Yes. I’m afraid it’s true. I have dangerous news: it is possible to make crème brûlée even more glorious.
I’ll be frank, I am tired of the trials and tribulations of fudge. I needed a day of distance. Today is Thanksgiving, and Boyfriend and I are heading to Hobby Victim’s house for dinner. We each made a dessert. Mine was my favourite custard, tweaked with an inspiration from The Globe and Mail. I took my existing recipe, and tinkered with the proportions for the spices, and used real vanilla bean.
Toronto look out: something delicious this way comes!
Good to know before you start:
As I mentioned previously, custard should be made the day before because it needs to chill overnight. Before you serve it, remove from the fridge for 20 minutes, then caramelize the sugar, then chill for another 10 minutes before eating – we want cold custard and glassy sugar, not hot.
To achieve the silky texture that crème brûlée is famous for, it is imperative to use a mesh strainer. Double-straining into ramequins in a pain in the ass but so worth it.
You’re also going to need a fire-proof surface and kitchen torch. Don’t have a torch? Check out my guide about making your own. It’s way better than using the stove broiler. People, this is crème brûlée for Thanksgiving. Go big or go home.
Time required: 2 days (1 hr prep and bake, 1 hour cooling, chill overnight)
Cost per portion: $3.00
Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $36.00
Special kitchen implements I used:
- mesh strainer
- 12 ramequins
- 2 baking pans: 9″ x 13″
- 2 dish towels you don’t mind getting wet
- fire-proof surface (ie: marble slab)
- awesome kitchen torch
- 4 C heavy cream, room temperature
- 1 vanilla bean
- 1 TSP ground nutmeg
- 1 TSP ground ginger
- 1 C canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
- ⅔ C granulated white sugar
- ¼ TSP salt
- 10 egg yolks, room temperature
- 12 TSP turbinado sugar (save until final stage, 1 TSP per portion)
1. Pre-heat oven to 325°F / 162°C, using centre rack. Fill kettle with water and simmer for later. Fold dish towels so they sit nicely in the baking pans, and add ramequins, like so:
2. Pour heavy cream into a sauce pan, then split and scrape vanilla bean, and add to cream (including shell and pods). I do this at the very beginning and let the vanilla infuse into the cream while the cream comes up to room temp.
3. Add nutmeg and ginger to cream, then scald cream on medium heat. A skim will form, that’s normal. Once bubbles form at the edge, remove from heat.
4. Pour cream through strainer into a medium-size bowl.
5. Stir pumpkin into hot cream, let stand 5 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix sugar and salt.
7. Separate the yolks from the egg whites, gently whisk yolks into sugar mixture until just combined. (Save the whites for something else.)
Tip: try to crack the shell halfway between the top and the bottom of the shell. It’s easier to separate the yolks if you have two fairly equal sized shells to work with.
8. Use a ladle to temper the hot cream into the egg mixture; adding one third at a time, stirring it in. Don’t rush this, you don’t want scrambled eggs.
We are almost ready to divvy up the mixture into the ramequins.
9. Place a small strainer over a ramequin. Use ladle to reach the bottom of the bowl where all the vanilla bean pods have sunk, and ladle some mixture through the strainer. Do this for each one to ensure every portion gets a generous amount of vanilla pods.
After that, ladle out the mixture evenly, and strain each time.
Double-straining is very important because you’ll notice that on each pour, the strainer will get clogged with skim on every pour and you don’t want that gunk in your custard.
10. Place both pans in the oven and create a bain marie using the hot water from the kettle.
11. Bake 35 minutes until the edges of the custard are set. Test for doneness by shaking, the centre should wobble like Jell-o. If the whole surface shakes give it 3-5 more minutes. If nothing shakes it’s overdone.
12. Remove from oven and use an egg-flipper type spatula to lift the ramequins out of the dish, and place on wire rack to cool for one hour.
13. Cover each cup with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
14. Set ramequin on counter for 20 mintes to stand. Then remove plastic, and gently blot the surface with paper towel to remove condensation.
15. Sprinkle one teaspoon of turbinado sugar, cover the edges first and work towards the centre, then tilt and tap the ramequin to spread the sugar evenly.
16. Place ramequin on fire-proof surface and use your mad torching skillz.
The key to doing this properly is don’t let the flame get too close, and always keep it in motion. It takes around 3 minutes to melt the sugar properly into a nice glassy surface.
17. Chill for 10 minutes, then devour.
Patty: <setting up camera> “You can have first bite.”
Boyfriend: “Really?” <grabs spoon>
Patty: <taking photos and looking down> “Well?”
Boyfriend: “Oh my God!!”
Patty: “Is it good?”
Boyfriend: “No. It’s awful. You don’t want any.”
Patty: “Give me that spoon… ooohh, nice.”
Boyfriend: “This is amazing. I love the after taste, the nutmeg, it’s totally there. It kind of reminders me of egg nog, just a little. It’s so good.”
Playlist: David Bowie – Ziggy Stardust