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Mastering the art of crème brûlée

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A cool vanilla custard topped with a crust of warm, caramelised sugar, crème brûlée is a classic French dessert which is often found on the menus of European restaurants.

By cyclonebill
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Crème Brulee is a popular item on the menus of many European restaurants.

While the Spanish, English and French all have recipes for essentially the same dessert, whether it is called crèma catalan, Cambridge burnt cream or crème brûlée, the earliest textual evidence is found in the 1691 book Le cuisinier royal et bourgeois by François Massialot, an independent chef known to prepare meals for the family of Louis XIV. He flavoured his dessert with orange blossom and almonds rather than vanilla.

 

Things to look out for

The typical pitfalls of crème brûlée are thickening the cream sauce and caramelising the sugar. In this case, tools do make a difference. You’ll need custard cups and a blowtorch. While you can caramelise the sugar under your oven’s broiler, a kitchen blowtorch is more reliable.

 

Preparation

Stand mixers like the Electrolux EHSM2000 help to combine the yolks and sugar in crème brulee with little effort needed.

When preparing the custard, the mixture must not boil. Keep it at medium-low heat. While the cream simmers, combine the yolks and sugar in a stand mixer like the Electrolux EHSM2000, which has five speed settings to ensure the mixture is combined right.

 

The next crucial step is adding the cream to the egg mixture. With the mixer still running on low, pour only a very small stream at a time into the eggs. This will temper them and prevent them from accidentally cooking.

 

Baking

Bake the custard in a water bath. Place the ramekins in a lipped pan, fill them evenly with custard, and add water to the pan until it reaches halfway up the ramekins’ sides. This will protect the mixture from boiling in the oven.

 

Serving

The final trick prevents your sugar shell from becoming soggy. After chilling the custard, only sprinkle the sugar on just before you caramelize and serve the crème brûlée.

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