoa and then the sugar and then she chomps on the butter-stick concoction.

Kind of reminds me of this week’s Tuesday’s with Dorie, pick, Crème Brûlée (chosen by Mari of Mevrouw Cupcake).

As I watched that scene of the movie, I was thinking the butter-stick creation might have potential. After all, we only have to taste the creme brûlée to realize that it doesn’t take a long list of ingredients to turn out a fantastic dessert. Amazing really. Creme brûlée is basically cream, eggs, and sugar. Maybe a little extra flavor in the way of vanilla, cinnamon, ginger... but they aren’t required.

I made the crème brûlée twice. First was the basic recipe, flavored only with vanilla. It was very easy; maybe the easiest recipe I’ve made for Tuesday’s with Dorie. The challenging part came with the “brûlée”, which is the thin layer of caramelized sugar that, to me, sets this dessert apart. Serious brulee makers and restaurants have a hand-held torch of some sort at their disposal for caramelizing the sugar. The rest of us have to make do with the broiler.

The broiler worked fairly well. Not perfect, but it was worth it because the crème brûlée was SO delicious.

Both times I used a pan filled with ice cubes to set the bowls in.

The first time, I used shallow bowls like in the book, with the oven rack in the second highest position. I’d say the heating element was about 5 inches from the bowls. That didn’t work so well. It took a good five minutes and still the sugar wasn’t exactly caramelized, more like browned and crunchy. See...

Plus, not only was the crème melted, but my ice bath was melted as well. I lost a brulee when water sloshed over the top of one bowl. BUT, I stuck the surviving brulees in the fridge until they were well chilled. The crème had firmed back up and they still tasted scrumptious.

The second time I made a ginger-infused crème brûlée with a touch of lime. That time, I used ramekins instead so I would have less surface area exposed to the heat and so hopefully less melting of the crème. I also put the oven rack in the top position so the bowls were about 2 inches from the heating element (pictured above). That time it only took maybe a minute for them to start caramelizing. It still wasn’t a solid piece of caramelized sugar on top, but closer than the first attempt. Again, the crème was melty, but a stint in the fridge solved that.

Here are the brulees ready for the oven...

And just baked...

Sprinkled with a layer of sugar, ready for the broiler...

Just for fun, I made candied lime. I thought they tasted terrible, by the way. Very bitter. But they were cute as a garnish. I will post the method for making the candied lime later in the week.
OK, thanks for stopping by. Please see Mari's blog for the recipe, or check out Dorie Greenspan's book, "Baking, From my Home to Yours".

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