Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Cinnamon Crème Brûlée

Yes, this is a story about baking. It's about crème brûlée, and how to make a fine, fine batch of cinnamon-flavored custard. But mostly it's a love story. I am speaking, of course, about the love between a girl and her brand-spankin-new Bernzomatic Fat Boy propane blow torch.

Because, you see, there is only one true way to make the caramelized sugar on top of crème brûlée, and it ain't with an oven. No, my friends, you need the fierce flicker of flame that only a blow torch can provide. True, I did not believe at first--couldn't I just take Dorie's advice and place my sugar-topped custards in an ice bath under a broiler, and all would be well? Or what about the other cheater's option of making a caramel in a saucepan and then pouring it on top? Couldn't I be content with these other methods?

But then I realized that I was passing up a prime opportunity to buy yet another kitchen gadget for my already-overstuffed cabinets. "Never!" I roared. "I shall not rest until I own a kitchen torch of my very own! I shall spare no expense or effort!" Imagine, then, what a surprise it was to find a big torch for sale at my neighborhood home & garden store for $15. Glad I stuck to my principles!

Trust me, though, it was completely worth it to do this thing right. Crème brûlée, or burnt cream in English, is first made by cooking a custard base of egg yolks, milk, and cream in individual ramekins. I infused my cream with several cinnamon sticks, which provided a delicious background flavor that blended well with the vanilla in the recipe. After the custard is baked, it's refrigerated until completely cold and firm. In my case I actually made it a few days in advance and kept it well-wrapped in the refrigerator. This prolonged chilling time didn't seem to hurt the flavor or texture at all.

After the custards are totally cold, they're sprinkled with a generous heaping of sugar, and the sugar is then heated until it caramelizes--it should be quite dark, but just on the safe side of burning (no one likes the taste of black sugar!) As I mentioned above, the caramelizing is best done with a torch, although other methods will do in a pinch. If done properly and quickly enough, the custard should still be set, silky smooth, and cool, and the sugar topping has formed a warm, hard caramel shell that has to be "cracked" before you can get to the custard underneath. It is this interplay of hard and smooth, warm and cool, sweet and almost burnt, that makes crème brûlée so irresistible.

...well, to some of us anyway. I'm sadly not much of a custard person, although I did think this recipe was an excellent, excellent version of crème brûlée. I just really don't love the texture, sad to say. However, my husband adored these and ate three in quick succession. And ate the fourth a few hours later. And then was heartbroken when there wasn't any more crème brûlée available. THAT must be the sign of a good dessert!

28 comments:

  1. Any excuse to buy a new kitchen gadget, eh? Sorry it wasn't the texture for you, but glad that your hubbie enjoyed it!

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  2. that top photo is just wonderful!! i loved your post.

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  3. Great deal on the blow torch! Your creme brulee looks delicious!

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  4. lol- I love your husband's reaction to the creme brulee. A good sign, indeed!

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  5. Yeah, I think your husband's reaction says it was a good recipe. Love the first photo - it makes me want to go out and get myself a torch so I can make real creme brulee.

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  6. Yes, it was worth it to buy a torch! So much fun to do, and tasty too! :) I'm w/ your husband, I ate two before even getting to the burning sugar part!

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  7. Love that photo of you and the torch! That is how I felt as well! Glad you went out and found one!!!

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  8. I love my torch! Cute picture! I am glad you enjoyed your brulee!

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  9. Love the first picture, I had to laugh! Now THAT is a blowtorch! Creme bruleé es beautiful ans sure is good with cinnamon!

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  10. Dang! I want your blow torch! What a great yard sale find. Steeping with cinnamon sounds lovely. I have to try that variation soon. Great job!
    Clara @ iheartfood4thought

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  11. I think you're right. The blowtorch is the way to go. I tried the broiler and it was....just use the blowtorch.

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  12. Glad to hear that you got a torch...believe me, you'll be pleasantly surprised how often you'll use it. Sorry that this wasn't your cup o' tea, but it sounds like you'll be making more creme brulee for you hubby in the near future!

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  13. I wonder if I could use my husband's big blow torch in the shop. Yours look fantastic. Great Read. Great Job.

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  14. I have the propane torch too...it is ancient though...my dad gave it to me from his garage! But I swear I love to torch food. It is too great! :) Your brulees look FANTASTIC!

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  15. you got a great deal on your torch! the way you were talking about it, i thought you were a creme brulee lover...until i got to the end of your post. perhaps dorie has converted you? :)

    you got a beautiful caramelized layer on top!

    i think Dorie's 6 servings must be in other ramekins?? (i have the same ones that you have)

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  16. Your Crème Brûlées look really good!! How was the cinnamon flavour? That's one I'll try next time I'm making these, maybe I'll combine it with milkchocolate.

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  17. You got a great deal on your blow torch. Seeing your photos makes me want to rush out and buy one. Your brulee looks utterly perfect. Those look incredible and I love the idea of adding cinnamon.

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  18. I totally agree with your husband as I was devastated when mine was all gone! LOL

    Great job you did :)

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  19. Love the blow torch!! I love the addition of cinnamon too!

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  20. The Fat Boy! Go, Propane!!! ;)

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  21. Anonymous5:46 AM

    Fat Boys RULE!!!

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  22. I love the picture of you and your blow torch..too cute! Your brulees look wonderful and the topping looks brown and crunchy. I just made next TWD and let me tell you that Brownie cake is wonderful!

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  23. Cinnamon infused brulees sound delicious. Yours turned out beautifully!

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  24. I thought only guys were supposed to be gearheads. I want one of those toys and .. scorch.. things.

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  25. Beautiful brulees! And nice torch.

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  26. is that the fatboy UL100? I just bought one, and my brilliant sister says it doesn't work on creme brulees. how did you burn the sugar? I'd hate for it to not work...

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  27. I enjoyed reading it. I'm supposed to be somewhere else in a minute but I stuck to reading the story. I like the quality of your blog: D
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